West Coast Railway Company

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West Coast Railways
Founded 1998
Headquarters Carnforth, United Kingdom
Website WestCoastRailways.co.uk
Class 57/6 no. 57601 passing Brockhampton, north of Cheltenham, on 16 April 2005, whilst working a Bath-Skegness charter train

West Coast Railways (WCR) is a railway spot-hire company and charter train operator, based at Carnforth MPD in Lancashire. Using buildings and other facilities previously owned by Steamtown Carnforth visitor attraction, in 1998 the company became the first privately owned company to be given a licence as a train operating company.


Main article: Carnforth MPD

After British Rail closed the Lakeside branch to passengers on 6 September 1965,[1] a group of enthusiasts chaired by Dr Peter Beet formed the Lakeside Railway Estates Company, with the idea of preserving both the line and Carnforth MPD, to provide a complete steam operating system.[2] After agreeing to rent out part of the Carnforth MPD site, but with the counter the development of the A590 road meaning that the complete vision was unsuccessful, Beet developed the visitor attraction Steamtown Carnforth, which became a mecca for steam enthusiasts from 1967.[3]

In 1974 Sir Bill McAlpine became a shareholder in the company,[2] allowing his LNER A3 Pacific No.4472 Flying Scotsman to make Carnforth its home.[4] McAlpine subsequently acquired a controlling interest in the company, in order to fund the purchase of the complete site including the track from BR.[5]

In light of McAlpine's declining interest, in 1990 his controlling interest in Steamtown Railway Museum Ltd was sold to David Smith, who over the following years has boughtout the majority of the minority shareholders. With increasing Health and Safety Executive regulations, and an increased reliance on revenue from supplying and servicing steam locomotives to power enthusiast trains, the commercial decision was taken not to reopen Carnforth as a museum or visitor attraction for the 1998 season. Steamtown Railway Museum Ltd still exists today as the holding company, and operates an extensive railway repair and operating facility on the site. Smith later set up the West Coast Railway Company Ltd, as a train operating company.[2]


West Coast Railway Company (WCR) today is a spot hire company which provides locomotives, stock and crews to other companies within the rail industry. The company operates charter trains throughout the year, many of which are hauled by steam locomotive and has grown to become the UK's leading special trains operator. The company now provide most of the stock and crews for steam workings on the national network plus a large amount for diesel tours as well. The headquarters, engineering base and depot are at Carnforth, where locomotives and stock are stored and maintained, along with contract work undertaken for other operators.

West Coast are noted for their ownership and operation of steam locomotive 5972 "Olton Hall" under the guise of "Hogwarts Castle" for the Harry Potter film series, with the "Hogwarts Express" train being featured in each of the films.


LMS Black 5 4-6-0 no 45231 is seen at Fort William running around her train after hauling The Jacobite from Mallaig, this is a regular service run by West Coast Railways from early May till late October.

Today WCR operates several regular steam-hauled excursions every summer. The most famous of these trains is the 'Jacobite' (named for the historic Jacobite political movement). It runs along the West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct. It runs Monday to Fridays from the middle of May until the end of October and also runs at weekends from the end of June until the end of August. In 2011, WCR added a second "Jacobite" service, leaving Fort William in the afternoons from the start of June until the end of August running on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. 2012 saw this second service increase to five days a week, between June and August.

The steam-hauled Scarborough Spa Express operates from York to Scarborough three times a week between July and September.

In 2007, West Coast Railways took over operation of the 'Cambrian Coast Express' running over the Cambrian Coast Line from Machynlleth to Porthmadog and Pwllheli and renamed it "The Cambrian". The service ran from the last week of July until the end of August between 2007 and 2010. Before the 2011 season, WCR issued a statement stating that due to Network Rail's implementation of the new ERTMS signalling on the Cambrian Coast, which necessitated new in-cab signalling equipment, the seasonal steam services had to cease running.

Train Operating Company[edit]

WCR provides locomotives, stock and crews for many railtour organisers across the country. It also provides crews to some organisations, such as SRPS and Vintage trains, who own their own stock. WCR act/have acted as TOC to the following companies:

  • Nenta Traintours
  • North-East Railtours
  • PMR Tours
  • The Railway Touring Company
  • The Royal Scotsman
  • Saltburn Railtours
  • SRPS Railtours
  • Statesman Rail
  • Steam Dreams (As of October 2013)
  • Vintage Trains
  • Compass Tours
  • Daylight Railtours (Ceased trading in 2004)
  • Railtourer (Ceased trading in 2013)
  • Shepherd Neame (No railtours during 2013)
  • Spitfire Railtours (Ceased trading after financial difficulties in 2012)


Routes commonly operated over by WCR include the nearby Cumbrian Coast Line and Furness Line, Little North Western Line, the Settle and Carlisle Railway and the West Highland Line. The company utilises several sidings at Hellifield railway station, south of Settle Junction, where the lines to Carlisle and Carnforth diverge, allowing easy access to the WCR home base.


