snow on British Rail, railway snow pictures
January 20, 1979 and other snowy days
in the 1960s

A cartoon from the Derby Evening Telegraph after a memorable snow storm paralysed the area's road traffic. If anyone is familiar with the ring road system in Derby the choice location of a number of steep hills soon brings the traffic to a halt when heavy snow or icing occurs, particularly at Abbey Hill and on the approaches to Burton Road. And if the ring roads become blocked you can be certain that routes through the town center are in little better condition.

January 20th 1979 - the reason for this page & all that follows:

January 20th 1979 certainly dawned bright, but it wasn't clear. In throwing back the bedroom curtains all was revealed, a thick blanket of snow lay everywhere, with the great chance that more would fall by the end of the day. And best of all it was a Saturday and I had no plans.

Now it always seemed to me that snowy days only occurred on a weekday, when school or work usually intervened over 'checking out the trains', which I now realise was a terrible mistake to make. But here was a golden opportunity to make the most of this snowy day. After getting properly kitted out with all the finest snow gear available we trudged off to Derby Midland to see what was happening on the railways.

Our arrival at the station was marked by a return of heavy snow showers, which clearly form part of the above picture featuring 47468 on a northbound NE/SW service. My notebook indicates that close by was 45116 which had just been declared a failure possibly on a London service, the exact details are now lost in time. From the vague recollections of this day there were no other spotters on the station at this time, or if there were they were bundled up in either the waiting room or buffet.

As the morning wore on and my resemblance to a snowman became more acute I was approached by an equally intrepid soul who inquired if I would be interested in a visit to Derby Works & Toton for a modest fee. Apparently an NREA trip had lost many of its intended participants because of the inclement weather. The possibility of being stuck in a snowdrift on the A52 was of no consequence compared to the vast array of motive power that might be seen in blizzard like conditions. So we set off for Toton, with thoughts of Captain Scott or Ernest Shackleton and more importantly would we have enough film for the day? Wisely the intrepid bus driver did not venture off the main road at Sandiacre obviously feeling that if we wanted to emulate Captain Scott we'd better walk the rest of the way past the cement depot and under the A52 into Toton depot.

With the snow still falling the second man on 46020 looks back down Platform 6 as an unidentified service waits to depart. A whisp of steam by the first coach suggests that today's passengers will not be completely in the cold. (Thirty eight years after taking this photograph the 2nd man has been identified as Marc 'Jogger' Jones from Saltley depot. Marc would later transfer to Nuneaton and following the break up of BR would work for Chiltern Railways).
As if to approve of our bravery 20168 & 20158 (the latter still in green livery) slowly rolled by on the mainline, the thoughts of the crew remaining unknown to this intrepid band of anorak clad enthusiasts. And of course Toton produced over seventy machines, their numbers noted in many a sodden notebook, as the white out still continued.
Typical of the locomotives seen are shown in this shot of 20040, 08334 & 43000 (just barely in view). With the South Pole reached, all the numbers collected and photographs taken, the weary party made the long trek back to the main road. Having made it back to the warm confines of the bus our intrepid driver headed west for our 2pm rendezvous with the inhabitants of Derby Locomotive Works.

The snow was no longer falling as we left the bus and made our way around the Works, which as you can see from the views below were well coated with a good layer of snow. Which made navigating the yards a little tricky with the snow covering up many an item just waiting to trip you up!

The revival of these memories from a snowy January day in 1979 led to the usual researching of materials to look for other times of snowy weather as it affected the railways - the notes below just scratch the surface of those wintry moments on the railways.

The following is taken from the Class 24/25 yearly pages and principally features snow & ice related items as it affected British Railways between 1958 & 1987 (when the Class 24/25's were in service). The source of this material is varied and widespread, from printed journals & newsletter of the time (RCTS, SLS, LCGB etc) and the popular railway press (Railway Magazine, Trains Illustrated, Modern Railways etc) to newspaper reports, other weather related informational websites and of course a variety of personal experiences. As usual this page will be updated from time to time as other resources become known & available. Sitting out here in sunny Southern California these winter memories seem far off now, though the significant snowy winters from 1978 - 1982 are still well remembered by yours truly.

January was a cold and snowy month, starting from the 19th with 15cm of snow over much of country, 40cm over northern Scotland & 25cm across Essex on 24th, a thaw set in from 26th.

No report - so far!

The night of January 20/21st found blizzard conditions over the southern end of the Settle & Carlisle line. In these awful conditions an overnight up passenger train running just north of Settle suffered a fracture in its piston rod. This caused the derailment of 2-6-0 No. 42881 on a passing down freight, which then hit many of the coaches causing severe damage, leading to five passengers being killed. Despite the late hour and the appalling weather conditions the emergency services were on scene in twenty seven minutes.

Heavy snow fell in the West Country during January.

The remains of Class 2P 4-4-0 No. 40627 are covered in frost and snow at Cowlairs on a gloomy, cold December 7th 1961. 40621 was retired from Ardrossan (67D) during October 1961. Despite the inclement weather which has left the Glasgow with a modest snowfall, a shower of sparks in the middle background indicate the scrapping process continues. Photograph collection of webmaster (neg).

