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This unique outing by steam train celebrated the 50th anniversary of the original Jubilee Requiem rail tour of 24th October 1964. The original tour was a return trip over the East Coast Main Line between London King’s Cross and Newcastle. It ran in recognition of the demise in normal service over this route of the A4 class ‘Pacific' steam locomotives. RTC replicated that trip by travelling the same route and with the same locomotive, No. 60009 “Union of South Africa”.


"Union of South Africa" left London King’s Cross at around 07:08 and immediately the steam locomotive was working hard as it climbed through Gasworks and Copenhagen tunnels and up Holloway Bank to Finsbury Park. It passed through Hadley Wood tunnels, Potters Bar, and Welwyn before stopping at Stevenage for more passengers. The train continued north down the East Coast Main Line (ECML) passing through Hitchin, Sandy, St. Neots and Huntingdon before stopping at Peterborough to pick up passengers and for the steam locomotive to take on water.

Soon after leaving Peterborough 60009 began the climb to Stoke Summit. It was descending from here in the ‘up’ direction that fellow class member “Mallard” made its famous run on 3rd July 1938. It reached a staggering 126 m.p.h., the world speed record for steam traction that still stands unbeaten today and will presumably never be broken. "Union of South Africa" descended from Stoke Summit, passing through Grantham and continuing northwards through Newark, Retford and Doncaster. Doncaster Railway Works, adjacent to the station, was always referred to as "The Plant", and it was here that the 35 A4’s were built between 1935 and 1938. They were designed by Sir Nigel Gresley specifically to haul express passenger trains on the ECML.


Shortly after, the train arrived in York where it stopped for the steam locomotive to take on water. Then the trip continued northwards along the famous East Coast 'racing' stretch through Thirsk and Northallerton, passing through Darlington, the birthplace of the historic Stockton and Darlington Railway, and Durham, dominated by its elevated cathedral. 60009 continued to Newcastle-upon-Tyne where the train stopped for almost two hours – time enough for passengers to be able to ride on the Tyne & Wear Metro, visit the Quayside or visit Eldon Square shopping centre.


Meanwhile 86259 "Les Ross" left Willesdon depot in North London just before midday, driven by Micky Valla , to run 'light engine' down the ECML for temporary stabling in Holgate sidings (see photo below) to await the return of 60009.

The trip was originally intended to be returned from York to London using the services of Deltic 55002 "King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry" (KOYLI) but mechanical problems with this diesel locomotive precluded this. Ironically, or perhaps symbolically, it was this very diesel technology which had ousted steam engine haulage from normal service on the ECML route.

After the passengers re-boarded, the train left Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central, steam hauled by 60009 “Union of South Africa”, and immediately crossed the River Tyne on the King Edward VII Bridge, thereafter continuing to York where “Union of South Africa” was replaced by "Les Ross" for the onward journey towards London King’s Cross. 259 achieved speeds up to 100 m.p.h. with skilled driving by Micky Valla despite one of the four traction motors having been taken out of service. The train stopped at the same stations as on its outward journey, to set down passengers, arriving in London King’s Cross a few minutes earlier than scheduled at the end of a unforgettable anniversary outing. The locomotive remained in King's Cross overnight and was returned to Willesden the following morning where staff will replace its failed traction motor during the autumn.


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The crew arrive at Willesden depot ready to take 86259 'light engine' to York. (Micky Valla left, Paul Steane right). 259 is on No. 1 road at the Euston end of the depot end-on to 313121 the Network Rail unit used for ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) testing on the Hertford loop. It sports a spectacular livery!

Webmaster: "Two locos in, or almost in, their 50s - both looking absolutely immaculate."

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Running on to the East Coast Main Line off the North London line at Copenhagen junction.

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Continuing northwards at Offord Cluny, Cambridgeshire. My webmaster remarked on what appears to be rubbish on the bend but I think these rather evenly-spaced plastic bags contain rubber squares for the rail 'chair' to sit on which may improve the ride on curves.

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Driver Micky Valla checking in advance with Petersborough South signal box about whether the fast or slow line is to be taken through Peterborough station.

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Arriving at Holgate sidings, York alongside an East Midlands 'Meridian' which has worked the once-a-day St. Pancras - York service.

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On arrival back at Holgate sidings after a refreshment break we repositioned the loco in Holgate sidings in front of a train of freightliner wagons. A Class 66 was due to arrive into Holgate with a load of freight. All we had to do is attach the loco and 86259 could be doing its first heavy haul!

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A view into the cab of 259. Photo: © gooey_lewy on Flickr.

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60009 at Newcastle for the return trip to meet 86259 at York. Note the almost perfect reflections on the side of the tender. Photo: © gooey_lewy on Flickr.

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After a great run back from York with the return 'Jubilee Requiem' we arrived in King's Cross at 22.01 - seven minutes early.