No. 6254 City of Stoke-on-Trent: 75th Anniversary

20/09/202116:0122/09/2021 08:37Leave a Comment

75 years ago, the locomotive City of Stoke-on-Trent was officially named at a ceremony at Stoke-on-Trent Station. It was a Princess Coronation Class built by the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) at Crewe. This class of steam locomotive was one of the most powerful ever used on the railway network.

Lord Mayor, Percy Williams, draws back the curtain and reveals the locomotive’s name at the ceremony on 20 September 1946 (Biddulph & District Genealogy and Historical Society, via Ray Johnson)

Following the naming ceremony the driver, Henry Brindley, and acting fireman, Clive Robinson, were formally presented to the Lord Mayor and Brindley was also given a Shelly china tea set. The party then retired to the North Stafford Hotel for lunch.

“May she run smoothly, swiftly and safely and may she never be late. I look forward to the time when I see her heading a train for London, to do the journey at the rate of a mile a minute”
– Percy Williams, Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, at the naming ceremony, 1946

Newspapers reports also made mention of Tom Francis Coleman and Henry George Ivatt, both of whom had once been based in Stoke. Coleman had undertaken the detailed design work of the ‘Coronation’ Class Pacifics. Ivatt had overseen the building of five examples of this class at Crewe, including City of Stoke-on-Trent in his role as Chief Mechanical Engineer at The London, Midland and Scottlish Railway (LMS).

Following the nationalisation of the railways, City of Stoke-on-Trent was renumbered with the prefix ‘4’ to become 46254. But informally many continued to use the older identifier.

“At Crewe these engines, I soon learnt from my new work-mates, were habitually referred to as either ‘Big ‘Uns’ or ‘Class Eights’. I never heard them discussed in any other terms, and we never used the initial 4 in referring to their numbers, just 6254 or whatever”
– Allan Baker, then an apprentice fitter at Crewe North.

Members of the North Staffordshire Railways Study Group have kindly provided images of City of Stoke-on-Trent during its years in service. City of Stoke-on-Trent spent most of its life on the West Coast Main Line.

In pristine condition at Shrewsbury in 1958 (Gerald Worland Collection)
Derby Works open day, August 1961, 46254 enjoys the company of 92220 Evening Star, the last steam locomotive built by British Railways.
On the Ulster Express
At Rugby with parcels, 11 May 1963 (Gerald Worland Collection)
No. 10 Erecting Shop at Crewe Works, standing on one of the stripping pits. Probably taken on the engine’s last visit for a classified repair (Gerald Worland Collection).
Crewe North, August 1964, just two weeks prior to withdrawal (Michael Fell/Allan Baker).

Following British Rail’s 1955 Modernisation Plan, steam locomotives were gradually phased out in favour of diesel and electric. City of Stoke-on-Trent was withdrawn and scrapped in 1964. The locomotive had completed more than one million miles.

Scale model of City of Stoke-on-Trent – now in the collections of The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. Image courtesy of the North Staffordshire Railway Study Group.

We thank the Staffordshire Film Archive and members of the North Staffordshire Railway Study Group for their knowledge and assistance in marking this anniversary. The profile of the locomotive by Allan C. Baker and Mike G. Fell OBE in Back Track, Vol. 35, No.4, April 2021 was also invaluable.

Written by Joe Perry (Curator, Local History)

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