McIntosh Caledonian 2F 0-6-0T dock shunter No 56151 is in the process of being dismantled on December 7th 1961, it had arrived at Cowlairs during the second week of November 1961. Photograph collection of webmaster (neg).
Just prior to the end of year snowfalls December 15th brought heavy fog particularly on the East Coast. In this fog late in the evening a serious derailment occurred near Wood Walton on the ECML. A rear end collision involving a Newcastle - Holloway ECS with D9012 and a New England - Kings Cross freight with V2 60803 threw debris across the running lines derailing V2 60977 with the Aberdeen meat train and A3 60078 on a down York fitted freight. Shortly before this, also in fog the 6.30pm Liverpool Exchange - York with 44929 collided with shunter D2589 at Healey Mills, blocking all lines for most of the night.

The last week of the year brought severe weather conditions to much of the country. The inactivity over the Christmas holidays allowed creation of huge icicles in many tunnels, in the Peak District Dove Holes & Cowburn tunnels suffered this. On Boxing Day the driver of a St Pancras - Manchester express suffered injury from icicles in Dove Holes tunnel, in Cowburn tunnel 42314 on the 7am Chinley - Sheffield suffered a damaged cab, the crew escaped injury though a replacement locomotive was needed for the return working.

In the London area on New Years Eve heavy snow crippled Waterloo in the evening rush hour, not helped by a chronic shortage of electric stock, with many services running with short formations and with little attempt made to follow the timetable. The Central Division suffered severe dislocation, taking several days to sort out the confusion, not helped by the loss of telephone communication in many areas. Brighton had received 30325 for snow clearance duties, but it was discovered the Brighton plough would not fit on this machine, it was sent off rather unsuccesfully on a Tunbridge Wells freight, it was soon returned to its home on the SW Division! On the Shenfield/Southend lines frozen points and immobilized stock created chaos. Such was the shortage of serviceable stock that twenty four units were borrowed from East Ham to enable some sort of service to operate over the LTS. On the services out of St Pancras the Peaks and diesel multiple units did not fare well with many failures and delays allowing much steam working to occur. It is to be presumed that the steam heating boilers were the chief cause of the locomotive failures. The Anglo Scottish services seemed to suffer the worst, with Royal Scots and Jubilees filling in.

The wintry weather on December 30th did not prevent many enthusiasts & locals coming out to see the last workings of the Bedford - Hitchin service. These last workings were handled by 84005 and two auto coaches. It also affected the last weekday working of steam operation over the Calder Vally route, frozen water trough did not help matters.

Its New Year's Eve 1961 as Bank Hall allocated 45698 Mars heads through Rochdale with the 10.05 Liverpool Exchange - York. Photograph courtesy Richard Greenwood.

45698 also handled the diagrammed return working, the 7.00pm York - Liverpool Exchange which would be the last scheduled steam haulage of this train. The last two weeks of 1961 brought severe weather to the country, with cold, foggy, icy, snowy conditions in many areas. From the conditions in this view it appears Rochdale received its fair share of this wintry weather. Photograph courtesy Richard Greenwood.

Class 2P 4-4-0 No. 40621 at Corkerhill on a snowy December 31st 1961. 40621 was retired during October 1961. Photograph collection of webmaster.

Also at Corkerhill on December 31st 1961 was Jubilee 4-6-0 No. 45665 'Lord Rutherford of Nelson'. Photograph collection of webmaster.

The snow from December 1961 continued on into 1962 remaining in considerable quantities across the country, on January 2nd the 12.15pm Perth - Euston arrived four hours late at Watford behind D210 & 42960. On the ECML heavy snow fell creating many delays & cancellations. The Home Counties also were affected by snow.

A Heaton - York freight heads south on January 3rd 1962 behind an unidentified Class 9F passing Ouston Jct in some grim looking weather.
Photograph collection of webmaster.

Another grim looking day, sometime during January 1962. The image came with very little information, however Paul Stephens, who worked at this station for many years advises the location is Runcorn and the locomotive on the extreme left is on the Folly Lane branch whilst Coronation Class 4-6-2 No. 46225 Duchess of Gloucester speeds through the gloom with a named express.
Photograph collection of webmaster.

