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.
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In reality, No. 45379 was withdrawn from Willesden shed three years before the end of BR steam, after failing at Chalfont & Latimer with the 4.38pm Marylebone-Nottingham Victoria semi-fast on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.
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.