The 1T57 'Fifteen Guinea Special' was the last main-line passenger train to be hauled by steam locomotive power on British Rail on 11 August 1968 before the introduction of a steam ban that started the following day. It was a special rail tour excursion train organised for the occasion from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back, and was pulled by four different steam locomotives in turn during the four legs of the journey (with two engines sharing the third leg).
The Fifteen Guinea Special was so named because of the high cost of tickets for the railtour (15 guineas = £15 15s 0d in pre-decimal British currency, equivalent to £15.75). Guinea prices were normally only used for luxury items or professional fees, and ticket prices had been inflated due to the high demand to travel on the last BR steam-hauled mainline train.
The railtour started at 09:10 from Liverpool Lime Street station. The coaches were hauled by LMS Class 5 locomotive 45110 to Manchester Victoria, arriving 8 minutes late at 10:42. There, 45110 was replaced with Britannia Class 70013 Oliver Cromwell – the last steam locomotive to be overhauled by BR – and the train departed for Carlisle at 11:06. The train arrived at Carlisle, 33 minutes late, at 15:29.
For the first part of the return leg, two LMS Stanier Class 5 locomotives, 44781 and 44871, double-headed the train back to Manchester Victoria. The train departed Carlisle at 15:44 – 14 minutes late – and arrived in Manchester at 19:00, 12 minutes late.
Re-joining the train at Victoria station, 45110 then worked the remainder of the journey back to Liverpool Lime Street, arriving only 9 minutes late at 19:59.
The end of steam-hauled trains on British Railways was a turning point in the history of rail travel in Britain. The BR steam ban was introduced the day after the railtour, on 12 August 1968 to enable Oliver Cromwell to make one last positioning run back to Norwich and on to Diss for preservation. This made the Fifteen Guinea Special the last steam-hauled passenger train to be run by BR on its standard gauge network (though BR would continue to operate three steam locomotives on the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol line until it was privatised in 1989). Thereafter, all mainline trains in Britain would be hauled by either diesel or electric power. Except for one mainline steam locomotive to which the ban did not apply – Flying Scotsman, due to Alan Pegler having secured a clause in the purchase contract when she was purchased from BR in 1963 – the only opportunity to view mainline steam locos in operation after the ban was to be on privately owned heritage railways.
Several other railtours had already marked the end of steam haulage on other parts of the British (not UK) network. During most of these railtours, the Fifteen Guinea Special included, the line was flanked with large crowds due to the high level of interest generated by their impending withdrawal and by the popularity of steam engines amongst rail enthusiasts. There was also a general belief that it was highly unlikely that steam would ever be allowed back onto the network, although in the event steam specials on BR lines were reintroduced only three years later. Since the "return to steam" with an inaugural special hauled by GWR No.6000 King George V" in 1971, privately run charters have been allowed to use the mainline by arrangement provided that the steam locomotive has received necessary certification.
All but one of the locomotives that hauled the train were immediately purchased straight from service and passed into preservation. 45110 now resides on the Severn Valley Railway and has been named RAF Biggin Hill, though is currently on static display awaiting overhaul. 44871, owned by Ian Riley, is currently mainline operational and resides on the East Lancashire Railway, and 70013 Oliver Cromwell is now part of the National Collection and was restored to mainline running in 2008, being based on the Great Central Railway when not on the main line. The only one not preserved LMS Black 5 no 44781 was used for filming of the film The Virgin Soldiers at Bartlow in Essex, for which it was derailed and hung at an angle for visual effect. After filming was completed, an antique dealer enthusiast from Saffron Waldon purchased her, but was unable to find the amount quoted by BR to recover the engine and re-rail it. So she was then sold for scrap to Kings of Norwich and cut up on site.
As well as the three locomotives, two BR Mark 1 TSO coaches used in the train, Nos. 4933 and 4937, have also been preserved on the East Lancashire Railway at Bury, itself not too far from the route of the original railtour, and are both currently in passenger use in Blue & Grey livery.
2008 was the 40th Anniversary since '1T57' and end of steam on British Railways and to celebrate a re-run of the tour ran on Sunday 10 August (as 11 August was a Monday in 2008). It again ran from Liverpool Lime Street-Newton Le Willows-Manchester Victoria-Carlisle-Blackburn-Newton Le Willows-Liverpool Lime Street.
2013 marked the 45th Anniversary of '1T57' and as 11 August was on a Sunday there was to be a second re-run. However due to the original route from Liverpool to Manchester via Newton Le Willows being shut for engineering works the tour had to be diverted along the route via Warrington Central to Piccadilly which hadn't seen steam traction since 1968.
The 2013 route ran from Liverpool Lime Street-Warrington Central-Longsight-Farington-Settle-Carlisle & Carlisle-Settle-Darwen-Longsight-Warrington Central-Liverpool Lime Street.LMS Class 5 45110, Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria
Britannia Class 70013 Oliver Cromwell, Manchester Victoria to Carlisle
LMS Stanier Class 5 44871 and LMS Stanier Class 5 44781, Carlisle to Manchester Victoria
LMS Class 5 45110, Manchester Victoria to Liverpool Lime Street
LMS Stanier Class 8F 48151 (45110 unavailable), Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria.
Britannia class 70013 Oliver Cromwell, Manchester Victoria to Carlisle.
LMS Stanier Class 5 45407 (as first choice 44871 was under overhaul) and LMS Class 5 45231, Carlisle to Blackburn.
LMS Stanier Class 5 45231, Blackburn to Liverpool Lime Street
LMS Class 5 45305 (45110 unavailable), Liverpool Lime Street to Longsight.
Britannia Class 70013 Oliver Cromwell, Longsight to Carlisle.
LMS Class 5 45231 (44871 unavailable) and LMS Class 5 44932, Carlisle to Longsight.
LMS Class 5 45305, Longsight to Liverpool Lime Street.
LMS Class 5 45110 was not involved in the 2008 re-run as its mainline certificate had expired. However, 45110 ran over the Severn Valley Railway on 11 August 2008 with a special 1T57 service. The loco remained in service until the end of August 2008, when an extension to its ten year boiler ticket expired. The engine has since been on static display, first at Barrow Hill Roundhouse, and then at The Engine House at Highley.
LMS Class 5 45305 was allocated to the original train back in 1968 for the Liverpool to Manchester legs of the trip but failed the night before with a collapsed firebox brick arch and was replaced by 45110. She was however able to take part in the 2013 re-run.