The 55 Club

It was 1981 and I was the Regional Information Manager (the second in command in the Eastern Regional PR team) at York where we had an excellent working relationship with the NRM ever since their opening day was timed to coincide with our 150th Anniversary of Railways Celebrations in 1975.

So I wasn’t surprised that one day I got a call from David Jenkinson inviting me over to the Museum to chat with him and his deputy Gwen Townend about an idea that might help support their ‘orphan’ engine, Duchess of Hamilton.

At our meeting David mapped his idea whereby the orphan, and thereby unfunded engine, which had been a gift from Sir Billy Butlin, and not previously vested as part of the State funded National Collection, could be made to contribute towards its upkeep and restoration costs.

David’s plan would see the loco utilised to haul a number of BR’s own Cumbrian Mountain Express enthusiasts’ specials from York and Leeds and out and back to Carlisle over the then still threatened Settle & Carlisle line. To increase its earning power, the trains would also convey two recently withdrawn Metro Cammell built Pullman cars, Emerald and Eagle in which pre-booked meals be served by volunteers. This would keep costs to a minimum and channel profits back into the care and maintenance of the loco. Oh, and would I like to be one of those volunteers?!

Now, I always had had a soft spot for LMS Coronations stretching back to the days when I would join the appreciative crowd of spotters who congregated to witness the spectacle of the departure from the old Euston station of the 4.14pm Caledonian train to Glasgow Central. Invariably it would be hauled by one of these magnificent maroon machines.

Scroll forward two decades and I am bein