Steam Trains

Steam Railway Memories and information on steam hauled trains in the U.K.

In the age of steam, express trains averaged over 80mph…today they’re lucky if they beat 60 mph.

The occasional steam train was faster than the equivalent service today, usually because stretches of line were closed by Richard Beeching in the 1960s, necessitating longer routes today, or because the Victorians prized their express services and therefore made fewer stops en route. According to Bradshaws Threepenny Railway Guide from 1900, three express trains an hour linked Liverpool and Manchester, taking just 40 minutes. A century later, it takes seven minutes longer. It took 35 minutes to travel from Portsmouth to Southampton in 1898, compared with 46 minutes today. In the 1930s, steam expresses regularly averaged more than 80mph.. Makes you think doesent it ! .. De-Dah !

This page is mainly dedicated to 60022 MALLARD when she passed through my home town of Sowerby Bridge in September of 1961 when she hauled the Northern Rubber Special from Retford to Blackpool


 Taking on water at Sowerby Bridge September 1961 and Blackpool bound.

One of my most happy memories was when 60022 MALLARD passed through
our small town on her way to Blackpool from Retford with the

Seen here passing the signal box at Sowerby Bridge Station September 1961


From my base in Sowerby Bridge, up here in what used to be the West Riding of Yorkshire, myself and my friends traveled to all the regions of British Railways in search of the magic cop, we would obtain permits from Crewe, Swindon, and Doncaster, to visit their works, sleep on Stations and trains, as we roamed the rails with our Railrover tickets, and I still have mine to this day from 1963 which covered the whole of the Western Region, and that was a big area to cover but we managed to get around all the big sheds and some of the more remote ones, what a great and memorable adventure it was for us.


Thunders through Sowerby Bridge Crewe bound, on a dark and rainy night.
  We used to have trains with romantic names like the “Flying Scotsman” or the “Cheltenham Flyer”  but nowadays trains no longer fly.

Where did the romance of the railways go?

Due to the politics and curriculum of the era, and having failed my eleven plus, this accounted for my narrow education at school. So, how did I put that little problem right then? well, thanks to my train spotting days, I can safely was that which gave me a further education, coupled with curiosity, I had a need to find out what more lay behind the name on the loco, and it really was amazing what I picked up.

We were also very lucky to have a fine locomotive shed which was coded 56E Sowerby Bridge in the North Eastern region of B.R.

The route through our little town was mostly a heavy freight route across the Pennines from Manchester to Leeds, but we had our fair share of the glamour too with the holiday excursions to the West and East coasts during the summer.

Our adjacent line which ran parallel over on the Huddersfield line tended to see more named action than us, but we had the good stuff too and a lot of my old friends were shedded down at Leeds Holbeck, Low Moor, and Mirfield, which were only a bike ride away.

The doubleheader would come through every afternoon ex- Newcastle to Manchester and if we were fast enough we could run down to the valley after school had finished and catch the magic as it passed under the little cattle bridge as she headed towards the Luddendenfoot water troughs, it was always a big thrill to stand on the bridge as the thick smoke and steam of two screaming steam engines as they passed under you at speed, with the water scoops down, picking up water, and there was always two interesting locos to be seen, usually a Royal Scot and a Patriot or two Jubilees, the highlight of the day for me and my mates.

I was very lucky to catch this particular time in history as B.R were in full transition from steam to Diesel, so steam locomotives were constantly being withdrawn and sent to the scrapyard, we had to be quick to catch what we did at the here are a few of what me and my mates captured in time, on cellulose, in and around our area and beyond.

 I did not have to venture too far for this one.

Myself and my best mate Selwyn had attended our weekly visit to the local cubs meeting and were still in our uniforms when we went along to Sowerby Bridge Station for one of the biggest events to happen in our young lives, when we eventually got onto the platform we found that what looked like half the town (including the local press) turned out to await this almost magical event which was about to occur, and fortunately for us all, on this wonderful Saturday morning, my friend Paul Holt was on hand with his little camera to capture this moment, most boys, and some girls I might add were very keen to see this iconic loco actually stop in our little town and take on water.

I traveled all over as a young schoolboy trainspotter, and in the early sixties, this was a very popular thing amongst young boys, technology hadn’t raised its head at this period in time, so we did not have the pleasure of computers / mobile phones / or any other electronic gadgetry to play around with, so I reckon you could say, it was a simple pleasure indeed.

Well for me at least, I can say it was educational also, I learned a lot from the places I traveled to and the names that the engines had, they always invoked curiosity, which led to the education bit.

Definitely not the end of the line..

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