Oliver Cromwell returns to East Anglia

IT'S been a long time coming, but after nearly 50 years Oliver Cromwell has returned to its old stamping ground in East Anglia.The “Britannia” class pacific produced a stunning performance on its return to steam on the Great Eastern main line.

IT'S been a long time coming, but after nearly 50 years Oliver Cromwell has returned to its old stamping ground in East Anglia.

The “Britannia” class pacific produced a stunning performance on its return to steam on the Great Eastern main line.

There were some minor glitches on the trip - but none of them were Oliver's fault and an unscheduled stop at Ipswich station merely gave the hundreds of onlookers the chance to stand and marvel for a few minutes at the ultimate development of the British steam locomotive.

“This is better than sex!” said Colin De'Ath from Trimley as he watched the locomotive simmering at the front of platform three at Ipswich station.

“I run the Slograil model shop in Ipswich, but I had to come here and see this. All my customers are here anyway so we won't be doing much business right now!” he said.

“I used to travel behind Oliver Cromwell and similar trains - it is wonderful to see it back in action again.”

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The train was a few minutes late through Ipswich because previous service trains had been delayed by signalling problems.

It was due to run straight through the station, but was forced to stop to allow a previous train to pass through a section of the line.

A large crowd of photographers had gathered at the station to record the historic trip - many of the enthusiasts could remember when Britannias ruled the Great Eastern, but there were also several youngsters catching a rare glimpse of a huge steam train on the main line.

Among the passengers was former Ipswich mayor Phil Smart who was instrumental in organising special trips the town and Bury St Edmunds by Oliver Cromwell's twin Britannia in 1995.

“It's been a great ride - the timings were so generous that although we were held up once or twice by outside factors we still got to Norwich on time.

“The train is pretty full and everyone is having a great time,” he added.

OLIVER Cromwell was one of a class of 53 steam locomotives ordered by British Railways shortly after nationalisation and entered service pulling express trains from London to East Anglia in 1951.

It stayed in the region throughout the 50s until steam was ousted by diesel in the early 1960s. Oliver Cromwell was then transferred to the London Midland Region where it operated mainly in the north west of England until it was withdrawn in 1968.

It was the last steam locomotive to pull a service train on BR, after which it was handed over to the National Railway Museum which then placed it on long-term loan to Bressingham Steam Museum on the Suffolk/Norfolk border.

It stayed there for 36 years until it was decided in 2004 to restore it to main-line condition in time for the 2008 40th anniversary of the end of BR steam.

Its first mainline steam run in 40 years was the recreation of that famous trip last month, and it is now due to haul special trains over all sections of the rail network.

It is due to return to East Anglia with a repeat of yesterday's run on Saturday week, September 20.

There are still a few tickets left for this trip, and they can be ordered through charter train operators Steam Dreams whose website is www.steamdreams.co.uk

DID you know:

Yesterday's train was called “The Norfolkman” and the locomotive carried a detachable headboard to mark this - if it was on another route it would carry another headboard.

The locomotive is always named Oliver Cromwell, wherever it is travelling.