11 August 1968: the last steam passenger service in Britain

On this day in 1968, the 'Fifteen Guinea Special', Britain's last mainline steam passenger train, ran from Liverpool to Carlisle, ahead of British Railways' steam ban.

After World War II, the low price of domestic coal meant steam trains continued to operate in the UK for two decades. But when the price of oil started to fall in the 1960s, and so-called 'dieselisation' began, it marked the beginning of the end for steam.

Diesel engines were faster, easier to maintain, and cleaner. And on 12 August 1968, British Railways imposed a ban on all mainline steam traffic – though there were still some heritage services running, and some locomotives were used in industry until the 1980s.

The last mainline steam passenger train ran ahead of the ban on this day in 1968 from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back. It was named the Fifteen Guinea Special, because of the high prices charged for the trip  – £15 15s 0d is the equivalent of £250 today. As a comparison, a second-class 'anytime' open return for the same journey today would cost £101. Despite the cost, 450 rail enthusiasts joined the tour to say their goodbyes to over 138 years of British history.

Four locomotives took turns to pull the final excursion: three nameless Class 5s and the Britannia-class Oliver Cromwell, which was the last steam locomotive to be overhauled by British Railways. Three out of the four locomotives have been preserved, with Oliver Cromwell taking almost four years to restore to working condition.

The ban on steam was lifted in 1971, paving the way for the many heritage specials now operating on the railways.

Recommended

28 November 1660: the Royal Society is founded
This day in history

28 November 1660: the Royal Society is founded

After the restoration of the monarchy, members of the “Invisible College” asked King Charles II to approve their scientific and literary society. A Ro…
28 Nov 2020
27 November 1924: Macy’s first Thanksgiving Day parade
This day in history

27 November 1924: Macy’s first Thanksgiving Day parade

On this day in 1924, New York department store Macy's held its first Thanksgiving Day parade. It would soon become a city institution, kicking off the…
27 Nov 2020
27 November 1967: Charles de Gaulle vetoes Britain's entry to the EEC
This day in history

27 November 1967: Charles de Gaulle vetoes Britain's entry to the EEC

On this day in 1967, French president Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain's attempt to join the European Economic Community, claiming Britain didn’t agre…
27 Nov 2020
26 November 1992: The Queen volunteers to pay income tax
This day in history

26 November 1992: The Queen volunteers to pay income tax

With Britain in recession and Windsor Castle having recently caught fire, the Queen's request to pay income tax was accepted by Parliament, on this da…
26 Nov 2020

Most Popular

The next 20 years: five new technologies on the horizon
Global Economy

The next 20 years: five new technologies on the horizon

What will everyday life be like in two decades’ time? Matthew Partridge peers into his crystal ball.
12 Nov 2020
This week’s rally in value stocks is just the beginning
Value investing

This week’s rally in value stocks is just the beginning

The arrival of a vaccine this week saw huge gains in the markets and investors switching out of big-tech growth stocks and into “value” stocks in more…
13 Nov 2020
Share tips of the week
Share tips

Share tips of the week

MoneyWeek’s comprehensive guide to the best of this week’s share tips from the rest of the UK's financial pages.
13 Nov 2020