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"Nothing can quite replace the majesty of a big express engine, with its spectacular appearance, its graceful action, its impressive voice and its near-human characteristics”.
So wrote Cecil J Allen back in 1960 and, at a time when the class still dominated express passenger workings along the West Coast main line, there is little doubt that he must surely have had the ‘Princess Coronation’ pacifics in mind!
Likewise thought Alan Castle, who had been born and raised literally within yards of the Euston-Glasgow route, not far from Preston, and it was perhaps natural that the big Staniers would become a particular favourite, both to him and to other line-side friends who came to witness the final rites of the class during the summer of 1964. Several of those photographic colleagues have now come together to contribute to a new book commemorating the 50th anniversary of the passing of the final 18 working survivors.
'1964 - The Last Summer of the Duchesses' never pretends to be a definitive history of the class … and it does tend to concentrate almost entirely upon the more localised, but major, arena of action in the North West of England, but the content certainly provides probably the most comprehensive account ever of the events of that memorable summer.
Published to commemorate a landmark half century since the final working of all – the 'Scottish Lowlander' railtour of Saturday 26th September 1964 - the informative text concludes in relating in detail the events of that memorable journey in detail. (To complete the story, several fine images of the two A4 pacifics utilised on other stages of the tour are also included.)
As No 46256 'Sir William A Stanier FRS' set out from Carlisle on a dark, wet autumnal evening to head back towards Crewe, the 502 passengers aboard the train sincerely believed that this was to be the very last-ever occasion upon which the notorious gradients of the Westmorland Fells were to resound to the deep, powerful exhaust beat of a ‘Duchess’ at the head of a heavy express train.
A major redeeming feature of this particular book is that virtually the entire collection of extremely high quality colour and black & white illustrations have never previously appeared in print and, with some meticulously-researched accompanying text, they do provide a fascinating insight into what occurred during those final months.
64pp plus cover, 66 illustrations A4 landscape with laminated softback covers
ISBN No 978-1-909134-11-9