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Funeral Locomotive of King George VI, Dover Priory Railway Station, Kent, UK

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John Latter on May 5, 2011

A view of the BR Britannia Class 7MT 4-6-2 no 70000 Britannia Steam Locomotive hauling the 12-coach Cathedrals Express as she passed through Dover Priory Railway Station at 5.47 pm on Thursday 7 April 2011.

For many years, Britannia had her cab roof painted white. This was to commemorate her pulling the funeral train of King George VI - of "The King's Speech" film fame (1) - from Norfolk to London following his death on the 6th of February 1952 at Sandringham House, Norfolk (2):

The body of the late King George VI was brought from Sandringham to London by rail on Monday, February 11. The special train was made up of nine vehicles, all of which were in the varnished teak livery of the former L.N.E.R. (London and North Eastern Railway), except the hearse-coach, which was painted black with a white roof. It was hauled from Wolferton (the station for Sandringham) to Kings Lynn by the ‘Sandringham' class 4-6-0 locomotive No. 61617, Ford Castle.

After reversal at Kings Lynn, the train continued its journey via Cambridge, and Hitchin to Kings Cross behind the first of the new class ‘7' Pacifics, No. 70000 Britannia. The departure time from Wolferton was 12.5 p.m., and Kings Cross was reached punctually at 2.45 p.m. The body of the King was then taken to Westminster Hall to lie in state for three days.

This visit to Dover was part of the Britannia's debut Main Line railtour after two test runs - and she was right on time! The route was from Oxford - Canterbury - Oxford, calling at the following stations (3):

Outward Journey

Oxford depart 09:22

Reading 10:08

London Kensington Olympia: 11:26

Maidstone East 12:53

Ashford Int 13:24

Canterbury West arrive 13:45

Return Journey

Canterbury West depart 16:51

Minster 17:14

Deal 17:28

Dover Priory 17:47

Folkestone Central 18:01

Ashford Int 18:17

Headcorn 18:28

Paddock Wood arrive 18:39 (water)

Paddock Wood depart 18:54

Tonbridge 19.13

Seven Oaks 19.23

Orpington 19.35

Bromley South 19.53

London Kensington, Olympia 20.42

Slough 21.19

Reading 21.47

Didcot Parkway 22.10

Oxford 22.45

British Railways (BR) standard class 7 (also known as Britannia class), number 70000 Britannia is a preserved steam locomotive/steam train (3).

British Railways (4)

Britannia was built at Crewe, completed on January 2, 1951. She was the first British Railways standard locomotive to be built and the first of 55 locomotives of the Britannia class. The locomotive was named at a ceremony at Marylebone station (London Marylebone) by the then Minister for Transport Alfred Barnes on 30 January 1951 (the day before I was born!). For her entire operational life, she was allocated to Norwich Thorpe engine shed.

Preservation (4)

Britannia was withdrawn in May 1966, after 15 years of service.

Initially destined for the National Railway Museum because of her cultural significance, she was stored. However, due to her prototype design and construction differences, the NRM choose standard sister 70013 Oliver Cromwell instead. Britannia was eventually bought by the Britannia Locomotive Company Limited.

After a series of moves, she was eventually returned to steam on the Severn Valley Railway, where she remained for a number of years in operational but non-mainline condition. With the society wishing to make more use of the locomotive, she was moved to the European gauge Nene Valley Railway in Peterborough, where she was also fitted with an air-brake compressor. Britannia made her return to the main line on 27 July 1991, successfully working enthusiast trips until 1997, and was featured in an episode of the TV drama series, London`s Burning.

With an expired mainline boiler certificate, due to the high cost of refurbishment, the locomotive was sold to Pete Waterman in 2000. Stored at Waterman's workshops at the Crewe Heritage Centre, after initial assessment the amount of work resulted in Pete Waterman selling her to Jeremy Hosking. Presently undergoing restoration at Crewe, the newly refurbished cab has been test fitted, the new smoke box almost ready for fitting and the boiler is the subject of major work, currently having replacement steel sides, new crown stays, new front section barrel section, new steel and copper tubeplate, repairs and patches to door plate and major work to copper firebox.

As of 2 October 2010 Britannia has moved under her own steam at the Crewe Heritage Centre minus smoke deflectors and air pump and on the 2nd of November, she ran under her own steam from Carnforth to Crewe down the WCML on her own.

On 16 March 2011 she was southbound on the Chester-Shrewsbury line; rewatering at Chirk at 16:30, with about 8 carriages behind, on a loaded test run.

In 1972, the Royal Mail issued a "21st Anniversary of Britannia"First Day Cover (FDC). A pre-decimal 3p Britannia Locomotive Societyenvelope with a Bridgnorth (Shropshire) Special Postmark and "Carried By Steam Train" cachet.

