70013 – Oliver Cromwell

BRITISH RAILWAYS STANDARD CLASS 7 4-6-2 No.70013 "Oliver Cromwell"

No.70013 “Oliver Cromwell” is a member of the first class of BR Standard locomotives designed by Robin Riddles. The 4-6-2 Pacifics were given the power classification 7 and are generally known as Britannias after the first member of the class, No.70000. No.70013 was built at Crewe in 1951.

The February, 2004 edition of Steam Railway saw the headline-grabbing announcement that BR Riddles designed Britannia Pacific No.70013 “Oliver Cromwell” was to leave its long time home at the Bressingham Steam Museum and, after making a star appearance at that year’s Railfest in York, would be moved to the GCR.

At Loughborough, said Steam Railway, this icon of a steam locomotive would be stripped to investigate the prospect of a full overhaul, with a view to the engine being ready for the summer of 2008. This will be, of course, the 40th anniversary of the “Fifteen Guinea Special” – BR’s very last steam passenger train in 1968 -  and it is planned to re-run the train over the Settle and Carlisle line, with the Pacific more widely playing a big part in various events marking the passing of main line steam on British Railways.

This is a great event both for the GCR and for the heritage railway movement generally in the United Kingdom. It was a great achievement too for the Loughborough Standard Locomotives Group Ltd and the 5305 Locomotive Association, into whose joint care this National Railway Museum jewel has been placed. The 5305LA/LSLG alliance is not only responsible for running the locomotive on the GCR, but this team, in conjunction with the NRM, will manage and operate No.70013 wherever it runs over its 10 year tour of duty, including the main line, as well as any private railways which are lucky enough to secure No.70013 for a visit. What made this major project all the more remarkable is the considerable amount of co-operation between a number of interested parties that made it possible at all.

The story starts in the summer of 1968, with main line steam in Britain dwindling fast in its last stronghold in the north-west. A solitary Pacific remained on the active list, Britannia Class No.70013 “Oliver Cromwell”. This locomotive had been the last main line engine to receive a repair at Crewe, emerging from the Works in February 1967. It returned to its Carlisle Kingsmoor shed from where, following the withdrawal of the last of its class stablemates, it moved to Carnforth. Destined for greater things, it sallied forth only on the occasional railtour – it really was kept for best. Finally, it was earmarked to take the scenic Manchester Victoria to Carlisle leg of the famous “Fifteen Guinea Special”, the big railtour that was to be main line steam’s finale on 11th August, 1968 – and No.70013’s place in history was assured.

That tour, of course, immortalised the locomotive and preservation was then pretty certain. It was chosen to be a part of the National Collection in preference to classmate No.71000 “Britannia” because it had already gained fame and having been fully overhauled the previous year was in better condition – especially its boiler.

The National Collection had limited storage space and took up an offer from Alan Bloom at his Bressingham steam museum in the depths of East Angliato provide a home for the locomotive. On the 12th August, 1968 it ran light engine to Norwich where many of its classmates had seen their finest hour, and then went to Diss where it completed its journey by lorry for the short distance to Bressingham. It arrived there on 19th August, 1968.

At Bressingham it continued in use, albeit only on a 200 yard track giving guards van and footplate rides. It ran until 1973 when it was parked in the museum - and there it stayed.

Meanwhile the National Railway Museum took custodianship of the National Collection and attempts were made in 1993, led by Steam Railway, to recall the locomotive from Bressingham. The idea was before its time and No.71013 remained at Bressingham.

The NRM gave No.70013 a very wide berth in the 1990s and the mighty 4-6-2 slumbered on at Bressingham, where the museum Trustees feared that the engine’s departure would reduce visitor numbers. It also insisted it had a permanent loan agreement for No.70013. Many people believed that there can be no such thing as a “permanent loan” which is a contradiction in terms (try it with your bank!) – but there was no stomach for a fight.

Then in 2002, Emap Active Transport Division General Manager Nigel Harris (who had led the failed 1993 campaign and had always resolved to return to this project) and Steam Railway Editor Tony Streeter made moves to reconcile the parties and with a number of other partners a consortium was slowly put together. There were endless preliminary “what if…?” meetings with both Bressingham and the NRM, with Steam Railway acting as honest broker. There were talks about talks and provisional areas of common ground were staked out. These later led to tentative in principle agreements which finally led to an exciting and historic meeting of all parties, together in the same room, for the first and same time, at the NRM, in York.

The project team led by Steam Railway had to satisfy the NRM by getting the locomotive back into working order in a professional, well-managed and efficient manner. There was agreement it would run at the GCR for a portion of each year. It would tour the country and would also visit Bressingham, which the Museum agreed would always be host to a locomotive of similar quality and public impact. This makes sense in a part of the country that is a long way from York or Shildon. It was a long process requiring patience and diplomacy but eventually it all paid off and when the handshakes took place that afternoon in NRM Andrew Scott’s office, in early 2004, the controversy of the preceding decade was finally purged.

The consortium comprised the NRM and Bressingham, of course, Steam Railway magazine and four Loughborough based organisations. 5305 Locomotive Association and Loughborough Standard Locomotives Group would restore the locomotive, with Main Line Steam Trust grant assistance and with considerable GCR input as part of a locomotive overhaul and operating agreement.

An appeal for funds to help make all this happen was launched, spear-headed by Steam Railway offering incentives against donation thresholds. This successful and well tried formula had already seen the successful return to steam, financed by Steam Railway readers of NRM engines O4 No.63601 and No.3440 “City ofTruro”.

Thus Bressingham’s long-term agreement was terminated and the locomotive left on 21st May 2004, travelling by road to York. It had thus spent nearly 36 years at Bressingham, compared with a main line working life of 17 years between its completion in May 1951 and its withdrawal at the end of steam.

No.70013 was a star turn as a static exhibit at the very successful Railfest - and by then the engine was under the custodianship of the consortium. Therefore the Loughborough groups manned the locomotive and this together with the other NRM/Great Central locomotives No.30777 “Sir Lamiel” and No.63601, and the Greater Great Central stand, ensured that the GCR made a big impression. Quietly, the first detailed examinations of the locomotive were made by GCR and NRM engineers…and they found nothing but encouraging news.

No.70013’s next journey was by road to Loughborough, where it featured at various events through the summer before going into the works for its overhaul.

Once at Loughborough the locomotive was given a thorough overhaul and stripped to its component parts. It returned to passenger service on 3rd May, 2008, forty years after hauling the “15 Guinea Special”.  Today the locomotive operates and considerable number of steam specials on Network Rail and GCR services.

The locomotive returned to the GCR from operating on National metals on Tuesday 23rd Oct 2012 and has undergone a period of maintenance before its planned return to service. The task was much bigger than expected and the locomotive returned to service on the GCR over the weekend of 15th and 16th June, 2013. It then left the GCR on 19th June for main line service.

In 2018, 70013 starred in a recreation of the Fifteen Guinea Special on the 50th anniversary of the original train of 11th August 1968. The event was extremely popular with enthusiasts attending in numbers.

Oliver Cromwell worked until the final day of 2018, including the New Year's Eve passenger train service, being withdrawn from service for overhaul following arrival at Loughborough in the early hours of 1st January 2019, before the expiry of the loco's boiler certificate the following day.

70013 "Oliver Cromwell" is owned by the National Railway Museum.

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