UK marks 50 yrs since end of steam engines

Railway enthusiasts are marking the 50th anniversary of the end of regular mainline steam services.

Events are being held at heritage railways across the UK to provide an insight into steam on British Rail up until 1968.

Enthusiasts have ensured steam trains continue to operate in Britain despite the decision for regular passenger services to use only diesel or electric power.

"The end of steam 50 years ago was the end of a pretty significant era in the development not only of the UK but the world," Stephen Oates, chief executive of the Heritage Railway Association, said.

The "end of steam" is said to have occurred on various dates in August 1968.

The final regular timetabled steam train operated from Preston to Liverpool on August 3, while several steam trains carried out tours across Britain a day later.

On August 11 a train known as the Fifteen Guinea Special, due to the expensive tickets, ran from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back.

It was the last mainline steam passenger train.

Several events are taking place to mark the 50th anniversary, including at Grand Central Railway, Leicestershire; Severn Valley Railway, Worcestershire and Ribble Steam Railway, Preston.

"An anniversary such as this is worth marking. It's keeping a bit of our history alive," Mr Oates said.

"People close to steam think it's the closest a machine comes to being a living creature. It's the evocative smell, the rhythm and the sight - a majestic steam engine bursting up an incline.

"There's something about the power and might that captures the imagination."

Australian Associated Press