To a schoolboy locospotter, the name Bongrace had a fine ring to it though he didn’t realise its origin; the first syllable reminding him of the French for “good” and the other speaking for itself. Locomotives Illustrated No. 71 shows how fine No. 60128 looked under York’s curving train shed or swinging off the High Level Bridge at Gateshead. It began as part of Engine Order No. 383 for Nos. 60124-9 issued in November 1945 four years before the metal was cut. By 24th April 1949 the frames and boiler (No. 9674) were noted at Doncaster Works. As Works No. 2045, it entered service on 19th May. Numerically it was the 15th A1 and Doncaster’s 15th, but, as Darlington had already delivered Nos. 60130-47, it was the 33rd A1 to enter service and one of four completed that month, two from each works. No doubt they were welcomed by sheds as their predecessors had been. The unnamed locomotive with plain chimney must have made quite a sight in post-war Copley Hill, being the third of 13 A1s to appear brand new in blue express livery. It had broad black and narrow white lining plus vertical double narrow white lines at each end of the outside cylinders. Instead of the owner’s (BR) name appearing in full on the tender there was now the early BR emblem: the lion straddling the wheel. Like the rest of the Nos. 60114-29 batch, (Engine Order Nos. 382 and 383), No. 60128 was fitted with a Flaman speed recorder from new.
No. 60128 Bongrace on an up express at Hatfield on New Year’s Day 1957 – Robin Gibson
As one of Copley Hill’s original quintet, No. 60128 was soon on West Yorkshire-King’s Cross (KX) trains. The 15:50hrs KX-Leeds on 30th May, 1949 was our first recorded run followed by the 14 coach 23:55hrs from Leeds entering the capital on 4th June. Tyneside was reached by 13th June when it was seen at Heaton Junction. Between late June and early August it hauled the ‘West Riding’ in both directions a number of times, including 4th, 9th and 17th July, although it visited Doncaster for an unclassified overhaul on 15th August and again on 22nd September. Like a number of classmates it was fitted with the Hudd system of Automatic Train Control in 1950. That November, following a works visit commenced on 27th October, No. 60128 took the name of the winner of the 1926 Doncaster Cup – about half of the class had already been named. Bongrace was re-allocated to ‘Top Shed’ at King’s Cross (34A) on 4th June 1950 and, following a ‘heavy intermediate’ at Doncaster from 30th October that year, examples of its work thereafter were the Up ‘Tees Tyne Pullman’ on 11th April 1951, arriving at Darlington at 14:15hrs on 13th June with a 13 coach KX-Aberdeen train, a Down passenger seen at Werrington on 28th July and an up express Leeds-KX on 28th August.
A major reallocation on 9th September 1951 (when shorter out and back turns replaced a lot of through engine workings) saw No. 60128 move to Grantham (35B) where it became one of ten A1s shared by two crews each. One of the first sightings then was on the 30th September when it was seen at Stockton at 20:16hrs with an 11 coach KX-Newcastle passenger although on 5th January 1952 it was taken to Doncaster for general repairs including the fitting of boiler No. 29871. For the next six years Bongrace powered up and down the East Coast Main Line (ECML) with trains like an XP York-KX on 4th November 1951, the Up ‘Aberdonian’ into the capital on 16th May 1952, an Up parcels into KX on 9th September 1953 plus a number of Down ‘Flying Scotsman’ runs hauled into Newcastle between May 1954 and April 1955. An example of the diagramming comes from 26th July 1955 when it hauled the Fred Olsen Line boat train to Newcastle then left with the Up ‘Heart of Midlothian’. Two unusual runs came in 1955, on 20th May No. 60128 ran from Grantham light engine to and from Cleethorpes to test a new turntable and on 25th September it hauled two Grantham-Peterborough brake test runs with a load of 462.5 tons including dynamometer car. The regular driver ‘Curly’ Royce boasted to the testers he would show what it could do –and did! After a 1 in 200 climb up Stoke bank Bongrace reached 90 mph by Corby. This period saw No. 60128 visit the Doncaster ‘Plant’ for attention on 6th May 1952, a ‘general’ on 16th December 1953 which included fitting boiler No. 9669, ‘light casuals’ in February and June of that year, a ‘general’ from 24th August 1954 which saw boiler No. 29877 fitted, further visits in November 1955 and January 1956 before a ‘general’ on 1st May 1957 during which it was equipped with boiler No. 29805.
