ACE Trains E/27 British Railways Class 7MT 4-6-2 Britannia Class Locomotive
The Britannia Pacifics were some of the first 4-6-2 locomotives to emerge under British Railway’s (BR) new locomotive build standardisation programme. Their design emanated from the Great Interchange Trials of 1948 and they conjured up images of a new powerful main-line steam locomotive in modern BR livery that took their names from a grand history of great Britons. The Britannias were designed for mixed traffic duties and for fast-running heavy passenger trains on BR’s network. The class incorporated the best practices of the old ‘Big Four’ railway companies and was considered to be among some of the most successful locomotives to be built in Britain. A total of 55 locomotives were built in three batches – No: 70000 Britannia the first of the class being completed at Crewe works in January 1951. Britannias were mainly allocated to BR Eastern and Western Regions but the initial batch of locomotives were delivered to BR Southern Region.
Running out of London Victoria station the class became synonymous with the prestigious Dover Marine and Folkestone bound ‘Golden Arrow’ Pullman service. A pair of Britannia’s was stationed at Stewarts Lane – No: 70014 Iron Duke and No: 70004 William Shakespeare – which were always kept in pristine condition and turned out immaculately. Their core duty was a glamorous one hauling the Golden Arrow which included seven new Pullman cars – a suspended pre-war order that were built as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. The two Britannias were also used for other continental boat trains such as the heavyweight ‘Night Ferry’ service. Britannia No: 70030 William Wordsworth was also loaned to Dover to ensure cross channel Night Ferry train could be run in both directions daily until Merchant Navy class locomotives took over duties. Both No: 70014 Iron Duke and No: 70004 William Shakespeare were eventually transferred to the BR Midland Region in 1958 but their external condition was to quickly deteriorate.
Elsewhere on the Southern Region to coincide with the Festival of Britain a new named express service christened the ‘Royal Wessex’ was introduced in the summer of 1951 on the Waterloo to Bournemouth, Swanage and Weymouth lines. Hauled by No: 70009 Alfred the Great, the Royal Wessex service used the latest new BR Mk1 blood and custard coaching stock. The Royal Wessex service was later to be headed by West Country and Battle of Britain Light Pacifics but retained the Mk1 stock and Bulleid restaurant and tavern cars throughout the 1950s whilst other express services on the line predominantly used existing Bullied and earlier Maunsell stock. No: 70009 Alfred the Great also hauled the ‘Bournemouth Belle’ Pullman service before being replaced by Pacifics.
Some 15 Britannias were allocated to BR Western Region which was initially received without any real degree of enthusiasm. However, Cardiff Canton drivers gradually took to them and began to put up performances that Castles would not be ashamed of. Typically, No: 70025 Western Star and No: 70024 Vulcan could be seen regularly hauling the ‘Red Dragon’ from Swansea, Carmarthen and Paddington between 1953 and 1961 whilst No: 70015 Apollo hauled the ‘Pembroke Coast Express’. From 1957 all Western Region Britannias were concentrated at the Cardiff shed and integrated into South Wales based Western Region express routes. In 1959 No: 70020 Mercury could be seen heading up the Cardiff – Paddington ‘Capitals United Express’ service. Inter-regional work was often handled by Cardiff based locomotives such as No: 70022 Tornado heading south to north expresses.
All BR Western Region Britannias were ultimately transferred to BR London Midland Region in September 1961. Typically, No: 70045 Lord Rowallan assisted with the heavy weight Euston – Holyhead ‘Irish Mail’ service whilst No: 70042 Lord Roberts could be seen with Manchester bound services such as ‘The Palatine’ in the 1960s. From the early 1950s Britannia Pacifics found much favour on BR’s Eastern Region based at Liverpool Street with No: 70001 Lord Hurcombe heading the Norwich bound services of ‘Norfolkman’ whilst No: 70002 Geoffrey Chaucer and Stratford shed based No: 70016 Ariel took up the ‘Hook Continental’ boat train. No: 70007 Coeur-de-Lion could be seen hauling the ‘Hook Continental’ and also ‘The Broadsman’.
No: 70016 Ariel was the first BR locomotive to receive the late crest insignia in June 1956 being displayed with its new modern livery at Marylebone station. Other Britannias quickly followed; No: 70004 William Shakespeare of Stewart’s Lane and No: 70023 Venus of Old Oak Common and No: 70048 to ensure the new look BR identity could be seen around the country at the earliest opportunity. The abilities of the Britannia class locomotives for mixed traffic work were clearly evident across the network towards the end of steam. No: 70004 William Shakespeare in August 1966 was used to haul northbound Fyffes banana van trains out of Southampton Docks.
As a mixed traffic locomotive the ACE Britannias can be run with a variety of coaches and freight wagons. The early and late crest Britannias will look superb running with the new BR Mk I and BR (S) Bulleid coaches.