Its November 19th 1962 and there is a fine diesel line up at the east end of Newcastle station with a Class 24, a diesel shunter and a Class 40 from left to right. Sunlight shines on a light covering of snow on this hazy morning. Whilst much of the country might having been looking forward to the approaching Christmas season the weather systems were gearing up to give the United Kingdom a memorable winter event from December 1962 into March 1963.
Photograph courtesy John Wraithmell
As a precursor of the winter to come heavy snow fell in mid November causing major delays to the Scottish expresses. The first week of December brought heavy fog to many parts of the country, the smog effect in London killed several hundred people. The lengthened journey times led to difficulties in rostering men and machines, on the Midland the DMU suburban service being hit particularly hard with steam substituting for the struggling railcars. On the first Monday in December a broken down freight near Ampthill delayed the 6.25 Bedford - St Pancras, the following 7.25 cleared many waiting passengers but had an engine seize south of Harpenden, creating huge amounts of smoke. The many hundreds of commuters walked back to Harpenden and were picked up by the up Edinburgh sleeper. On December 4th & 5th the availability of the DMU's was so poor that Stanier Class 5's and Type 2's from the Moorgate services had to fill in on the Bedford/Luton locals. The position was not made any easier by the failure of road/air transport during this time, leading to increased traffic for the railways. A backlog of freights on the Midland mainlne saw much Sunday working, on December 16th eighteen additional freights ran, although one lost its Peak at Elstree to assist 70050 on the down 'Thames-Clyde', after which a vigorous pace was maintained. In the midst of all of this D5084 trialled on the Bedford - Hitchin freight service, apparently none too successful, although this working quite frequently loaded to over fifty wagons of coal and brick. Bedford shed therefore held onto a number of its serviceable 3F's until better replacements could be found.

On the WCML the overnight trains of December 5th were upto seven hours late passing Carlisle from the south due to a derailment at Watford and exceptionally thick fog. Typical was the 9.45pm Euston - Glasgow sleeper, booked arrival time was 6.30am, it did not arrive until 1.37pm behind D122!

Things were little better on the Great Northern line out of Kings Cross, diesel failures required juggling of scarce resources. On December 3rd D385 failed on the 2.05 Kings Cross - York/Hull, rescued by V2 60817 at Tallington, the V2 later took over the 5.15 Colchester - Glasgow, from Peterborough after D246 froze up on shed. The next day D353 failed at Westwood on the 10.25pm ex Newcastle, rescued by 90073. Peterborough also saw the failure of D286 on the 10.20am Kings Cross - Leeds, replaced by V2 60854. None of this was helped by the derailment of coaching stock at New Barnet! On the WCML certain long distance services, especially the overnight sleepers were running from four to eight hours late.

The week up to Christmas had been sunny but frosty, Snow did fall in some places, Glasgow had a white Christmas, with 2-4in falling in the north. however it was on Boxing Day that the 'Great Freeze' set in, with heavy snow accumulations beginning, upto 18 inches falling in the south, particularly south of the Thames. On December 28th & 29th came a major storm with heavy snowfall, for those venturing out to witness the last services from Brecon on December 29th the weather was quite a challenge, but the last day's services did get through, unlike much of the other forms of transport in the area.

A bit of a mystery view here. The locomotive is ex GWR 0-6-0PT No.4627 with an 86A Cardiff Canton shedplate, on an unidentified service (but possibly the 11.15an Newport High Street - Brecon, via Torpantau, the year is not known but since Brecon lost its passenger services at the end of 1962, this view could well be in the closing months of 1962.)
Photograph collection of webmaster.
The six views below have been graciously provided by Alistair Barrie, using a 7/6d Woolworths camera, which explains the quality of the views, but nevertheless they provide interesting insights into the Scottish winters in this area.

Four views from the Forres area believed to be from 1961 or 1962.
Photographs courtesy Alistair Barrie

The four black and white photographs show Independent Snow Plough Number 1 being propelled by a Birmingham (BRC&W Type 2 / Class 26) and a Derby (BR Type 2 / Class 24) at Forres West Signal Box possibly early 1961 or 1962 (I cannot remember, although I remember taking the photographs). The extreme right view shows a Hiker (Stanier Black 5) arriving from Keith at Forres with a medium drift plough. Hiker was the normal term for the Stanier Black 5 at Inverness, Aviemore and north of Inverness. The Fairbairn 2-6-4 tanks at Aviemore were known locally as Hiker Pugs.

The end of December 1962 also coincided with a number of branch closures to passenger trains. Scheduled for last passenger services on December 29th was the ex GWR Plymouth - Tavistock - Launceston route, a route which bordered the western edge of Dartmoor. On the 29th easterly winds were blowing, snow had been falling throughout the day, with conditions deteriorating. The 12.40 Launceston - Plymouth with Prairie tank No.5564 and the 4.30pm Tavistock South - Plymouth with Pannier tank 6430 completed their journeys despite the blizzard strengthening and temperatures dropping below freezing. At some point the authorities cancelled the two final services, the 8.40pm Plymouth - Launceston and the 8.35 Launceston - Plymouth, thus leaving two early evening services, the 6.20 Plymouth - Launceston with 5568 & four coaches and the 7.10pm Tavistock - Plymouth to carry the 'last train' titles. The very late running 5.40pm Launceston - Plymouth seriously delayed the northbound 6.20pm service, with the 5.40 pm service eventually reaching Plymouth at 10.25pm.

The northbound 6.20pm and southbound 7.10pm services crossed at Bickleigh. Unfortunately the southbound service, with Pannier tank 6400 had waited so long that it had frozen to the rails. The train crew and three passengers spent the night in the signalbox. The northbound 6.20pm reached Tavistock South at 12.25am (12/30) and was terminated. With the telephone wires down to Lydford, a pilotman was required and he was stuck on the 7.10 Waterloo - Plymouth at Okehampton.

