Minister of Transport, Eric Campbell Geddes’ Railways Act of 1921, enacted at the start of 1923, created the ‘Big Four’ regional rail companies of the Great Western Railway, the London Midland Scottish Railway, the London North Eastern Railway and the Southern Railway. Twenty five years later, on January 1, 1948, Clement Attlee’s Transport Act of 1947 created British Railways, marking the end of what many regard as the golden age of the railways. With 2017 marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the ‘Big Four’, the ‘Final Day’ collection features a mainline locomotive from each of the regions, in its final regional livery.
In October 1926, faced with a stock book of outdated and unsuitable mainline locomotive traction, the London Midland Scottish Railway arranged for the loan of Great Western Castle class No.5000 Launceston Castle for trials and in December, suitably impressed, an order for fifty ‘improved’ 4-6-0 tender engines from North British was placed. Entry into service was expected by summer 1927 and on July 27, 1927 No.6100 was ready for inspection, Sir Henry suggesting that as the locomotive would be working the ‘Royal Scot’ train, it would be appropriate that No.6100 should bear the same name. Trials between Euston, Carlisle, Crewe and Glasgow commenced and by late November 1927, Fowler was moved to comment that he was “thoroughly satisfied with the results obtained”.
Entry into traffic for the class increased from August 1927 and on September 26th, No.6100 Royal Scot embarked on the longest non-stop trip in the world, taking fifteen coaches the 299¼ miles from Euston to Carlisle. In 1930, twenty more locomotives were ordered, this time from the LMS Works at Derby and by 1932 the class was operating improved West Coast services at a greater speed, against heavier loading.
In 1932, William Stanier took over from Fowler as the LMS’s Chief Mechanical Officer and soon set about modifying the Royal Scot class, as they were experiencing a number of running problems that included axle box failures and bogie riding problems. Subsequently, other problems with the boilers, frames and cylinders were experienced and Stanier’s answer was to rebuild the locomotives with a new, tapered 2A boiler, new frames and cylinders, from 1943 onwards. Withdrawal of the class commenced in 1962, with 6100 Royal Scot and accelerated rapidly, being completed by the turn of 19660 with 6115 Scots Guardsman, these also being the sole preserved examples.
6108 Seaforth Highlander, built by North British Locomotives, entered traffic at Crewe North on September 3, 1927 and is the most travelled of the locomotives in this collection, spending spells at Edge Hill, Camden, Polmadie, Perth, and Carlisle Kingmoor, before settling down at Leeds from September 4, 1943, fresh from the fitting of the tapered boiler. On December 31, 1947, 6108 Seaforth Highlander was still allocated to Leeds.