The Second Last Railtour to the Vic – Last Days of the Great Central

Almost exactly 50 years ago today, I set off with my Uncle from Sneinton for a leisurely walk to Nottingham Victoria Station. The date was August 13th 1966.  The RCTS had organised a special train to run up from London and travel over much of the original “London Extension” of the Great Central Railway and  then to points north in Notts and Yorkshire. The through route on this line was about to be closed in a matter of a few weeks. For some reason the tour was starting at Waterloo but this provided an unusual bonus. A Bulleid pacific was scheduled to work into Nottingham Victoria, a very rare sight indeed. We were in no particular rush, the train would not arrive until 12.30 and there was little else to see. Indeed my only hope for a “cop” that day was the said pacific. There were few through trains and indeed only one holiday train now in the Vic – The Newcastle/ York to Bournemouth / Poole. All the Skeggy trains now left from Midland station. Even the Bournemouth to Bradford and return had been diverted via Midland station.

We arrived shortly before 11.00 and walked down the length of platform 1 to see the 11.00 Neasden vans train depart. It was in the hands of grimy black 44811 from Colwick Shed. As it moved away slowly below the walls of the Victoria Hotel only one camera was trained upon it to record the moment for posterity. Railfans of all ages were already on the station but nearly all ignored this train. When it was gone a plume of smoke alerted us to the presence of another steam engine at the north end of the Vic. It turned out to be Colwick 8F 48197 and it had been specially cleaned and polished.  This loco was to take the special north over more lines about to be closed and through closed old Notts stations that were also once part of the Great Central. This included Mansfield Central and Kirkby in Ashfield Central.

44811_departs with 11 o clock Neasden vans_Nottingham Victoria_13 August 1966 weblog

We decided to find a spot to photograph the incoming train from London, not an easy thing to do as the two main platform ends were already crowded. We decided instead to wait at the South end of the station where there was more room for a shot. The expected arrival time came and went and we all waited patiently another 45 minutes. Sharp eyes noted some movement in the tunnels that lead into Victoria Station. Soon the site of a non-rebuilt Bulleid was made out meaning it had to be a West Country or Battle of Britain loco. As it got neare nearer and nearer I strained to read the numberplate… 34002! I groaned aloud! . I had already seen this loco in May 1964 whilst on East Midlander No 7 railtour. The loco was named Salisbury and that was exactly where I saw it! The train slowed and travelled down the length of the opposite platform. My uncle and I walked down our platform to get some more photographs. In this sequence of shots we see Salisbury arriving at the south end of the Vic,then at the northern end  of the station waiting to detach from  the train. Not visible in black and white but the coaches were all painted in the green livery of the Southern Region

When the Bulleid pacific was uncoupled it steamed a short distance then reversed onto another line, heading for the south of the station and Cowlick Shed. Here it would have an afternoon layover whilst the tour headed north . With the Bulleid gone,  the 8F now steamed out of the bay and then reversed onto the special where it was coupled. The next two photographs shows the special in charge of a very ordinary freight locomotive from Colwick shed and one you very rarely saw working passenger trains in 1966. I really did wonder why Colwick had not despatched one of its numerous black 5’s

The 8F was about to travel over lines mainly in Nottinghamshire before arriving in Shireoaks in Yorks were it would be replaced by another loco. Soon it was on its way but the special was now the most part of one hour late. For the railfans there would now be a wait of the best part of six hours for the return. Some of the passengers on the special were taken off for a guided tour of Colwick shed. The large throng of photographers and railfans thinned visibly. There was little to photograph or record and very few freight trains ran on a weekend.

34002 Salisbury_in bay at Nottingham Victoria_13 August 1966 weblog

Many hours later the boredom was relieved by the return of Bulleid pacific 34002. It was put into one of the south bays and steamed noisily. The scheduled departure time of 18.45 was missed, there was no possibility of making so much lost time. The special train had visited many parts of the original Great Central route and old stations including Rotherham Central, Penistone and Sheffield Victoria.

The late return of the special caused problems for some of the visiting railfans and especially those travelling north to York and Newcastle. They were disappointed to have to return home before the special came back to Nottingham Victoria. Their train the Poole/ Bournmouth to York/ Newcastle created some interest when it arrived behind Brush Type 4 D1541 and in the consist was one coach painted in the latest BR corporate blue and grey livery. The Brush locomotives had replaced the English Electric Type 3’s in the final few months of the summer timetable. D1541 can be seen in the photograph below and a finer picture of this class in  Nottingham Victoria would be hard to find

D1541 1N83 Bournemouth to York_Nottingham Victoria_August 1966 weblog

When the special finally came back it was in the hands of a B1 locomotive. These were once a common sight on GC metals and In Nottingham Victoria itself. Loco 61131 steamed into view and worked down to the south end of the station. The next sequence of photographs shows the B1 arriving with the train, then waiting before detaching from the train.

61131_returns RCTS special_Nottingham Victoria_13 August 1966 weblog

61131 was once a Colwick engine but now belonged to Wakefield shed and can be seen being turned on the Vic’ s South turntable prior to leaving for Yorkshire.

61131_Nottingham Victoria South Turntable_13 Augist 1966 weblog

Meanwhile pacific 34002 had emerged from the bay and had reversed onto the train. The next shot shows the train  ready for the journey south. In 1966 most photographers used black and white film. Colour was expensive and film speeds were nothing like what they are today meaning colour shots were only usually taken in good and strong light.

34002 Salisbury_RCTS Special_Nottingham Victoria_13 August 1966 weblog

The train was soon ready to depart and its return journey would see it travel down the full length of the “London Extension” of the old Great Central and into the magnificent terminus station at Marylebone. When it finally arrived it was over 100 minutes late. This RCTS railtour proved to be the penultimate or second last railtour to visit Nottingham Victoria. The complete closure of the through Great Central route and most especially its London  Extension was now just over two weeks away. The clock was ticking, counting down the hours, minutes and seconds……………………………..

Copyright@Mike Sheridan 2016 All text and all images. All rights reserved

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