The next day, December 30th, Laira sent out Pannier tank 6430 with a recovery train. It took three hours to reach Bickleigh where 6400 and its train were finally freed and towed to Plymouth, technically completing their service 20 hours late. For the situation at Tavistock Plymouth sent out 34063 and three coaches, which were heavily delayed due to snow on the approaches to Tavistock North. After two hours of snow clearance by railway workers and remaining passengers from the terminated 6.20pm service the train reached Tavistock North, where the locomotive ran round its train and returned via Launceston to Plymouth with its passengers. On December 31st the weather eased a little, Laira sent out a relief to Tavistock to bring in what had been the 6.20pm Plymouth - Launceston behind 5568 - definately the last train.

8F 2-8-0 No.48221 and an unidentified Riddles 8F 2-8-0 seen in 1962 somewhere in the Birmingham area, possibly on the Birmingham - Derby line? Definately a cold looking day!
Collection of webmaster.


There's plenty of snow around at Swindon 'B' Shed on January 3rd 1963 as the breakdown gang get to grips with rerailing an unidentified Class 03 diesel shunter. Possibly packed snow in the yard had derailed the 30ton locomotive?
Collection of webmaster.

(Below) One of the chief weapons against snow was the sixwheel snowplough, one seen here is coupled to a Class 27.

Photograph from collection of Steve Morris.

The severe weather of December 1962 grew worse as the New Year began with heavy snow on January 3/4th with a particularly nasty blizzard in the north. On the Waverley route two freights became snowbound at Steele Road & Whitrope summit, with avalanches on January 6th blocking the line between Riccarton and the summit, the line not being cleared until 9th. One of the trapped trains was led by A2 60535 'Hornet's Beauty', single line working was established on the 10th, with the snowplough duty in the hands of 4F 44081, 5MT 45103 & 4MT 43138, working from Riccarton. Trains between London and Glasgow were doing well to be only 4 - 5 hours late. In the south heavy snow and freezing conditions with heavy icing, coupled with power outages played havoc with SR Electric services, these being at an absolute low on January 3rd. So bad was the snow that the Tattenham Corner service resorted to steam haulage, the 'Night Ferry' workings were taken over by double headed BRCW Type 3's, with the diesels assisting other electric services sporadically throughout the region. Heavy snow in the West Country impacted the longer distance SR steam hauled services with drifts up to 15 feet in places. 0-6-0's 30689/97 on snowplough duty over the SR Exeter - Plymouth line spent several days stuck in a drift near Okehampton along with 2-6-0 31838. The snow in the Mendips was considerable, the Somerset & Dorset route looking like a miniature Switzerland. Jinty 3F No.47557 required rescue from heavy snow somewhere on the S&D whilst an undated view at Combe Down Tunnel shows Standard 4MT No. 75071 with a southbound service encoutering snow at least two inches above the railhead. On the Clacton line the new electric service commenced apparently without too many problems. The DMU service out of St Pancras did not fair well, being assisted by scratch coaching sets hauled by whatever serviceable steam & diesel locomotives were available. As elsewhere a shortage of coal only exacerbated the situation. In the midst of these woes a series of fires on the Calder Valley BRCW diesel multiple units, culminated on January 13th with a fire on the 07:31 York - Liverpool at Sowerby Bridge. This led to the withdrawal of these multiple units whilst the origin of the fires was determined, causing a major shortage at Neville Hill depot. DMU's were borrowed from Darlington & Newcastle but steam was still substituted on many Bradford area services. On the WR the closure of the Banbury - Princes Risborough line due to snow led to the Paddington - Birmingham/Wolverhampton services being diverted via Reading & Oxford for a considerable part of January.

British Railways Standard 4MT 4-6-0 No. 75056 sits in the shed yard at Derby on January 3rd 1963. The big freeze is about ten days old and although many pictures of this period show a minimum amount of snow, the photographs do not easily record just how cold it was. On this particular date heavy snow was falling in Scotland leading to serious problem for all modes of transport.
Collection of webmaster.

Coronation Class 8P 4-6-2 No.46234 Duchess of Abercorn stands at Willesden depot on an overcast snowy day, believed to be early in 1963.
Collection of webmaster.

Another view from the London area, this is at Kentish Town on January 19th 1963. Ex-LMS Class 3F 0-6-0T No.47611 stands in the snow with its chimney covered. To the right is an ex-LMS 3MT 2-6-2T with its motion removed and generally looking in a sorry state. Little remains of this view, the church is still present, all else has been demolished and replaced with modern industrial units. 47611 moved to Cricklewood (14A) during April 1963, to Hasland (18C) during August 1963 and to Westhouses (16G) during October 1964 and withdrawn from there during May 1966.
Collection of webmaster.

