It was the dawn of a new age for Britain’s steam-powered trains. After years of neglect and underinvestment, the railways would be revitalised and the country would regain its position stoking the furnace of innovation and enterprise. Thousands of brand new steam engines were ordered to haul Britain back into pole position.
Over the next 12 years, 2,500 engines were produced in workshops across the country – literal cast-iron commitments to a belief in the future of steam traction. Streamlined and standardised designs were developed, reducing running costs and improving reliability. Everything was in place for a new golden age of steam.
The glaring flaw in the plan was that it came some fifty years to late. The modernisation plan was launched in 1948, when the rest of Europe was steadily abandoning steam in favour of diesel and electric-powered trains. Whilst war-shattered continental networks were being rebuilt, electrified and modernised, Britain’s railways were patched up and upgraded on the cheap.