27th March 1963. What Happened to Adelstrop?
‘No one left and no one came/On the bare platform’: Adlestrop by Edward Thomas. (1)
The death knell for steam was sounded in 1956, the same year as third class became second class and the Chairman of British Railways (BR), Sir Brian Robertson announced that electrified services were to be introduced on the Euston to Liverpool and Manchester lines.
Today in 1963, ‘Reshaping of British Railways’ the 2 volume Beeching Report was presented to the House of Commons.
Richard Beeching brought in from Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) by Prime-Minister, Harold Macmillan to become Chairman of the railways, proposed in the Report, a 25% cut in the network.(2)
The 1962 Transport Act was the third since 1947 and constituted the most significant Railway Act since the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1854, establishing the British Railways Board and Transport Authority and abolishing the British Transport Commission (BTC).
Area Boards were replaced by Regional Boards answerable to the new main Railways Board, all coming into effect on the 1st of June 1963 resulting in the closure of a third of the railways, with no individual cases being heard.(3)
All passenger services north of Inverness were to cease and most branch lines in north and central Wales along with the West Country were to be closed.
Not surprisingly Ernest Marples, the Transport Minister and chairman of Marples-Ridgeway civil-engineers supported the cuts.
Inter-war over 2,400 miles of freight track and 350 freight stations had been closed along with 1000 miles of track and 380 passenger stations.
In 1870 there were 11,044 miles, a similar network to Transport Ministers’s, Barbara Castle’s 1967 notion of a ‘basic railway’.
The closure programme between 1950 and 1967 thus brought the system back to similar size, a far cry from 19,639 miles when the Railway Executive took over in 1948.
The Steam Age, (with its multiplicity of engine types) passed into history on Southern Region on 10th July 1967 and nationally on 11th August 1968, along with the excitement of much train-spotting, using the 1940.s Ian Allen, ABC books.
It is a moot point how long steam power on the railways was kept going owing to political considerations and pressure from miners and steelworkers, also two wars would must have retarded development.
Beeching’s tenure of office finished on 1st.June 1965 after 2½ years, leaving for profitable pastures new.
(1) Tedestrop in Domesday Book.
(2) Beeching had been a member of Sir Ivan Stedeford’s, Special Advisory Group and had replaced the British Transport Commission Chairman, Lord Brian Robertson who had retired in May 1961.
(3) The Transport Act 1962 (Royal Assent on August 1st) saw the dissolution of the BTC established by Attlee in 1947 to oversee rail, canal and road freight.
In September 1962, 15 of the existing 31 workshops had been scheduled to close including Darlington, Brighton and Gorton and it was planned to close 2,128 stations, scrap 8,000 coaches, and axe 67,700 jobs.