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Friday, August 19, 2005


Trainspotters' Corner

The other day, I reported major repairs to the preserved steam locomotive Sir Archibald Sinclair, named after the Liberal Party's leader from 1935 to 1945.

This set me wondering whether any other Liberal leaders have been similarly honoured. Railway enthusiasts are not unknown in the Liberal Democrats, so perhaps someone out there could enlighten us?

In the meantime, I have done a quick Google search to find out which leading Liberals are in steam. To begin with, I am fairly certain that none of Sinclair's successors (from Clement Davies onwards) have had a railway locomotive named after them.

There have been at least three engines called David Lloyd George. One, a class 47 diesel
no.47409 (pictured here at Crewe Works), had its nameplate unveiled by David Penhaligon MP at London King's Cross station on 14th September 1985, an event I witnessed. This loco was about to haul a special train full of party conference delegates to the Liberal Assembly in Dundee (and if you can remember that notorious journey, you weren't there). The nameplates didn't last long, however; they were removed in August 1986 and the loco was scrapped in 1989.

A second diesel, a class 37 loco
no.37428 (pictured here at Crewe station), was named David Lloyd George in May 1987 at Pwllheli. In 1998, the engine was renamed Royal Scotsman but last year it was put into store, destined, one suspects, for the scrapyard.

(Collectors' Corner: One of the nameplates from these two diesels
fetched £5,100 at auction in 2002. And railway model fans may care to note that Lima once manufactured a limited edition model of no.37428).

The third
David Lloyd George is still in service. It is a narrow-gauge steam locomotive running on the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales and is named bilingually (David Lloyd George on one side, Dafydd Lloyd George on the other). The loco looks old but was in fact built as recently as 1992. (If mp3 files of steam engines are your thing, you can listen to Lloyd George departing from Porthmadog here - click the 'sample' button for track 1).

The Ffestiniog is also home to a steam engine called
Palmerston, built in 1864. Meanwhile, on the nearby Welsh Highland Railway, the pride of the locomotive fleet is named Russell but, since it was not built until 1906, it is moot whether it was named after the first Earl.

Then of course there is
Gladstone, built by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1882 and preserved at the National Railway Museum in York.

So far, so Google. I can find no trace of any locomotives named after Sir Herbert Samuel, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman or Herbert Henry Asquith (if you wanted to be leader of the Liberal Party in the early twentieth century, it clearly helped if you were called Herbert or Henry, and Asquith took no chances). Going back further, there is no obvious record of a Harcourt, Rosebery or Hartington steaming through Evercreech Junction.

Nowadays, instead of railway locomotives named after army regiments, famous racehorses or Liberal prime ministers, one finds engines with names such as BP Gas Avonmouth, Crimestoppers, and Valhalla Blackpool Pleasure Beach. And they say the age of romance is dead.

PS: Update here.

Virgin Trains have one called Doctor Who so it's not all bad :-)
Will - Yes, but Virgin trains are smaller on the inside than they are on the outside.
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