IT WAS NEARLY JOHN MIL­TON…

Steam Railway (UK) - - 'Brits' Special -

If BR’s orig­i­nal nam­ing se­quence for its new ‘Pacifics’ had been adopted, the pre­served No. 70013 would have been ‘John Mil­ton’. As it turned out, the 17th-cen­tury au­thor of Par­adise Lost was com­mem­o­rated on sis­ter en­gine No. 70005. Oliver Cromwell was in­tended for No. 70008, which emerged from Crewe as Black Prince in­stead. Th­ese in­ter­est­ing side­lines came to light in Steam World in 2008, and were re­vealed by the late Andrew Dow, for­mer Head of the Na­tional Rail­way Mu­seum, whose fa­ther Ge­orge (the ER and NER pub­lic re­la­tions chief) was on the nam­ing se­lec­tion panel with E.S. (Stuart) Cox, the se­nior en­gi­neer who played a key role in the de­sign of BR Stan­dard lo­co­mo­tives. But for some skil­ful sidestep­ping, the pre­served pi­o­neer No. 70000 (orig­i­nally in­tended to be named ‘Great Britain’, not Bri­tan­nia), might be run­ning today as ‘Sir Cyril [later Lord] Hur­comb’, ob­serv­ing the post-na­tion­al­i­sa­tion con­ven­tion of nam­ing en­gines af­ter the chair­man of the Bri­tish Trans­port Com­mis­sion. Hur­comb’s name was at­tached to No. 70001, leav­ing No. 70000 to be­come Bri­tan­nia at the spe­cific per­sonal re­quest of CME Robert Rid­dles. The du­pli­ca­tion with LMS ‘Ju­bilee’ No. 45700 Bri­tan­nia was re­solved by amend­ing the 4-6-0 to Amethyst. The nam­ing com­mit­tee had a long list to draw from, and pre­sum­ably would have used more of them if more ‘Brits’ had been built. Sev­eral Shake­spearean and Dick­en­sian char­ac­ters were listed and then dis­carded. Only two play­wrights (John Bun­yan and Wil­liam Shake­speare) made the cut, and only one woman (Boadicea), but there were six po­ets (Ge­of­frey Chaucer, Lord By­ron, Lord Ten­nyson, Robert Burns, John Mil­ton, and Wil­liam Wordsworth) and three au­thors (Charles Dick­ens, Thomas Hardy and Rud­yard Ki­pling). Ten Bri­tish he­roes made it (John of Gaunt, Coeur-de-Lion, Hot­spur, Iron Duke, Al­fred the Great, Black Prince, Sir John Moore, Clive of In­dia, Here­ward the Wake and Owen Glen­dower), one ar­chi­tect (Sir Christo­pher Wren), one states­man (Oliver Cromwell) and one fic­tional char­ac­ter (Robin Hood). Other might-have-beens in­cluded G.K. Ch­ester­ton, Ge­orge Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Car­di­nal Wolsey, Thomas a Becket, Wil­liam Wal­lace, Bon­nie Prince Char­lie, Char­lotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Mary Queen of Scots, Prince Charles, Anglia, En­chantress, Oberon and Fire Queen. The Western Re­gion reused old GWR names, and the Scottish went for Firths (Sol­way Firth was the last ever state-owned Bri­tish main line steam en­gine to be named, in the week end­ing May 28 1960). Af­ter this was set­tled, it left a blank se­ries of six en­gines (Nos. 70043-9), whose names were cob­bled to­gether through­out the 1950s, with the ex­cep­tion of No. 70047, which was never named.

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