Severe weather resumed on January 18th plunging many parts of the country into a further week of struggles. Blizzards on the night of 19th blocked the Calder Valley mainline for twelve hours, many local services were steam hauled. The Rochdale - Oldham line became impassable with drifts, an attempt on the 20th led to the multiple unit becoming stuck for two days! Single line working had been established on 21st but a derailment at Royton Jct put paid to any further service for a while. In Derbyshire on January 21st snow ploughs spent a day clearing the Buxton - Ashbourne line, returning with grocery provisions for the besieged village of Hartington. Also sent out to here, at the request of the police was one passenger coach coupled to 42799 & 44868 to rescue a party stranded at the village. The rescue attempt itself became stuck near Hindlow, as did 8F 48062 sent to assist. Rescue finally came in the shape of the three original engines and ploughs returning from Ashbourne, the party finally reaching Buxton late that night. The next night the 10:05pm Edinburgh Waverley - St Pancras became stuck in heavy drifts near Dent, the rear coaches were able to return to Carlisle reaching London via Newcastle. The line through Dent would not re-open until January 24th. The severe weather reached the East Coast, with heavy freezing, causing adhesion problems for the diesel multiple units working the steeply graded lines of the East Riding of Yorkshire. Further south the GE line Type 4's from Stratford were not doing well with a number of Type 2's substituting. So noted during this period was D5044 on the 12.40 Harwich - Rugby and D5018 on the 5.15 Colchester - Glasgow, both diesels being replaced at Peterborough. At the southern end of the GN mainline the shortages were not helped by the untimely storage of the 'Baby Deltic' fleet at Stratford, with engine problems. A bizarre consequence of this weather was the formation of giant icicles in many tunnels. Both Ampthill and Kilsby tunnels suffered this phenomena, line closures being necessary to clear them, especially after those at Kilsby had caused injuries to a number of footplate crews. Milder temperatures set in after 26th.

Availability of the Peaks on the NE/SW services fell from 80% to 50% with some interesting steam substitutions. Barrow Road had few steam engines (three Jubilees & six BR Class 5's) to spare so anything that could be found as serviceable was put into service, particularly incoming locomotives from the north - Carlisle's 46128 was Barrow Road's diesel standby on January 13/14th. The 6.46am Gloucester - Sheffield had Grange 6868 to Birmingham New Street on January 17th, the day before Annesley based 46126 worked throughout, by 22nd Canklow's B1 61033 was in charge. January 10th's 7.35am Bristol - Bradford had Pannier Tank 9453 leading a B1 one hundred & fifty minutes late into New Street, a Class 5 4-6-0 was waiting to take the service north, but was not needed when the service was terminated. From the north came a variety of V2's, A3 60039 on January 24th's 8.20am Newcastle - Swansea almost made it to New Street, only to expire at Kingsbury, before retiring to Saltley and being noted in the Derby area for several days. The Pines Express was cancelled from January 2nd - 5th.

(Below) Information on this view is not known but the location is believed to be Tillynaught on the Aberdeen - Inverness GNSR route.

Photograph from collection of Steve Morris.

More heavy snow fell on February 5th & 6th, four - five foot drifts occurred in parts of Wales.. The Settle & Carlisle line became blocked between Mallerstang & Dent, not being re-opened until February 23rd. Although the line was clear of snow only freights were initially allowed to use the line, avalanches were still considered a hazard, passenger services continued to be routed over the Clapham branch to Tebay. Also blocked were the routes south of Carlisle and two of the three routes to the north, which led to the long distance WCML services being routed through Newcastle on February 6th. This led to the unusual event of adjacent platforms at Newcastle hosting the down 'Flying Scotsman' and the up 'Royal Scot'. Also travelling this route was the up 'Thames-Clyde Express' behind D162, running late due to snowdrifts on the ECML at Stannington. Following minutes behind was the up 'Royal Scot' hauled by D300. Further west the 05:10 Glasgow - Stranraer passenger service became trapped in heavy drifts (up to 30 feet) at Barrhill. A number of passengers were rescued by helicopter, others by a rescue service sent out from Girvan. The line would re-open on 10th only to succumb on 13th & 14th to more blizzards. Ayr - Stranraer service were re-established via Dumfries, the direct route not being available for another week. On the West Highland two snow clearing diesels became derailed by hard packed snow near Bridge of Orchy. The continued heavy frosts led to the imposition of a 60mph speed restriction throughout Scotland during February. In the West Country five trains became trapped in Devon as the blizzard of February 5th moved south. Hardest hit were the former SR branches, the Plymouth - Brighton through services being sent over the WR mainline between Plymouth & Exeter for awhile. Okehampton at one point was completely cut off from the rail network. The disruption to freight traffic in the London area saw many unusual visitors to the SR on a variety of cross London freights, with a number of Willesden's Type 2's reaching Redhill and Three Bridges.

An unidentified Class 8F 2-8-0 passes St Albans South signalbox under grey skies and snowy conditions sometime during February 1963. It was conditions similar to these that gave the diesels so much trouble with inoperable train heating boilers.
Collection of webmaster.

On February 9th two days of heavy snowfall blocked the Aviemore - Forres line in the area of Dava Moor. Despite the presence of snowfences about one and a half miles of line was blocked, with drifts to thirty feet. Several snowploughs were sent out to clear the line but these became derailed. One such train was powered by a Class 26 & 24, the plough ended up on its side, the Class 26 was completely derailed and sustained minor damage. Eventually forty nine men were used to clear the line, taking 21 days and a quantity of dynamite.

