Chris Gilson concludes the tale of the iconic Patriot railway locomotive named after St Dunstan’s (now Blind Veterans UK).
In terms of design the Patriots were a success, but by the early 1960s, as steam trains were being phased out across the rail network, they faced a bleak future.
By September 1961, 45501 – as it had become known – was taken out of service by the London Midland region of British Railways. The following year it was taken to its birthplace at Crewe and broken up for scrap. That, however, was not quite the end of the story. A story by Sir Ian Fraser in the November 1962 edition of Review featured the following report:
“…the two nameplates, beautifully polished and re-painted, have been offered to St Dunstan’s…and we have most gladly accepted them. One will be placed over the front door at our headquarters.”
Following the safe return of both nameplates from British Railways, one was duly painted for display and – for many years – hung in the entrance hall of our headquarters. The other retained in its former locomotive livery, complete with enamelled blue banding around the St Dunstan’s name.
Now, both nameplates are safely stored in the archive room of our London headquarters, although they may make the occasional public appearance in the future – a reminder of the history of our locomotive and the important part that it played in highlighting the hard work the charity has undertaken since it was founded.
Sadly, despite the fledgling railway preservation movement, none of the 52 Patriots were saved, with the last two – 45543 Home Guard and 45550 – surviving until November 1962.
Happily, a project to construct a Patriot from new is underway, with the locomotive to be numbered 45551 – the next number in the order of the class. The new locomotive will continue the military tradition as well, with a poll choosing The Unknown Warrior as the name. It is currently being rebuilt at the Llangollen Railway and is making good progress.
If you are interested in finding out more about the project, then please visit lms-patriot.org.uk.