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No. 60135 Madge Wildfire

This early A1 entered service in November 1948. Already seven were in use, this was one of five completed that month – three from Darlington and two from Doncaster. It was noted in the Works on the 14th fitted with boiler No. 3922 Works No. 2054 had the Darlington finish of countersunk rivets to give a smooth finish to the cabsides and tender. It was turned out in LNER apple green with white and black lining with ‘BRITISH RAILWAYS’ lettering on its tender but, as can be seen in the image below, the top lining on the tender was lower than normal, a feature of some of the early A1s until the livery was standardised.  As with other Darlington A1s numbers and letters were in LNER style old gold.

No. 60135 entered traffic from Gateshead shed on 18th November. This was the third of a dozen to be allocated there. It was noted at Darlington six days later. Its first recorded trains were ‘namers’, bringing the up ‘Flying Scotsman’ into Newcastle on 22nd December then 22nd January 1949. It ranged along the main part of the East Coast Main Line covering Newcastle, Grantham and King’s Cross and on 15th April it was seen on Haymarket shed. The down ‘Flying Scotsman’ was hauled by No. 60135 on 2nd April presumably from Grantham where it had seen on shed. A couple of times in 1950 it was seen on the Delaval-Holloway ECS double-headed from Stockton (as far as Northallerton or Thirsk) at 11:30hrs with B16 No. 61415 on 4th April and B1 No. 61069 on 25th May, on the latter they hauled eighteen bogie coaches, three six-wheelers and seven four wheel vehicles.

An early image of No. 60135, still un-named, at Edinburgh Waverley – A1SLT Collection

Un-named No. 60135 at Chaloners Whin Junction with an up express in 1948 – Cecil Ord/RAS

Following its first general overhaul at Doncaster, which included changing the boiler for No. 29803, naming and painting in BR blue with black and white lining plus the early BR emblem on the tender both came in October 1950 and were about halfway through the class with 22 already dealt with and No. 60135 being one of three so treated that month. Madge Wildfire was one of seventeen A1s named after characters in Sir Walter Scott’s novels. She was a character from ‘The Heart of Midlothian’ published in 1818, a mad woman also known as Magdalen Murdockson. The name ‘Madge Wildfire’ had already been carried by a paddle steamer which sailed from 1886 to 1945, initially from the Clyde. Two months later No. 60135 worked a 19:25hrs Newcastle-Sheffield parcels. Named trains hauled in this guise included the up ‘Heart of Midlothian’ from Newcastle, the up ‘White Rose’ on 11th August 1952 and its down working the next day. Several ordinary King’s Cross-Leeds or Leeds-King’s Cross trains were noted in this period.  It concluded 1952 with another ‘General’ at Doncaster, leaving with boiler No. 29838 and a livery change becoming one of the later A1s to undergo a repaint into BR green with orange and black lining. It was one of three painted in December 1952 to follow the 44 already done.

During the rest of the 1950s a variety of trains were worked. Named trains included up ‘Flying Scotsman’ into Newcastle, from there, and also from Grantham, to King’s Cross. Others were ‘The North Briton’ down from Newcastle and up from Edinburgh-Newcastle, ‘The Heart of Midlothian’ up from Newcastle-Grantham then the up ‘Tees-Tyne Pullman’ on 28th December 1959. Arrivals in Newcastle from the south or departures southbound were common and some went up well into Scotland like the 20:35hrs Dundee-Edinburgh on 9th January 1954, a York-Edinburgh taken forward from Newcastle on 24th September 1955 and 18th February 1956 then the 7.20 pm Aberdeen-Edinburgh relief of 3rd July 1959. No. 60135 hauled the 12:15hrs from Glasgow Queen Street for York on 1st May 1957. Workings at the southern end of the ECML included the 11:15hrs King’s Cross-York train of 9th January 1957. This was six months before the later BR crest was applied to the tender. Parcels trains were exemplified with the 11:15hrs arrival of the York-Edinburgh parcels into Newcastle and working the 19:15hrs King’s Cross-York parcels on 7th January 1957. The highlight of the decade was haulage of the Royal Train in 1954, on 28th October Madge Wildfire brought it into Newcastle at 20:14hrs from Bradford and the next day took it up to Edinburgh, part of a tour of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Tyneside and to Perth.  The legs were King’s Cross to Barnsley, Sheffield, Dewsbury, Newcastle, Sunderland and Perth with the return from Perth to Euston. The train conveyed HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.

Madge Wildfire sits on the Haymarket turntable before working the Glasgow-Leeds ‘North Briton’, 17th January 1953 – A1SLT Collection

Works visits during the rest of the 1950s comprised a number of ‘Light Casuals’ and two general overhauls, one during August 1954 which saw boiler No. 10594 fitted, and another during January 1956 (boiler No. 29819) with a further two in June 1957 (boiler No. 29877 fitted) and November 1957, latterly leaving carrying boiler No. 29876.  No. 60135 was known as a good, if lively, runner and a first-class steamer. This was shown when on New Year’s Day 1960 it took a late running twelve coach relief express originating at King’s Cross forward from Newcastle the 126 miles to Edinburgh in an hour and 45 minutes. This was ten minutes ahead of a “demanding” schedule on a “difficult road.” A number of fittings were not working though including the speedometer, electric lights, tender coal water sprinkler and steam chest pressure gauge. This good run was in the same timings as later scheduled for the ‘Deltics.’

After its final general overhaul at Doncaster in August 1960 which included fitting its last boiler, No. 29842, a move to Copley Hill shed (56C) along with No. 60115 followed that November. It still reached Tyneside, being noted on Gateshead shed during 17th February 1961. A move across to Ardsley shed (56B) with three other A1s came in April 1962.  Newcastle was reached with the 15:30hrs ex-Manchester on 19th April 1962 then the 09:00hrs ex-Liverpool two days later. On the 22nd Madge Wildfire was on the Delaval-Holloway ECS. A trip down the main line came when it worked ‘The Queen of Scots’ into King’s Cross on 18th August.

Withdrawal from service along with No. 60115 was on 12th November 12th. This was about a quarter of the way through the A1 withdrawals with twelve already gone. In its time No. 60135 had carried the class average of seven boilers, all of them diagram 118 types. Its time in service was fourteen years, a year and two and a month less than the class average although it lingered for over six months longer, being sent into Doncaster Works for cutting up on 29th May 1963.

This history was compiled by Phil Champion based on a database compiled by Tommy Knox, “The Pioneer” (A1 Steam Locomotive Trust) and with reference to the RCTS book “Locomotives of the LNER Part 2A” as background.  Revised and updated by Graham Langer, June 2020.