Views from the Dava blockage during February 1963. Although the right view appears to have suffered camera shake it shows the well filled cutting and the telegraph lines resting on or buried in the snow.
Photographs courtesy Alistair Barrie

The two views above are of the Dava blockage during February 1963, showing a 19RB excavator of Wm Sharp & Sons (Forres) Ltd being used to dig out the line. The re-railed Independent Snow Plough Number 1 and BRC&W Type 2 D53XX with D5342 alongside at Dunphail.

A pair of snowploughs and their attending Class 26's are dug out of a drift somewhere on Dava Moor during February 1963.
Photographs courtesy John McKenzie / Dava Way Association

The impact of this prolonged severe weather on the diesel fleet was catastrophic. For those diesels that escaped freeze damage to the power unit/cooling system they were generally relegated to freight diagrams following the failure of their steam heating boilers. In their place ran many of the steam locomotives that had only recently been taken out of service, many of them in a very run-down condition, typical of this was the re-activation of a number of rundown Jubilees from Burton shed to cover shortages on the Midland main line. The disruption was made worse by the length of the severe weather and the closure of lines simply due to the volume of snow. The Class 24's covering the Tring/Bletchley/Northampton services suffered to the extent that less than a handful were available, resulting in a steam revival on these lines. On the lines out of St Pancras availability of the Peaks fell to about 50% caused by frost damage, mechanical failures and boiler failures. The DMU's also suffered failures in service as the air control lines froze up. And steam was not immune from the problems, water and coal supplies froze, the latter also being in short supply in some areas. And into this chaos of fog, snow and ice came the first of the Class 25/1's, D5176 from Darlington during the middle of January.

A visit to North Eastern area sheds on a dull and overcast February 17th found several inches of snow on the ground at Darlington, Tyne Dock, North Blythe and Blaydon. In many cases the depots contained withdrawn steam locomotive, most of which would not see another winter season.

March 5th saw the first frost free night in Britain since December 22nd and would signal the start of a gradual thaw that would end this memorable cold spell. However in many parts of the country snow would remain late into April.

Extremely cold weather in the north east in late December caused a number of diesel failures. To cover the shortages five 9F's were loaned to Heaton from Tyne Dock for two weeks. They were primarily used on goods trains to Tees Yard & York. However on December 21st 92061 reached Millerhill on a special freight from Heaton. And on Christmas Eve 92097 handled empty stock workings between Heaton & Newcastle!

On January 12th there was light snowfall in Eastern England. The next day (13th) the cold weather challenged the Southern Region electric services with many cancellations & delays. The disruption saw BR Standard 4MT No. 80085 with two coaches provide an impromptu morning service between Tonbridge & Ashford.

There was snow in the Derby area on February 18th, it may have been responsible for the derailment of Jubilee 45579 Punjab at Denby Colliery trap points. The Derby 4 shed breakdown train with 8F 48183 was sent up to rerail the errant locomotive, all the tender wheels were derailed, with the tender leaning over, whilst the locomotive had one pair of wheels on the ground. It continued to snow during the rerailing with the crane required to lift the tender. After examination at Derby 45579 was pronounced OK for further use. (M Peakman)

On the night of May 30th/31st heavy rains flooded the Diggle route, with fifteen trains diverted over the Calder Valley route. A Hull - Liverpool diesel multiple unit became stuck in Diggle Tunnel for four hours, rescue coming in the shape of a train drawn alongside to transfer the passengers. Normal service over the Diggle route was resumed within 24 hours.

It looks like Christmas 1964 may have been a white one in some parts of the country. On December 27th Class 25 No.5280 & Black 5 No.45188 depart Bolton with 1S48 (Manchester Victoria - Glasgow Central?). D5280 is barely six months old, though the dirt and grime on the paintwork suggests a greater age.
Photograph P Eckersley, collection of webmaster.

There was several inches of snow in the West Country on December 27th/28th.

Easter was accompanied by snow showers on 18th.

Heavy snow fell in November, in parts of Lincolnshire it lay on the ground for at least ten days.

On November 27th the first snow of the winter, several inches at least, fell over the southern Peak District.


On January 16th an LCGB S15 Commemorative railtour ran from Waterloo to Eastleigh Works. The tour included a trip over the branch from Bentley to Bordon. U Class 2-6-0 31639 is seen here on the branch in snowy conditions. 31639 would be withdrawn from Guildford during June 1966. Photograph collection of webmaster.
Wintry conditions affected parts of the country between January 15th & 20th with snow in many areas. Blizzards on the 17th & 20th affected Kent with the Night Ferry reverting to two Type 3 diesels instead of the more normal electric locomotive. A de-icing train also traversed the North Kent line between Ramsgate, Faversham & Dover. Freezing rain on the morning of the 20th seriously impacted the Southern electric services. For most of the day the services operating bore little resemblance to the timetable, with steam and diesel assistance provided on some routes.

