‘Cathedrals Express’ from Southend to Bath – 7 March 2015

Seen here early in the morning running along the Thames Estuary coastline near Chalkwell station, Essex, is the ‘Cathedrals Express’ steam train during its journey from Southend to Bath and Bristol. The trip was initially hauled by this LNER B1 locomotive number 61306 ‘Mayflower’  to West London, at which point 34067 ‘Tangmere’  took over, taking the train onto Bath and Bristol. The B1s were designed as mixed traffic locomotives capable of hauling express passenger trains as well as freight traffic. As powerful, go anywhere engines, the B1s worked across most of the UK rail network from East Anglia to Scotland.

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61306 was built in 1948 by the North British Locomotive Company, as Works No. 26207. Though built to an LNER design, it was delivered after nationalisation to British Railways(BR).
Initially 61306 was allocated to Hull Botanic Gardens Depot (shed code 53B, Kingston upon Hull) until June 1959, when it was transferred to nearby Hull Dairycoates Depot (53A). There it remained until June 1967, when it was transferred to Low Moor Depot (56F, Bradford) before being withdrawn in September 1967. 61306 was privately purchased for preservation at Steamtown in Carnforth. There it was painted into the LNER Apple Green Livery and given the number 1306 and the name ‘Mayflower’. 1306 would have been its allocated running number had LNER not been nationalised (most ex-LNER BR numbers being the LNER 1946 numbers prefixed with a six). The name ‘Mayflower’ came from a scrapped BR-built Thompson B1, numbered 61379.
In 1978 1306 moved to the Great Central Railway in Leicestershire where it remained until 1989, when it was taken out of service for a ten-year overhaul. For this it was initially moved back to Hull Dairycoates but the sale of that site resulted in a move to the Nene Valley Railway. Finally in 2006 it moved to Boden Rail Engineering Ltd at Washwood Heath to undergo a full overhaul.
In 2014 61306 was sold by the Boden family to David Buck and is currently based at the North Norfolk Railway.
‘Mayflower’ is one of two preserved Thompson B1s, the other being LNER-built No. (6)1264

Double-headed Black 5s – Chalkwell – 14 December 2013

On 14 December 2013 a special Christmas Carol steam railway train departed Southend Central bound for Chichester. The train was hauled by two locos – known as ‘double headed’ –  with Black 5’s number 45407 and 44871 ‘The Lancashire Fusilier’. They are seen here passing alongside the Thames Estuary at Chalkwell, near Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, UK, shortly after leaving Southend. The train was due to return later that night behind a vintage diesel.


This steam tour was operated by Steam Dreams who are one of a number of companies that run them. Such events are though very rare on UK railway main lines mixed in with the usual passenger and freight traffic thus attracting much interest amongst steam enthusiasts.


The weather early in the morning was clear and crisp with little wind, resulting in calm water conditions.