A move to King’s Cross shed (34A) came on 15th September 1957 for work on the East Coast Main Line as far as Edinburgh. Two high speed return trips for a ‘special’ were run on 1st May 1958 between York-Darlington. It hauled the Down ‘Talisman’ from the English capital on the 25th. On 21st June No. 60128 left Newcastle with the 11:10hrs to Edinburgh but by 25th August the locomotive was back at ‘The Plant’ for a ‘general’ which saw it leave carrying boiler No. 29858. With the coming of more diesels most A1s lost their mainly express duties and so Bongrace went back to Doncaster shed on 5th April 1959, visiting the works on 14th March the following year for another ‘general’ and a change of boiler for No. 9661. Recorded on the 14:00hrs King’s Cross to Newcastle service on 2nd July 1960 operations between Tyneside, Yorkshire and the capital still show a range of passenger worked like hauling the Up ‘White Rose’ on 27th June 1961 and entering Newcastle with the down ‘Anglo-Scottish Car carrier’ on 7th January 1962 and it was recorded ‘light engine’ at Doncaster on 26th March. 7th November saw it bring ‘The Norseman’ into Newcastle then work back south with the important 3E22 Aberdeen-KX fish train. More prestigious were a KX-Harrogate Pullman special on 11th January 1963 and the Up ‘Yorkshire Pullman’ on 30th March. On 20th April it headed south from York with new electric stock. By contrast, No. 60128 pulled the up BP tanks into Newcastle mid-morning on 14th May. During this period No. 60128 visited Doncaster for ‘light casuals’ in March and August 1961 and a ‘general’ on 8th August 1962 to leave carrying its final boiler, No. 29868.
No. 60128 is seen at King’s Cross, 20th March 1962 – Nigel Kendall
Bongrace ex-works at Doncaster, 29th September 1962 - Richard Greenwood
Increasing dieselisation and the closure of Top Shed in June 1963 put the A1s onto a mix of goods, parcels and substitutes for diesels, indicative of this was Bongrace on the KX-York parcels on 19th September although it was recorded on a Liverpool- Newcastle train at York on 3rd August.. The summer of 1964 brought a variety of workings. 4th July found No. 60128 passing through Newcastle on a Class C goods and noted with it two hours later at Beal. Travels north of the border beckoned a fortnight later. 17th July saw it take the 09:25hrs York-Glasgow forward from Newcastle to Edinburgh and the next day it worked the 10:30hrs Edinburgh-Aberdeen returning on the 19th with the 18:00hrs Aberdeen-Glasgow as far as Dundee. On the 20th Bongrace pulled a Dundee-Aberdeen goods then returned with the 12:30hrs Aberdeen-KX. 19th September found No. 60128 taking over from Royal Scot class No. 46155 The Lancer at Peterborough on an LCGB railtour.
30th August 1964 finds Bongrace at Doncaster Carr Loco – Dick Manton
On 10th January 1965 No. 60128 was withdrawn (having had eight Diagram 118 boilers in its life). It was one of three to go that month, 23 having already gone. A fortnight later it was still lying at Doncaster Works before a move to Draper’s yard in Hull for scrapping. Even after a good working life of fifteen and a half years, surely Bongrace could have served the railways for much longer?
Criminal waste… Bongrace gets the ‘coup de grace’ at Draper’s yard – Revd. J. David Benson
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 April 2020.