On February 10th at Flitwick twelve loaded wagons hauled by D5218 ran into a stationary ?? immediately north of the station. Most of the train was derailed, necessitating the attendance of D7503 and the Cricklewood crane. The lines was cleared by midnight, hindered additionally by a snowfall. The damaged locomotives were removed to Bedford, prior to heading north to Derby Works.

About a week later on February 19th heavy snow in the Glasgow area affected traffic. In particular disruption to the Gourock & Wemyss Bay lines gave passengers a very challenging time. Many ended up having their journey utilise steam traction, a bus, a diesel multiple unit and more steam traction. A landslip near Dunrod signalbox just made everything more complicated. The snow brought down the wires at Georgetown during the morning, buses filled in until the wires were repaired later that day.

A moderate fall of snow occurred on the west side of the Pennines during the first week of April. On April 2nd Class 4 4-6-0 Nos. 75012 & 75015 were on snowplough duty between Skipton & Garsdale. Also on this date passengers on the SLS Lakes & Fells Railtour hauled by 46458 & 46426 enjoyed snow covered countryside and Lakeland Fells as they journeyed between Keswick & Penrith.

There was a good snowfall in the Glasgow area during November.

The first week of May saw snow over the northern Pennines, creating operating challenges for the higher elevations on the Settle & Carlisle route.

Heavy snow fell in Dorset on December 9th.

Its a snowy December day in the Buxton area as Class 8F 48532 works hard with an unidentified train.
Photograph collection of webmaster.

Although this January was a remarkably mild one heavy snowstorms on January 9th & 10th brought considerable chaos to many parts of the country. Particularly hard hit were the London commuters with most of the termini suffering many cancellations due to frozen up equipment. Perhaps because of this it was no surprise to find Holbeck based D5112 at St Pancras on 9th, whilst on 13th D7573 was noted southbound through Newark with the 08.25 Leeds - Kings Cross, albeit with four coaches only! And passengers on rush hour services into Liverpool St were taking an hour to cover the final four miles into the terminus.

Birmingham New Street came to a complete standstill between 6am & 9am with the heavy snowfall and freezing conditions causing many point failures. Numerous local services were cancelled, many used Moor St as did the Paddington services. Tyseley improvised quickly with the fitting of old steam lances to boiler equipped diesels for the purposes of clearing ice and snow from pointwork. Tyseley adapted these lances for at least three Type 2's and later to some Brush Type 4's. Additionally services out of Paddington were still trying to recover from a freight train derailment at Southall on the afternoon of the 8th, which had left only the up relief line open.

In the West Country heavy flooding closed Exeter St David's station, the Barnstaple - Exeter line was closed for several days, trapping the local freight. Also lost to floodwaters was the A39 Bideford Road bridge across the river Torridge. To alleviate this the Bideford - Torrington line was re-opened (previously closed October 1965), using a single car dmu working a shuttle service on the east side of the river to Torrington, from there a bus service shuttled passengers to Bideford.

A major storm caused major problems in the Clyde valley on January 14/15th.

There was considerable snow along the Pennines and in the Peak District during the first week of February, particularly in the Buxton area.

A localised major storm on February 5th brought cold and snowy weather to the West Midland, 37cm of snow fell at Keele whilst Crewe & Birmingham suffered major traffic disruptions, but only forty miles away at Nottingham there was only rain. Snow did eventually reach Central Eastern England and remained at least until February 8th.

Black 5 No.44800 & Standard 9F No.92117 share the yard at Edge Hill depot on February 6th 1968. 92117 had been withdrawn during December 1967, spending some time at Speke Junction before sale to T W Ward, Killamarsh, being scrapped during April 1968.
Photograph collection of webmaster.

During April there was widespread light snow & a blizzard in Scotland on 2nd

Snow fell in the Midlands on May 18th.

During December there was much snow between Christmas & the New Year, including East Anglia sustaining a modest snowfall.

On January 4th the Edinburgh - Carlisle 'Waverley' route was closed. Ironically on this last day 'Grand Tour No. 6' hauled by 1974 with a full complement of passengers traversed the Waverley route en route to Newcastle. From here a trip to Benton & Tynemouth used 250, on return to Newcastle 1974 regained the train for the run back to Edinburgh via the coast route. The last scheduled train, the 1M82 21.55 Edinburgh - St. Pancras, with eight coaches and two sleepers was handled by Class 45, 60. Carlisle was reached over two hours late caused by the boisterous activities of many local people protesting the closure of the route. The Hawick pilot, 8606, was sent ahead light engine to ensure the integrity of the line south of Hawick. A light snow fall had taken place during the day, but the evening saw clearing allowing the sun to set one last time on this run and providing the protesters with a chilly night out.

