BR Standard Class 5 4-6-0 No.73156
No.73156 was one of 172 Standard Class 5 locomotives built by British Railways Workshops between 1951 and 1956. The Class was designed for mixed traffic duties throughout the Regions of British Railways.
The locomotive was one of nine examples built at Doncaster, emerging from the Plant in December, 1956 and, together with four others (Nos.73155-159), was allocated to Neasden depot (34E) at the London end of the Great Central main line. The Class 5s were not the first BR Standard type to arrive; having been preceded in 1956 by a batch of Class 4 76XXX series tender engines and Class 4 tank engines 80XXX series.
No.73156 arrived at Neasden on 6th January, 1957, one day after No.73155 and the two supplemented some seventy other steam locomotives from nine different classes. The depot also serviced locomotives arriving from the North, particularly from Leicester Central.
The Neasden Standard Class 5s took up various diagrams, including working the titled and other express passenger trains, The Master Cutler and The South Yorkshireman.
Change on British Railways was constant. In terms of locomotives at Neasden, there were sixty changes between June 1955 and January 1957 (31 in and 29 out), but at an operational planning level the status of the Great Central was being challenged. A change of controlling Region took place in 1958, the through expresses were truncated, titled trains were lost, motive power became concentrated on B1s, V2s and Black 5s and Neasden became the London Midland Region’s 14D. As part of the planning No.73156 was re-allocated to Sheffield, firstly to Millhouses, but then to Grimesthorpe, the other side of Sheffield on the Midland route. At that time, the operation of the Midland route from Manchester and Sheffield to St Pancras was upgraded and the additional Class 5s were required to bolster the fleet of Jubilees, Black 5s and, on the Manchester line the recently transferred in Britannias. Millhouses supplied power for the Midland and cross country routes; quite why No.73156 was re-allocated to Grimesthorpe is subject to conjecture. The locomotive worked from there over a period of twenty months from January, 1959 and was the sole representative of the largest Class of a mixed traffic type at the depot. There was a night diagram that involved a fast freight trip from Rotherham to St Pancras, returning the following night as far as Leicester (Midland).
In September, 1960 No.73156 was on the move again. After a very brief period allocated toDerby, it was back to familiar Great Central territory at Neasden (until June 1962) then Leicester Central (June 1962 to March 1963) and finally, Woodford Halse (to May 1963). Declining traffic levels resulted in further re-allocations of power and No.73156 was sent south, to Cricklewood at the Southern end of the Midland Main Line. By that time the “Peak” (Class 45) diesels were well in charge of most through passenger services and No.73156 would almost certainly have been deployed on freight and parcels traffic until yet another move, in October 1964.
By autumn, 1964 the Beeching Axe was being swung and organisational upheaval on the Railways was at a scale which would not been repeated until thirty years later. The duplication of routes was one of the targets and for all of its advantages the Western Region route from the West Midlands toLondon(Paddington) eventually lost its through express services, though not until 1967. After the GW route became a London Midland Region controlled route progressively out went the former Great Western locomotive types and progressively in came the more modern BR types including No.73156 (Leamington Spa, October 1964 to June 1965 and Tyseley, Birmingham, to April 1966).
By spring 1966 steam activity was becoming concentrated on a few specific areas. The Standard Class 5s working on the London Waterloo toWeymouth route had another year in which to fully demonstrate their capabilities and in the North West of England, whence No.73156 was re-allocated for a final time; to Bolton (to November 1967).
So, after a mere eleven years and some 325,000 miles in traffic the asset that No.73156 surely still was, had its card stamped “withdrawn”. The Supplies and Contracts Manager duly listed the engine details on an invitation to tender issued to scrap merchants and it was hauled to the scrapyard of the successful bidder; Woodham Brothers, Barry, South Wales, to join there some 230 other locomotives awaiting their individual fate.
Of the 172 locomotives in the Class, five were to survive into preservation; 73050/82/96/129…. and 156.
In the mid 1980’s a small group of like minded individuals in Lancashire formed themselves into the North West Locomotive Action Group with the intention of purchasing for preservation a locomotive having connections with the North West of England: No.73156 was both suitable and available, albeit minus a tender and many components. To further the process and to provide some legal protections, a private limited company was formed; the Bolton Steam Locomotive Company Ltd. Purchase was affected in 1985 and the locomotive was moved to Bury, East Lancashire Railway.
The locomotive was stripped; an inventory compiled of components available, a much longer inventory of components required and protective attention given to the frames and firebox/boiler. Funds were raised by whatever means, but the scale of the task facing the group was such that the restoration was definitely in the long term category.
Although covered accommodation was initially provided at Bury, from the early 1990s the demand for workshop space increased and priority was given to owning groups who were more advanced or were able to appoint contractors to undertake work on their locomotive(s). The outlook for No.73156 was increasingly a concern. The NWLAG became the No.73156 Support Group and was developed to allow those who so wished, to contribute through means other than purchase of Shares, in return for a modest annual subscription.
A new tender would need to be obtained and it was equally clear that no BRIB or indeed any other type of BR1 tender was available for purchase. So, the decision was taken to build a new one from scratch(!), the only such case in preservation. Facilities were made available by a supportive enterprise and construction of the new tender underframe commenced. Also of great help was and is the beneficial advice from participation in the BR Standard Locomotive Owners Group and pooling of resources for the production of patterns and aggregated requirements for purchasing castings.
Demand for space under cover at Bury for projects with funding underwritten resulted in No.73156 being moved outside, where working conditions were, of course, very difficult. The valiant efforts of the Support Group were producing some cash, but the failure of a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the slow sale of Shares meant that whilst the heart was still willing and strong, the head needed to provide strong future direction. The principals agreed that the best chance for No.73156 would be to join forces with a heritage railway looking for additional motive power who would be asked to assist in the completion of the restoration, in return for which the restored locomotive would be made available to the host railway for a period of years of operation.
The strong connection of the locomotive with the Great Central route and particularly with Leicester Central resulted in an informal discussion with the GCR regarding the future options for No.73156. Resulting from this, a meeting was held in 2001 the Loughborough Standard Locomotives Group Ltd to discuss the terms under which No.73156 would be moved to the Great Central Railway. In essence LSLG act as custodians and provide non financial support for the completion of the restoration of the locomotive with the Company providing the finance and a completely new tender. In return for the assistance and facilities at Loughborough, the Company has committed to a Running Agreement whereby No.73156 will be based at the GCR for the majority of the ten years following restoration.
The restoration of the locomotive is proceeding well. The frames were completed and then boiler was replaced in the frames to allow the small and large bore copper pipework to be completed. All the motion is in place. The boiler, complete with its new smokebox, has since been removed again for its overhaul to commence. The all new tender has had its frames assembled and is awaiting the fitment of its new wheelsets. The tank is also ready for fitting, as is all the brake gear, which has been made at Loughborough. A return to service is not far away.