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Pug: Rochdale to Whitworth brake vans

The Rochdale to Whitworth Brake Van Trip


19 February 1967 (Sunday).    I went to the shed with Trevor Owen who was booked as fireman.  We topped up the water in the tank, found that the steam raisers had used up much of the coal in the bunkers so that we had to coal it from coal lying on the floor. Then the loco was turned on the 60 foot turntable.   We left the shed via the north connection after the signalman was persuaded that “51218” was a genuine and valid steam locomotive number and not a dmu.


En route to Rochdale in the gloomy daylight we passed 5MT 44758 lying on its side and partially covered by a tarpaulin near Mills Hill.   This loco had run through a set of catch points when working wrong road the week before and was awaiting recovery.


At Rochdale, a train of four goods brakevans was already assembled.    Water was taken again.


The first trip to Whitworth (then the terminus of the erstwhile Rochdale to Bacup line) was undertaken in very dark, wet and windy weather.   However the loco successfully worked the train, pausing at the various closed stations of Wardleworth, Shawclough and Healey and Broadley.    Water was taken on the way down at Shawclough, provided by the Rochdale Auxiliary Fire Service.   Back at Rochdale where the train used platform 8 for its departures and arrivals, one of the main line water columns was used to top up the tanks.  


The second trip was in slightly better weather.   A Leeds-Manchester dmu called at the station shortly before our departure time and the station announcer was persuaded to announce “Connections for Wardleworth, Shawclough, Broadley and Whitworth join the train at platform 8”.


By the time of the third trip, brighter showery weather had set in and the sun broke through although the wind did not abate.


 Local people turned up in large numbers, The Chairman of the Whitworth Urban District Council rode the footplate from Whitworth to Rochdale on the second trip complete with regalia and chain of office, which came perilously close to being melted by the fire..   Most people who travelled stayed around to photograph the other trips.    The first edition of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway Preservation Society Stockbook had just been delivered from the printers and Ken Roberts did a roaring trade selling them “hot off the press”.


By the time the loco returned light to Newton Heath shed it was virtually dark.   All I saw was a blur as it shot under Rochdale Road overbridge at Slattocks.


So ended what must have been one of the most unusual day of Railtours ever run by British Railways.    Other privately preserved loco had previously been used on Railtours such as Captain Bill Smith’s J52 number 1247.   Flying Scotsman and A4 Pacific “Bittern” along with K4 “The Great Marquess” were three ex-LNER examples and, I believe one or maybe two GWR Castles also worked Tours after preservation..

But a brakevan trip with such a small locomotive unassisted was unique. 


Photograph information.


P4.  51218 and its brake van train in the cutting alongside Joy Street Cronkeyshaw, Rochdale,  now infilled, on the Rochdale to Bacup branch line.

P5 The brake van train crossing the famous Healey Dell viaduct in golden February afternoon sunshine.  The day had started very wet but the clouds lifted for a beautiful sunny afternoon.

P6.  The scene at Shawclough and Healey Station where the last passenger trains

had run in June 1947, twenty years previously.  A crowd of locals turn out to watch this unique event.



Contact Information


Meeting Place: Woolworths Social Club
Gipsy Lane
OL11 3HA

Meeting times


2nd Tuesday in Feb, April, June, August, Oct and December,in The Blue Pits Inn, 842 Manchester Road, Castleton, Rochdale, OL11 2SP