August 11 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1T57 Fifteen Guinea Special rail tour which took place 11 August 1968. It was organised to mark the last occasion a steam hauled passenger train could legally run on the mainline in the United Kingdom before British Rail introduced a Steam ban the following day. It ran from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back, and was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey (with two engines sharing the third leg). The Fifteen Guinea Special was so named because of the high price for tickets on the railtour (15 guineas = £15 15s 0d in pre-decimal British currency). Ticket prices had been inflated due to the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled mainline train.
The end of steam-hauled trains on British Railways was a turning point in the history of rail travel in Britain. The BR steam ban was introduced the day after the railtour, on 12 August 1968, making the Fifteen Guinea Special the last steam-hauled passenger train to be run by BR on its standard gauge network (though BR would continue to operate three steam locomotives on the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol line until it was privatised in 1989). After this point all trains in Britain would be hauled by diesel or electric power, with the exception of privately owned heritage railways and privately run charters that are now able to run on the mainline provided that the steam locomotive has received necessary certification. The only steam locomotive to which the ban did not apply was Flying Scotsmandue to a clause in the contract in which she was purchased from BR in 1963. Several other railtours had already marked the end of steam haulage on other parts of the British (not UK) network.
During most of these railtours, the Fifteen Guinea Special included, the line was flanked with large crowds due to the high popularity of steam engines and the belief that it was highly unlikely that they would be allowed back onto the network, although in the event steam specials on BR lines were introduced only three years later in 1971. All but one of the locomotives that hauled the train passed into preservation. 45110 now resides on the Severn Valley Railway and has been named RAF Biggin Hill. 44871 is currently mainline operational and resides on the East Lancashire Railway and 70013 Oliver Cromwell is now part of the National Collection and was restored to mainline running in 2008. It is based on the Great Central Railway. The only one not preserved LMS Black 5 no 44781 was used for filming of the film The Virgin Soldiers, for which it was derailed and hung at an angle for visual effect. After filming was completed, an enthusiast tried to purchase her, but was unable to find the money needed, so she was then sold for scrap and eventually cut up.
To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of 1T57′ and end of steam on British Railways a re-run of the tour ran on Sunday 10 August 2008 (as 11 August was a Monday in 2008). To celebrate the 50th Anniversary on the Severn Valley Railway both 45110 and 48773 were removed from the Engine House at Highley and put on display at Kidderminster. Other railtours have also been organised to commemorate the event involving 44781, 44871 and 70013 – Oliver Cromwell.
The original tour ran from Liverpool Lime Street-Manchester Victoria-Carlisle-Manchester Victoria-Liverpool Lime Street. Class 5 45110 went from Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria! While Britannia Class 70013 Oliver Cromwell travelled from Manchester Victoria to Carlisle! While Stanier Class 5 44871 and LMS Stanier Class 5 44781 travelled from Carlisle to Manchester Victoria and LMS Class 5 45110 Travelled from Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street. Locomotives used during the re-run in 2008 Included Stanier Class 8F 48151, Britannia class 70013 Oliver Cromwell, LMS Stanier Class 5 45407 (as first choice, 44871 was under overhaul) and LMS Class 5 45231. LMS Class 5 45110 was not used as its mainline certificate had expired. However, 45110 ran over the Severn Valley Railway on 11 August 2008 with a special 1T57 service. This was 45110’s last day in service with its at-the-time boiler certificate which had expired. LMS Class 5 45305 was allocated to the original train back in 1968 but failed the night before and was replaced by 45110.
The 15 Guinea Special at Barton Moss on the last leg from Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street hauled by Stanier 5MT 45110.The railtour started at 09:10 from Liverpool Lime Street. It was hauled by LMS Class 5 45110 to Manchester Victoria, arriving 8 minutes late at 10:42. No. 45110 was replaced with Britannia Class loco no. 70013 Oliver Cromwell – the last steam locomotive to be overhauled by BR – and the train departed for Carlisle at 11:06. The train arrived at Carlisle, 33 minutes late, at 15:29. For the first part of the return leg, two LMS Stanier Class 5 locomotives, 44781 and 44871, double-headed the train back to Manchester Victoria. The train departed Carlisle at 15:44 – 14 minutes late – and arrived in Manchester at 19:00, 12 minutes late. Re-joining the train at Victoria station, 45110 then worked the remainder of the journey back to Liverpool Lime Street, arriving only 9 minutes late at 19:59