Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Best of the Best...Twice!...

Hi all. Arguably one of the best designs of steam locomotive ever to grace the metals of Britain's railways was Sir William Stanier's answer to a 5MT 4-6-0: his well renowned Black Five. These engines were, certainly in my mind, the best of the best and handled mixed traffic across both the LMS and later the BR networks. Tonight, a fabulous Black Five duo was due into Nuneaton and I couldn't let them pass without nipping down there. The two engines: Ian Riley's pairing of 44871 and 45407 "Lancashire Fusilier": had started out from Euston in the morning with the 'Cathedrals Express', Chester bound. Their route had taken them along the down slow of their own stomping ground: the West Coast Main Line. Steaming via Rugby, Nuneaton, Tamworth and Crewe to reach Chester, the 5MT's would return along exactly the same path. The pair were due into Nuneaton's Platform 5 at around 19.01, though they turned up a good 12 minutes late. Following a brief stop, the pair disappeared off into the night, bound for Euston. A lengthy train of lamp-lit, mixed BR coaches was easily dragged away by these perfect Staniers into the gloom of Nuneaton's suburbs and out into the countryside. I had thought that the 5's would be swamped by onlookers so I had not brought my camera down and, in typical sods law fashion, the engines stopped perfectly in front of me..."grand". Luckily I had my trusty iPhone and so managed to get one or two pics of rather disappointing quality...
The glow of 44871's fire keeps the cab illuminated as she prepares to lead 45407 out of Nuneaton...
45407 "Lancashire Fusilier", built in 1937 by Armstrong Whitworth, stands behind younger sister 44871, built at Crewe in 1945...
Mr Riley's Black Five's seem to travel everywhere together these days, which is nice to see. They are both well renowned main line performers and are kept in immaculate condition. 45407 in particular has had a long preservation career on the main line and has been to countless destinations countrywide. Sister 44871 returned to the main line a couple of years ago and has been joined by 45407 on many outings...
Though they came and went very quickly, it was a pleasure to see these two Black Fives, and was well worth braving the cold for. They are beautiful machines. I have had the privilege of firing one: 45379 when she came to Shackerstone for the 2012 Steam Gala. However, I would never pass up the opportunity of another go on one...they are, truly, the best of the best. I later found that 44871's weird chime whistle was rumoured to be a 'Tug Boat' type, though sources indicate it may have been influenced by the Union Pacific 'Big Boy'! Cheers guys, Sam...

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