On 2nd March, preserved Class 86/2 No. 86259 Les Ross/Peter Pan reached a landmark 50,000 miles in service while in private ownership.

The notable event took place in the Crewe area during the outward run of the Railway Touring Company's Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express charter. For the occasion, owner Les Ross, arranged for a special 'Fifty Thousand Miles' headboard to be carried instead of the normal 'CME' version.

In recent years the AC Electric has become a standard feature on the Cumbrian Mountain express workings from London Euston, its 100mph top speed and superior acceleration and braking characteristics enable the working to keep out of the way of Virgin's 'Pendolino' fleet and LNWR 'Desiro' units, particularly along the congested southern end of the West Coast Mainline.

Right: A proud owner! Les Ross stands alongside his '86' on arrival at Crewe on 2nd March. Just south of the station the loco completed 50,000 miles under his ownership. Les Ross

Of note is that trains hauled by No. 86259 are the only non-Pendolino services regularly booked 'fast line' via Weedon, between Milton Keynes and Rugby instead of being sent around the 'slow lines' via Northampton.

The locomotive is now 53 years old, having been built at Doncaster and released into traffic as E3137 in early 1966. In 1974, it acquired the TOPS number of 86045, and became No. 86259 in May 1975. As well as operating over the WCML, it also saw service on the

Great Eastern route, and was the first AC Electric to reach Ipswich in April 1985.

In service it carried three names, the first being Peter Pan applied in 1979. Six years later it became Greater Manchester - The Life and Soul of Britain, before finally becoming Les Ross in 2002 for the final few months in operation with Virgin Trains. Withdrawal was slightly earlier than planned following a failure in traffic in September 2003.

After a period in storage at Immingham, No. 86259 was acquired by Les Ross and restored at Tyseley before making a triumphant return to main line service in 2008. Since then the owner has invested considerable sums in maintaining the locomotive and it continues to be a regular sight on the WCML, with its speed and fine electric blue livery frequently attracting the attention of those normally uninterested in passing traffic.

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