A pioneering engine in the last days of steam on BR

As steam was drawing to a close, British Railways made one last attempt to improve its steam fleet. In 1961 ‘Bahamas’ was chosen by BR for its very last experiment, the culmination of steam power development started with ‘Rocket’ in the 19th century.

Saved for preservation by the Bahamas Locomotive Society (BLS), 45596 was one of a handful of engines selected by BR to haul a series of embryonic ‘Return to Steam’ excursions in the early 1970s.

A ‘Jubilee’ worth celebrating

Built in 1935, ‘Bahamas’ lasted almost to the end of steam, before being rescued by BLS and moved to their base at Dinting, eventually relocating to Ingrow in 1990.

Once located on the KWVR, 45596 has operated a number of branchline trains but it is out on the mainline that the engine shows its true metal, giving an exhilarating performance when returning to the mainline in February 2019 with a tour from Oxenhope to Carlisle.

Data File

Built: 1935 North British
Boiler Pressure: 225 psi
Tractive Effort: 26,610 lbf
Weight: 79.55 tons engine, 53.65 tons tender
Valve Gear: Walschaerts
Cylinders: 17in x 26in Outside
Numbers carried during working career: LMS 5596, British Railways 45596

31 years serving the LMS and British Railways

The ‘Jubilee’ class of locomotive was designed by Sir William Stanier on his arrival at the London Midland and Scottish Railway. During his review of locomotive requirements he found that the company required a locomotive capable of hauling fast secondary express passenger services between major cities but where loading gauge restrictions may exclude his newly built 4-6-2 Pacific Princess Royal class engines. This class of engine was derived from an older class of engine known as the Patriot Class which had been designed by his predecessor, Henry Fowler.

On introduction to service, they did not impress either the management or the footplate crews and they initially gained a reputation for being poor steamers. After various tests and modifications to improve the boiler design, however, they became efficient performers and the class survived until within 12 months of the end of steam on British Railways, the last being withdrawn from traffic in October 1967. The class became known as Jubilees, after the first of the class was named ‘Silver Jubilee’ to coincide with celebrations to mark King George V’s 25th anniversary on the throne.

As no. 5596, ‘Bahamas’ was built in the Scottish area of the LMS by the North British Locomotive Company and entered service with the London Midland & Scottish Railway in January 1935. The engine was initially allocated to Crewe before moving on to various sheds around the English area of the LMS including Carlisle Kingmoor, Grimethorpe and Millhouses in Sheffield. Finally, no.45596 (as it had become by then under BR) was allocated to Stockport Edgeley in 1962. The engine remained here for four years and after hauling a number of enthusiast’s specials was withdrawn from traffic.

Down but not out

Rather than being sent for scrap however, the loco remained at the back of the shed until purchased by the Stockport (Bahamas) Locomotive Society in mid 1967. The engine then moved to the Hunslet Engine Company in Leeds for overhaul and was restored to service in LMS Crimson Lake Livery.

No. 45596 then steamed over the Pennines to Stockport (Edgeley) depot and went on display with other preserved engines for a week until moving to the depot in Bury. Late in 1968 the engine moved to the old steam shed at Dinting in Derbyshire where she remained for the next 21 years until the owning Society were required to give up their occupancy of the site. Eventually the engine and the Bahamas Locomotive Society found a new home at Ingrow, here on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in 1990.

When steam was allowed back onto the mainline by British Rail, ‘Bahamas’ was one of the selected few engines to grace the new steam scene and between 1972 and 1994 operated many railtours across the national network. Retired from mainline duty the engine ran on preserved lines until its boiler certificate expired when the locomotive was committed to Oxenhope Exhibition shed as a static exhibit.

During 2012 a successful application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund to enable the overhaul of ‘Bahamas’ to be undertaken by contractors and thus speed the process of its return to working order. By December 2013 work had commenced on the boiler, wheels and frames at the Tyseley Locomotive Works in Birmingham with work on the tender and small parts at Ingrow Loco.

Work progressed to the point that on the 28th September 2018, a fully restored and resplendent 45596 steamed at Tyseley. Returning to Ingrow early in 2019, ‘Bahamas’ made its mainline debut on the 9th February hauling a sell-out commemorative special from Oxenhope to Carlisle, its first mainline outing since 1994. The feat was repeated a week later on the 16th February, their success raising hopes of future Oxenhope – Carlisle excursions, followed by participation in the Spring Steam Gala in March. On the 29th March 2019, a special rededication ceremony took place at Ingrow West to officially relaunch ‘Bahamas back into traffic. Later in the year ‘Bahamas’ was operating on the mainline around the Midlands.

The Oxenhope – Carlisle railtour was repeated in February 2020 but the Spring Steam Gala was the engines last steaming before the COVID-19 restrictions were imposed.