February 7th brought some intense severe weather to most parts of the country. The low level wind speed record for the month was set at Kirkwall on this date with a speed of 118kn. Blizzard conditions in the London area affected many services, Waterloo was badly impacted, as in many places the gas powered point heater pilot lights were blown out by the gale force winds. Many of the SR's VEP & REP emu's were taken out of service, their already troublesome lighter weight shoe gear suffered badly from the quantities of snow & ice encountered. In Kent the 21.36 Charing Cross - Ramsgate formed of 4-CEP's 7107 & 7201 became well and truly stuck in a drift between Herne Bay & Reculver. The train had left London two hours late becoming stuck just before 3am. In trying to protect the train the guard had trouble in laying the detonators, the snow was so deep. The darkness and depth of the snow prevented rescue by air or road, the neighbouring A2 had accumulated eight foot drifts. Just after 7am E6036 & D6596 reached the stranded train, pulling it and its three crew and seven passengers back to Herne Bay. The last down train of that night, the 23.10 Victoria - Ramsgate with 4-CEP's 7113/31 arrived at Herne Bay at 09.45, just over nine hours late! It remained there for another half hour until snowploughs powered by 6571/91 had finished clearing the route.

From time to time things stick in our memories. In finding this Diesel Multiple Unit ABC in a shoebox recently it brought back a flood of memories about my early gricing days. This was about the time I purchased my first Ian Allan ABC Combine (from 1970 with a Peak & a Brush 4 at Bath Road on the cover) and probably at the same time this 1970 DMU volume, possibly because of the wintry scene on the cover. It would mark a point in time when my interest in the railways became more tangible with the recording of numbers in notebooks, Works & depot visits and the delights of train travel whether it be a day excursion or a scheduled service - the journey had begun.

The booklet's cover view, provided by D L Percival, featured the 15.04 Kings Cross - Letchworth at Langley Junction near Stevenage on February 8th 1969. The wintry weather was clearly in evidence on this day.

The Midlands also bore scars from the blizzards. In the Derby area the point heaters were operational, but the point rodding froze up, throwing the evening commuter services into chaos. Manchester was ill prepared for the storm, suffering many cancellations to both local & long distance services. On the Woodhead route the Manchester - Sheffield electric service encountered delays, diesels taking over a number of the services. East of the Pennines delays occurred and services were amended to fill in the gaps. The 21.50 eight coach York - Aberystwyth mail was surprisingly hauled by 5150, filling in between Leeds & Huddersfield as a local. Hopeless road conditions necessitated the rescue of fifty students from Marsden by a two car dmu.

Scotland appeared to miss the worst of this weather though services from the south were often hours late. Such was the 23.35 (Fri) Euston - Glasgow Central which arrived behind 445 at 13.52, almost seven & half hours late. When another storm hit the Manchester area on the 14th the previous lessons had been well learned with an almost normal service operating.

February 15th saw the north-west receive a substantial snowfall.

The 20th produced even worse weather, with the 7.56 Sheffield Victoria - Manchester stuck in a drift for five hours. A similar situation befell the 18.02 New Mills - Sheffield Midland on the Hope Valley route, this dmu becoming stuck at the west end of Cowburn tunnel. The 19.10 Sheffield - New Mills only reached Chinley with the help of two Class 20's taken from Earles Sidings. These machines then rescued the passengers from the stranded 18.02, this dmu not being dug out until the next afternoon! At Diggle the semaphore signalling froze, with hand signalling being resorted to. At the same location the 17.05 ex Liverpool (Newcastle?) with 174 took three attempts to break through the snow drifts. The dmu service on the Penistone branch became superpowered on the 19th when 399 piloted all trains between Clayton West Jcn & Penistone due to the appalling conditions. So bad was the weather that 6922 even after splitting the 27 loaded wagons was unable to depart Skelmanthorpe for Clayton West. The train was abandoned and 6922 set of for Healey Mills only to become a total failure near Brockholes, eventually being pushed into Huddersfield by two local dmu's. That night the Penistone line was kept clear by two snowploughs handled by Healey Mills 37's making four trips over the line.

Coventry was prepared for this blizzard having steam lance equipped 1950 available to free frozen pointwork. It was however not able to handle ice accumulation on the overhead line equipment which did cause some delays. The blizzards had also wreaked havoc in the West Country. Spring tides coupled with the strong winds damaged the WR mainline in the Dawlish area and along the River Exe. Single line working created major headaches, made worse by twenty four hours of snow, which blocked the line between Plymouth & Totnes. To open up an alternative route the authorities sent out 865 with two snowploughs to clear the closed St Budeaux - Bere Alston - Tavistock - Meldon Jcn - Okehampton - Cowley Bridge route. The same trip was made the next day, however the use of these lines as a through route presented difficulties as all signalling & phone equipment had been removed when the line closed in August 1968! All local services were cancelled with the late running expresses filling in as locals. In the London area the blizzards of the 19th created problems too numerous to mention.

Possibly the extreme weather took its toll on Gateshead's paired Class 03's used in the Sunderland area on the South Dock - Silksworth turns. The regular machines were all under repair necessitating the borrowing of a Tyne Dock Class 24. This was quickly missed by the Consett trains, Claytons then being utilized until at least one of the 03 pairs, 2071/74 returned from repair.

Moderate snow fell in the Highlands on February 10th.

The Midlands & north of England were hit by ice storms between March 16-18th, with a modest amount of snow falling.

Christmas Eve found a light snow fall in the Home Counties.

Snowy days in the 1970's
Snowy days in the 1980's

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Page added April 15th 2004
Page updated July 17th 2017.