On Sunday 11th August 1968 the last steam hauled train operated by British Rail ran from Liverpool to Manchester and on to Carlisle, returning via the same route. On Sunday 11th August 2013, exactly 45 years later, a recreation of that train took place, sponsored by the Railway Touring Company and two 5305 Locomotive Association locomotives were involved.
In 1968, 70013 Oliver Cromwell worked the outward Manchester-Carlisle leg via the Settle-Carlisle line and it did so again last Sunday. Also in 1968, 45305 was rostered for the Liverpool-Manchester and return legs but was failed a couple of days before the trip with a collapsed brick arch. Another 'Black Five' substituted.
It has been an ambition of all in the 5305 Locomotive Association that 45305 would one day be able to achieve what it had been due to do in 1968 and last Sunday it did just that. Because of engineering work the original route via Chat Moss was not available and so the ex Cheshire Lines Committee route via Warrington Central was made available by Network Rail. This added another spicey aspect to the trip as this route had not been used by steam in the preservation era.
The return Carlisle-Manchester leg was, as in 1968 worked by two 'Black Fives' double headed.
The train comprised 10 coaches, plus each loco's support coach, making a total of 11 in all. 45305 performed in excellent fashion throughout. In particular, its performance in lifting the heavy load out of Liverpool Lime Street deserves special mention. The 'Five' gave way to 70013 near Longsight in Manchester and the 'Brit' handled its train in splendid fashion over the hilly Settle-Carlisle route.
The 5305 Locomotive Association are very pleased to have had a major hand in the operating of this prestigious train. For 45305 to have completed the work it was originally scheduled to do, albeit 45 years late, there is now a great deal of satisfaction among all those in the 5305 Locomotive Association who have felt that this was 'unfinished business'.