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No. 60121 Silurian

No. 60121, Doncaster Works No. 2038, was the eighth A1 to be built there but the fifteenth to enter service for British Railways. It was first noted being moved from the erecting shop to the paint shop on 7th December 1948. Entering traffic from York shed 15 days later it proved to be one of a trio which remained shedded at 50A all their working lives. Livery was the customary LNER apple green with black and white lining with the owner’s name on the tender in white block capitals. The mere 17 years which No. 60121 was allowed to work were generally spent along the main line between King’s Cross and Newcastle. On New Year’s Eve it was noted at Darlington but no further details are available. However, on 15th January 1949 it hauled the 10:05hrs King’s Cross-Aberdeen as far as York. The first non-passenger working logged was the York-Sheffield parcels on 19th December. One frequent train seems to have been the 13:38hrs Leeds-Newcastle observed leaving Stockton a number of times between February 1959 and January 1951; loads varied from five to seven bogie coaches in winter to nine or ten in summer. Naming took place in the same month as a repaint into BR express passenger blue, May 1950. Although No. 60121’s name, ‘Silurian’, may have geological connotations it was one of 13 A1s to follow the fine LNER tradition of being named after racehorses. ‘Silurian’ was the name of the 1923 Doncaster Cup winner owned by Lord Derby; it was also placed second in the St. Leger for 1922. Only two class members had been named so far and No. 60121 was one of a quartet named that month. Already eight A1s had received blue paint and Silurian was one of a further five so treated. Around this time the Flaman speed recorder fitted from new was removed and the plain chimney replaced by the lipped version.

Named trains featured early in No. 60121’s career. The up ‘Scarborough Flyer’ was hauled on 5th June 1950, the up ‘Capitals’ from Newcastle to King’s Cross on 18th July 1951 and the down ‘Flying Scotsman’ with 12 bogies into Newcastle on 6th September. Special workings included a football special into the capital on 2nd February 1952. Curiously Silurian was noted ‘dead’ on York’s ex-LMS shed on 12th April. Runs between York and King’s Cross were made as evidenced by a number of 08:00hrs KX-York workings noted that August and in July 1953. Workings in the opposite direction were made such as the 14:58hrs ex-Darlington to Newcastle on 28th February 1953. Haulage of the down ‘Elizabethan’ from Grantham to Edinburgh on 24th July 1954 was probably one of several occasions when A1s deputised for failed A4s. Newcastle was the destination for a number of trains like the 16:20hrs arrival from Liverpool on 5th February 1955 and the 15:25hrs. arrival of the Colchester train recorded a number of times between April 1955 and June 1956. More named trains include bringing the down ‘North Briton’ into Newcastle on 26th November 1955 then leaving with the up ‘Queen of Scots’. The autumn and winter of 1956 saw many runs on the 08:20hrs King’s Cross-York/Hull. Other workings featured a number of times were the 07:50hrs from the capital to Newcastle/Bradford and the 13:18hrs from the ‘Cross’ to Leeds. That year ended with the midday down ‘Queen of Scots’ from London just as 1957’s first day featured the same working. Transposition of the smokebox numberplate and handrail was made around this period.

The replacement of No. 60121’s tender emblem by the later BR crest came in April 1957 and it may have lost its Stones generator and electric lighting at this time. Main line work continued as normal with sightings at King’s Cross, Newcastle and York shed plus servicing many times at Gateshead (52A). A Sunday diversion was made from the main line through Lincoln on 10th April 1960. Periodic visits were made to Doncaster Works for repairs as they had been since new. A Smith-Stone speedometer was fitted to a trailing coupled wheel. March 1962 found Silurian on a Hull-King’s Cross hockey special on the 10th and the 12:56hrs Newcastle-Birmingham a week later. Named expresses featured less than in its earlier days but the up afternoon ‘Talisman’ was taken from York to Doncaster on 30th May.

An undated study of Silurian at York – Bill Reed

From 1962, no doubt due to the onset of dieselisation, No. 60121 came increasingly to be used on non-passenger turns. First indications of this were a down goods seen at Newcastle on 19th May 1962 and the 08:20hrs King’s Cross-Park Lane goods. Various types of goods trains were hauled; the up seed potatoes seen at Newcastle at 14:25hrs on 30th November, the 7F70 up Shell tanks on 18th January 1963 with the up BP tanks at 11:00hrs six days later. Parcels featured too with the additional down parcels into Newcastle on 18th December 1962 and the up parcels noted at Brancepeth on the Bishop Auckland-Durham diversion line on 18th October 1963. There were still passenger workings though, like 5th December 1962’s 1V47 16:05hrs Newcastle – Bristol, the extra 13:35hrs ex-King’s Cross into Newcastle four days before Christmas or the arrival into Newcastle with the 1S31 York to Edinburgh on 25th January 1963 then being put on the 1V47 departure from Newcastle for Bristol. One special summer working was on Saturday 17th August 1963 when Silurian brought the 08:55hrs Filey-Glasgow as far as Newcastle for returning holiday campers, then took forward the ex-Glasgow train to its Scarborough destination before returning light engine tender-first to York.

Silurian on shed at York MPD 2nd April 1964 – Nigel Kendall

 No. 60121 at Platform 10 Newcastle Central 21st May 1964 – Michael Denholm

The last two years of No. 60121’s life continued with a similar mix of traffic. Passenger trains from different locations appeared although No. 60121 presumably just hauled them on their final legs; 1V67 from Manchester on 13th December 1963, 10th April and 22nd May 1964; arriving at 17:25hrs on 4th July that year with the train from Lowestoft; and bringing in the train from Bournemouth on 25th June 1965. We know that it pulled the ex-Liverpool train from York to Newcastle on 27th February 1965. The stopping 2G85 Newcastle-Berwick was run on 1st June 1964. Silurian’s final named express on record was the 1A37 up ‘Northumbrian’ on 3rd March 1965. Goods trains included a down pigeons at Newcastle on the following 12th January. While the Bournemouth train referred to earlier is our last detailed log, we know that No. 60121 reached Edinburgh again as it was observed at St. Margarets shed (64A) on 3rd and 17th July. The final observation for Silurian was, appropriately, at its home shed on 30th August although around this time it was also recorded at Healey Mills marshalling yard with freight trains, becoming the only LNER Pacific ever seen on the Calder Valley line.

A photo worth including because of its scarcity – No. 60121 at Healey Mills – Steve Armitage

Withdrawal from service came on 4th October 1965. No. 60121 had carried seven boilers in its time. Silurian was one of the first A1s to be built and one of the last ones to survive. Already 36 had been withdrawn and No. 60121 was one of ten to go that month. Scrapping took place at T. W. Ward, Killamarsh in November. Its racehorse name was certainly appropriate for much of its work speeding along the East Coast Main Line.

This history was compiled by Phil Champion based on a database compiled by Tommy Knox and with reference to the RCTS book “Locomotives of the LNER Part 2A” as background. Revised and updated by Graham Langer, May 2020.