The Great Central Railway was the last of the great railway lines into London, opening in 1899. Conversely, it was the first line to close a victim of the Beeching cuts. The main services from Nottingham to London and return finished in September 1966. A small section of the line remained open for a DMU service between Nottingham and Rugby. When this closed, the line saw an occasional MOD train cross the River Trent to serve an MOD base at Ruddington. To all intents and purposes, the line was finished by the end of September 1966.
It was very much a steam railway line almost until the very end. The principal morning and evening service from Nottingham Victoria to Marylebone was steam hauled right until the every end. Most of the freight trains were similarly steam hauled. This was a railway that was left to die, and dieselation of its services would never materialise. In fact many steam locomotives were sent to the Great Central to see out their final years. A good number of the Royal Scots played out their last days hauling trains to Marylebone late into 1964.
Diesels would however make an occasional and rare appearance as the photographs here show. The principal train for diesel haulage was the York - Bournemouth summer only holiday train. It was steam hauled from York to Sheffield. Here a diesel would back on and take the train forward to Oxford. As early as 1962, these trains were hauled by class 31 locomotives (known as Brush type 2's then) working off a Sheffield depot (first Darnall and then Tinsley). In 1965 the 31's gave way to the Class 37 (known then as EE type 3's!). They powered the service almost until the very end. However in the final few weeks a number of Class 47's (Brush 4's!) would take this particular train into the history books. The photographs here were taken by the late J A Sheridan and he could hardly have realized how historic they would become. He was thankfully not one of the "steam only" fraternity and so Railway Images is proud to bring you the best selection of GC archive photographs on the net !
Technically, the last diesel locos to work the Great Central were Class 25's. Railway Images has a colour slide of a 25 on an engineers train, in Victoria station about to rip up the final loop. We hope to bring you that photo soon !
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