Friends of the National Railway Museum
South of England Group


The New Elizabethan Era



When our present Queen came to the throne in 1952, the glories of a previous Elizabeth's reign were evoked to quieten the uncertainties of a rapidly changing world. People referred to themselves as 'new Elizabethans'.

As its contribution to the new spirit British Railways the following year renamed its summer-only "Capitals Limited" non-stop Kings Cross to Edinburgh express "The Elizabethan". The train was steam\'s last fling on the East Coast route and ran until the advent of the Deltics put an end to non-stop running after the 1961 season.

"The Elizabethan" was always hauled by one of the Class A4 4-6-2s fitted with a corridor tender so that crews could be changed while on the move. Here the most famous of these streamline superstars, No. 60022 Mallard, drifts gracefully through the sulphurous cauldron between Copenhagen and Gasworks tunnels on the last lap of its 393-mile dash south. On its side Mallard proudly carries the plaque commemorating its record-breaking run on 3 July 1938 when it snatched the world speed record for steam with 126mph down Stoke bank.

Sir Nigel Gresley - Mallard's designer - was also responsible for the rather less glamorous Moorgate to Hertford North suburban train seen thumping its way uphill. The Class N2/2 0-6-2T - a type nicknamed 'Teddy Bears' - and the articulated carriages behind it represent a combination that shifted millions of commuters over 30-odd years. And - long before the current personal fitness mania - the 'artics' were probably responsible for a couple of generations of straight-backed travellers, for there was no way you could slump in their severely angled 'sit-up-and-beg' seats.

Completing the pageant are a Class B1 4-6-0 coming up behind "The Elizabethan" with a train from Cambridge and a Class A1 Pacific sneaking past the workaday named Goods and Mineral Junction signal box into Kings Cross locomotive depot, universally known as Top Shed. Above them rumbles a North London line electric train from Broad Street to Richmond.

Happily both the duck and the teddy bear have been preserved. Mallard is a National Railway Museum locomotive and was restored to working order in 1986 after 23 years of static display, while No. 69523 can be seen still shifting large numbers of people but now they are daytrippers on the private Great Central Railway in Leicestershire.

InterCity 125s and electric multiple units rule the scene today, but the steam era survives on celluloid in the classic Ealing comedy 'The Ladykillers' where successive bodies are dropped onto passing trains from the top of Copenhagen tunnel.