Oliver Cromwell returns to East Anglia for last trip before retirement

Oliver Cromwell has made several trips to East Anglia over the last 10 years - it passed through Ips

Oliver Cromwell has made several trips to East Anglia over the last 10 years - it passed through Ipswich in August 2008. Picture: PAUL GEATER.

East Anglia’s best-known steam locomotive Oliver Cromwell is to pay a final trip to the region later this month before it is retired after 10 years on the main line.

Oliver Cromwell spent 36 years at Bressingham Steam Museum until 2004. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Oliver Cromwell spent 36 years at Bressingham Steam Museum until 2004. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The “Britannia Class” British Railways pacific locomotive is to haul a special train from Liverpool Street to Norwich and back – through Colchester and Ipswich – on February 22.

This is the last trip by the National Railway Museum-owned locomotive through the region before it is retired from the main line.

The “Cathedrals Express” trip is being run by the Steam Dreams Rail Co which has brought Oliver Cromwell back to East Anglia several times over the last 10 years.

The locomotive entered service in 1951 and spent its first 10 years hauling express trains on the Great Eastern Main Line between London, Norwich, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

Oliver Cromwell at Norwich railway station in 1951, the year it entered service. Picture: ARCHANT fi

Oliver Cromwell at Norwich railway station in 1951, the year it entered service. Picture: ARCHANT files


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It was then transferred to the north west of England where it hauled the last ever British Railways steam service in August 1968.

It was saved by the NRM which loaned it to the Bressingham Steam Museum near Diss where it was the star exhibit for 36 years until it was decided to restore it to working order in 2004.

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After four years’ work, Oliver Cromwell steamed again in 2008 – allowing to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of BR steam in August of that year.

Its 10-year certificate for the main line expires in April – there has been no decision made on whether it will be overhauled to main line condition again.

Oliver Cromwell passes through Bentley in 2011. Picture: MARTYN CLARKE

Oliver Cromwell passes through Bentley in 2011. Picture: MARTYN CLARKE

However it can continue to operate on preserved railways for another few years and is expected to take part in a 50th anniversary of the end of BR steam at its base on the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire in August.

There are still tickets available for this month’s trip which cost between £109 and £249 – and passengers can join the train in London or in Colchester. The train passes through Ipswich at lunchtime, but is not scheduled to stop in Suffolk.

Marcus Robertson, Chairman of The Cathedrals Express, said, “It seems appropriate that 50 years after it ran the last steam hauled BR train in August 1968, we will be using Britannia Class Oliver Cromwell on this special express route, on which it excelled in its former BR days.”

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