Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, Keighley, West Yorkshire: British Railways loco 41241 (1975)

Among the locomotives to be seen at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in West Yorkshire a post-war British Railways tank engine, no: 41241, has a unique significance in the history of the K&WVR.

These compact, efficient and easily maintained 2-6-2T engines were designed by George Ivatt (1886-1972), Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London Midland & Scottish Railway, in 1946.  The LMS built ten before nationalisation, and British Railways produced a further 120 by 1952.  No: 41241, one of four survivors in preservation, was built in 1949.

41241 is immediately noticeable because of its red livery.  The exact shade of red is variously described – maroon, crimson lake, or carmine red derived from the early BR passenger-coach livery that was nicknamed “Blood and Custard”.

When British Railways ceased using steam traction, its managers firmly turned their backs on the past.  From 1966 to 1972, the years of the so-called “Steam Ban”, the only steam locomotive that had freedom to roam was Flying Scotsman, because of a clause in its unique sale contract.

When the nascent preservation groups bought locomotives from BR and scrap dealers they were forbidden to run them in BR identities.  This is the reason for 41241’s inauthentic livery.  Though the fleet numbers on the smokebox and the bunker are BR standard, the initials on the tank sides read “K&WVR”. 

41241 drew the Reopening Special passenger-carrying service out of Keighley in red, along with Southern Railway USA tank 72 in a different livery, on June 29th 1968, and it still bore the anomalous livery at the Shildon celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1975.

In 1980 it was repainted in the authentic lined black that it wore throughout its BR service, until it reverted to the 1968 red livery in preparation for the fifty-fifth anniversary of the Reopening Special:  55th Anniversary of Re-opening Special – Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (kwvr.co.uk).

There’s another less well-known story about 41241 that I owe to a sharp-eyed researcher in the compendious Preserved British Steam Locomotives website.

Apparently, 41241 was relocated from Llandudno Junction depot to Skipton specifically to work the Worth Valley branch goods trains after passenger service ended in 1961.  When the necessity of this manoeuvre was questioned by a Euston manager in a memo, someone added the comment “send in any case; will employ at least two men and use some coal”.

Fortunately, a K&WVR supporter was at school within sight of the railway and regularly observed 41241 arrive at Keighley from Skipton about noon, wait near the site of the demolished goods shed for 3½ hours and then return to Skipton.

Mr David Pearson, referring to the memo, comments,–

It did this utterly pointless exercise for at least two years, presumably employing at least two men and burning lots of coal; a remarkable comment on the objectives of a nationalised industry.

[Steam Memories: Ivatt Tank 41241 in BR days]

The current chorus of disapproval about our privatised railways is well deserved, but we must remember that British Railways was anything but streamlined.

There are accounts of 41241’s career at 41241 LMS Ivatt Class 2MT 2-6-2T – Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (kwvr.co.uk) and 41241 – Preserved British Steam Locomotives.

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