BR Standard Class 7 Specifications (5)

Power Type: Steam

Designer: Robert Riddles

Builder: BR Crewe Works (built 1840 by Grand Junction Railway)

Build date: January 1951 – September 1954

Total production: 55

Configuration: 4-6-2

UIC classification: 2'C1'h

Gauge: 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)

Leading wheel diameter: 3 ft 0 in (0.914 m)

Driver diameter: 6 ft 2 in (1.880 m)

Trailing wheel diameter: 3 ft 3½ in (1.003 m)

Length: 68 ft 9 in (20.96 m)

Width: 8 ft 8¾ in (2.66 m)

Height: 13 ft ½ in (3.98 m)

Axle load: 20.50 long tons (20.83 t)

Weight on drivers: 61.50 long tons (62.49 t)

Locomotive weight: 94.00 long tons (95.51 t)

Tender weight: BR1: 49.15 long tons (49.94 t), BR1A: 52.50 long tons (53.34 t), BR1D: 54.50 long tons (55.37 t)

Tender type: BR1 (40), BR1A (5), or BR1D (10)

Fuel type: Coal

Fuel capacity: BR1/BR1A: 7.0 long tons (7.1 t), BR1D: 9.0 long tons (9.1 t)

Water capacity: BR1 4,250 imp gal (19,300 l; 5,100 US gal), BR1A: 5,000 imp gal (23,000 l; 6,000 US gal), BR1D: 4,750 imp gal (21,600 l; 5,700 US gal)

Boiler: BR1

Boiler pressure: 250 psi (1.72 MPa)

Fire grate area: 42 sq ft (3.9 m2)

Heating surface: Tubes and flues: 2,264 sq ft (210.3 m2)

Heating surface: Firebox: 210 sq ft (20 m2)

Superheater area: 718 sq ft (66.7 m2)

Cylinders: Two, outside

Cylinder size: 20 × 28 in (508 × 711 mm)

Tractive effort: 32,150 lbf (143.0 kN)

Factor of adhesion: 4.23

Career: British Railways

Power class: 7MT

Number: 70000–70054

Axle load class: Route availability 8; BR (WR): red

Locale: Eastern Region, London Midland Region, Scottish Region, Southern Region, Western Region

Withdrawn: June 1965 – August 1968

Disposition: Two preserved, remainder scrapped

History of Dover Priory Train Station (6)

The Victorian Dover Priory opened on 22 July 1861 as the temporary terminus of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR). It became a through station on 1 November 1861 with the completion of a tunnel though the Western Heights to gain access to the Western Docks area, where LCDR created Dover Harbour station.

Initially the station was known as Dover Town but was renamed in July 1863 (leading to rival SER to adopt the name for one of its Dover stations). Southern consolidated passenger services at Dover Priory in 1927 and modernised the station in 1932.

The Chatham Main Line into Priory was electrified in 1959 as part of Stage 1 of Kent Coast Electrification, under the BR 1955 Modernisation Plan. The line up to Ramsgate, via Deal was subsequently electrified under stage two of Kent Coast electrification in January 1961. The line from Folkestone into Dover Priory was electrified in June 1961.

(1) "The King`s Speech" is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays King George VI who, to overcome his stammer, sees Lionel Logue, a wise Australian speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The two men become friends as they work together, and after his brother Edward VIII abdicates (Abdication Crisis), the new king relies on Lionel Logue to help him make a radio broadcast on the day that Britain goes to war with Germany at the beginning of World War II (Sunday, September 3rd, 1939). Listen to an archived recording of the real speech at the BBC: King George VI Addresses the Nation.

Source: Wikipedia entry for The King`s Speech.

(2) From The Railway Magazine, April 1952, p. 233: The passing of King George VI

(3) The Cathedrals Express BR Britannia Class 7MT 4-6-2 no 70000 Britannia Timetable for Thursday 7 April 2011

(4) Wikipedia entry for BR standard class 7 70000 Britannia

(5) Wikipedia entry for BR standard class 7

(6) From Dover Priory Railway Station

The above Dover history photo was taken from the road bridge on Folkestone Road.

All photos relating to trains and rail transport are now tagged with Railway.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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John Latter on September 8, 2011

Headcodes for the Cathedrals Express:

Outward journey: 1Z71

Return journey: 1Z73

A headcode is a train reporting number used by railway staff in Great Britain to identify a particular train service. For example, the The Cathedrals Express began as 1 (Express) Z (Special) 71 (ID number).

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 26, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/04/07 17:47:56
    • Exposure: 0.017s (1/60)
    • Focal Length: 55.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/8.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash