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

How the UK can help solve the semiconductor shortage
UK Economy

How the UK can help solve the semiconductor shortage

The EU’s plan to build a semiconductor manufacturing industry will fail, but the UK should take advantage of that, says Matthew Lynn
26 Sep 2021
The charts that matter: China upsets cryptocurrency markets
Global Economy

The charts that matter: China upsets cryptocurrency markets

Bitcoin slid again this week after China declared all cryptocurrency transactions illegal. Here’s what’s happened to the charts that matter most to th…
25 Sep 2021
How to cut your energy bill this winter
Personal finance

How to cut your energy bill this winter

Gas and electricity prices have risen by more than 250% so far this year. And they’re likely to go higher still Saloni Sardana looks at what can you …
24 Sep 2021
Cryptocurrency roundup: China’s crackdown intensifies
Bitcoin & crypto

Cryptocurrency roundup: China’s crackdown intensifies

Most major cryptocurrencies suffered falls this week as China cracked down even harder, while the Evergrande crisis rattled global markets, including …
24 Sep 2021

Most Popular

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer
Investment strategy

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer

Inflation need not be a worry unless it is driven by labour market shortages. Unfortunately, writes macroeconomist Philip Pilkington, that’s exactly w…
17 Sep 2021
Two shipping funds to buy for steady income
Investment trusts

Two shipping funds to buy for steady income

Returns from owning ships are volatile, but these two investment trusts are trying to make the sector less risky.
7 Sep 2021
Should investors be worried about stagflation?
US Economy

Should investors be worried about stagflation?

The latest US employment data has raised the ugly spectre of “stagflation” – weak growth and high inflation. John Stepek looks at what’s going on and …
6 Sep 2021