MID-HANTS ‘BLACK FIVE’ BOWS OUT IN 1968 STYLE

One fi­nal blast for No. 45379 as pop­u­lar Stanier 4-6-0 marks ‘The End’ – for now.

Steam Railway (UK) - - FOCUS -

IT IS A GREAT SHAME BE­CAUSE IT’S WELL LIKED BY THE CREWS PETE HASKEW

With a 1968-style head­board and a thun­der­ous ex­haust, ‘Black Five’ No. 45379 made its pres­ence felt on the Mid-Hants Rail­way’s ‘Alps’ for the last time on Septem­ber 9.

Driver Pete Haskew ‘gave it the gun’ with a wide-open reg­u­la­tor on the fi­nal as­cents of the 1-in-60 climb to Med­stead & Four Marks with the 3.00pm Al­res­ford-Al­ton and 4.00pm re­turn – the Stanier 4-6-0’s last trains be­fore its boiler cer­tifi­cate ex­pired that mid­night, after eight years of op­er­a­tion on the ‘Water­cress Line’ and sev­eral other pre­served rail­ways.

As a farewell ges­ture, it was adorned with a head­board read­ing ‘The End – LMS Steam’, in homage to that made by the late Alan Cas­tle for class­mate No. 45318 on BR’s last timetabled steam-hauled pas­sen­ger train – the 9.25pm Pre­ston-Liver­pool Ex­change on Au­gust 3 1968 (SR483).

In re­al­ity, No. 45379 was with­drawn from Willes­den shed three years be­fore the end of BR steam, after fail­ing at Chal­font & La­timer with the 4.38pm Maryle­bone-Not­ting­ham Vic­to­ria semi-fast on July 12 1965. A ten­der-first BR ‘4MT’ 2-6-0

No. 76037, hastily com­man­deered from a pass­ing pick-up goods train, then pi­loted No. 45379 to Ayles­bury, from where Type 2 diesel No. D5084 took the train for­ward.

Al­though the ‘Black Five’ per­formed bet­ter for its last day in MHR ser­vice, there were echoes of that fi­nal BR trip as ‘4MT’ No. 76017 worked the other di­a­gram – and was then parked smoke­box-to-smoke­box with No. 45379 as the lat­ter cooled down on Ro­p­ley’s ash­pit at the end of the day.

Al­though the hy­draulic boiler test had started its ‘ten-year’ cer­tifi­cate in 2008, the ‘Black Five’ did not re­turn to ser­vice un­til 2010, but the time that had elapsed meant an ex­ten­sion to the ticket was not pos­si­ble.

It is in­deed ‘The End’ for this par­tic­u­lar item of LMS steam for the fore­see­able fu­ture, as the MHR’s ‘Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Strat­egy’ does not en­vis­age

No. 45379 be­ing over­hauled at least un­til after Lord Nel­son, Stan­dard ‘4MT’ No. 75079 and Stan­dard ‘5MT’ No. 73096 have gone through Ro­p­ley works (see story, right).

How­ever, the MHR Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety is ex­plor­ing op­tions for stor­ing the ‘Black Five’ un­der cover un­til it reaches the front of the over­haul queue.

John Mun­day, a mem­ber of the vol­un­teer team that re­stored the en­gine, and who fired it on its first day of rev­enue-earn­ing ser­vice – Septem­ber 11 2010, at a Som­er­set & Dorset-themed gala – said: “It’s very sad be­cause we know it’ll be a long time be­fore we see her run again, con­sid­er­ing the list of en­gines in front of her.”

The lo­co­mo­tive is known to re­quire sig­nif­i­cant bot­tom-end work; after an­other spir­ited run over the ‘Alps’ on Septem­ber 8, Driver Andy Love com­mented: “She’s still got it!” – but then added that he had worked it on a long cut-off (around 55%) for ad­di­tional steam in the cylin­ders to cush­ion the knock­ing axle­boxes.

Dur­ing this stint of ser­vice, cracks have been welded up in its right-hand frame above all three driv­ing axle­box horns – and the rail­way is fac­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing to either strengthen the ex­ist­ing frames or take the dras­tic step of cut­ting a new set.

Mr Haskew, an­other vol­un­teer who worked on the restora­tion, said: “I shall watch what hap­pens to her with keen in­ter­est, but the truth is we don’t know what the fu­ture holds.

“It is a great shame be­cause it’s well liked by the crews.”

The first of six ‘Black Fives’ to be res­cued from Barry scrap­yard, No. 45379 en­tered preser­va­tion at the Avon Val­ley Rail­way in May 1974. Hav­ing been par­tially re­stored there, it was sold to Phil Wain­wright of 45XXX Lo­co­mo­tives (also owner of No. 45491) and moved to the Great Cen­tral Rail­way (Not­ting­ham) in 1998, be­fore be­ing ac­quired by the MHR Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety in 2002.

AN­DREW RAPACZ

Mid-Hants Rail­way Cleaner Jose Not­teridge, Fire­man Chris Bale and Driver Richard Bent­ley with ‘Black Five’ No. 45379 at Ro­p­ley shed on the evening of Septem­ber 8, after its penul­ti­mate day in ser­vice.

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