Being fundamentally an LMS man, I have recently joined the LMS Society. The cover photograph of the first Society newsletter that greeted me was so fabulous I thought it was worth sharing.
This is 6220 Coronation awaiting the right of way from Euston, sometime between June 1937 and the outbreak of the war. Driver Fred Bishop is peering out of the cab roof ventilator in what must be an official photograph posed shot for publicity purposes.
Coronation was the first of the Coronation / Duchess class introduced to pull the LMS’s premier train, named the Coronation Scot, and inaugurated on 29 June 1937. This was launched in competition with the LNER’s comparable train which was launched a week later and called the Coronation. Both trains were named in honour of the coronation King George VI.
On its inaugural press run Coronation became the world speed record holder with a speed of 114 miles per hour on Madeley Bank south of Crewe. Unfortunately the jubilation of taking this record became consternation as the footplate team realised the train was still making 110 mph only a mile and a half from Crewe. Urgent braking brought the speed down but the locomotive still passed through the station’s reverse curves at 57 mph, well in excess of the 20 mph limit. The resultant bouncing alarmed the passengers and destroyed a quantity of crockery in the dining coach! It discouraged more record breaking attempts for a while, although famously the LNER’s Mallard retook the accolade in July 1938 with a record that still stands today.
Whilst I am not against the A4’s, surely the blue Coronations with their stripes and a matching train behind had the ultimate wow factor of the pre-war railways?
What tends to get forgotten these days is that in the 1930s the top link drivers on the crack trains were major celebrities of their day. Had Ant & Dec existed back then, you would have found some of them in the jungle alongside annoying footballers and has been musicians! Fred Bishop was one such driver and his auto-biography (Queen Mary of the Iron Road – Jarrods, 1946) was a well known book of his time. It seems a long way from the grime of the inside of a locomotive cab being worked hard!
Only the first batch of Coronations were painted in blue; the second set of streamliners were in Crimson Lake with gold lining and were aimed at hauling prestigious but not bespoke trains. This (I think) is King George V and is in this livery.
Whilst they may have only really existed in this form for three years (as once war was declared, many were painted black and they were de-streamlined after the war), the LMS streamliners do hold quite a soft spot in my heart!
photographs with thanks to Ian Beattie and Jim Smellie