The headquarters and main depot is at Carnforth MPD. The former London Midland and Scottish Railway 10A depot has workshops for steam and diesel locomotives, and also carriage and wagon facilities to maintain the companies fleet of Mark 1 & 2 carriages. The site includes extensive sidings plus a paint shop.

The company's second base is the former Great Western Railway depot at Southall Railway Centre, West London. "The Green Train" is based here, used on "The Cathedrals Express".

For half of the year the company also use part of Fort William depot as a base for the stock and locomotives for its "Jacobite" service.

Rolling stock[edit]

Class 47 locomotive no. 47851 'Traction Magazine' at Ely with a charter train in British Railways Two-Tone Green livery

The company owns and operates a fleet of diesel locomotives, which are primarily used to haul charter trains, but have also been hired to other railway operators. The fleet is mainly composed of Class 37 and Class 47 locomotives, but also includes Class 57 locomotives, including the prototype passenger locomotive 57601.

Several Class 37 locomotives were purchased from Ian Riley Engineering, which ceased its spot-hire operations in mid-2004. In 2005, WCR won the contract to haul The Royal Scotsman luxury train. As a result, its two operational Class 37 locomotives and a Class 47 were repainted into a revised maroon livery, officially known as Royal Scotsman Claret, based on that of the Royal Scotsman carriages. In late 2005, WCR sold its two operational Class 37 locomotives (nos. 37197 and 37261) to Direct Rail Services (DRS), and received four Class 33 locomotives in exchange. As of 2011, WCR started investing in more Class 57 locomotives, bought from Advenza Freight, Harry Needle Railroad Company, Freightliner and former Arriva Trains Wales/Virgin Trains locomotives from Porterbrook Leasing.

The company's coaching stock consists of vacuum and air plus dual braked Mark 1 and Mark 2 coaches, mostly painted in the British Railways maroon livery, albeit with West Coast Railways branding on the bodyside. Some of these coaches were built as BR Pullman coaches.

Fleet details[edit]

Steam locomotives[edit]

It should be noted that these locomotives are operated but not owned by West Coast Railway Company. Some engines may not now be operated on the mainline cause their mainline or boiler ticket has expired or maybe on display away from the national network. 5972 Olton Hall is now on a 2yr loan to Warner Bros studio's in Watford.

Key: Operational Under Repair requires GSM-R Under overhaul/restoration Away from Network Rail Due to be certified in near future
Number Name Class Livery Owner Mainline until Max Speed Air Brk's Location
4936 Kinlet Hall GWR "Hall" 4-6-0 BR Green Kinlet Hall Loco. Co. 2018 60mph No Minehead
4965 Rood Ashton Hall GWR "Hall" 4-6-0 GWR Green Vintage Trains 2016 60mph No Tyseley
5029 Nunney Castle GWR "Castle" 4-6-0 BR Green Jeremy Hosking 2020 75mph Yes Bristol
5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe GWR "Castle" 4-6-0 BR Green Vintage Trains 2018 75mph No Tyseley
5972 Olton Hall GWR "Hall" 4-6-0 Hogwarts Maroon David Smith Aug 2014 60mph No York
6023 King Edward II GWR "King" 4-6-0 BR Blue King Edward II Project - 75mph No Didcot
6024 King Edward I GWR "King" 4-6-0 N/A RSL&GT - 75mph Yes Minehead
7752 - GWR "Pannier Tank" 0-6-0 LT Red Vintage Trains 2018 45mph No Tyseley
9600 - GWR "Pannier Tank" 0-6-0 BR Black Vintage Trains 2015 45mph No Tyseley
777 Sir Lamiel SR "King Arthur" 4-6-0 SR Malachite National Collection - 75mph No Loughborough
34016 Bodmin SR "West Country" 4-6-2 BR Green David Smith - 75mph No Carnforth
34046 Braunton SR "West Country" 4-6-2 BR Green Jeremy Hosking 2020 75mph Yes Bristol
34067 Tangmere SR "Battle of Britain" 4-6-2 BR Green David Smith 2018 75mph Yes Carnforth
34073 249 Squadron SR "Battle of Britain" 4-6-2 N/A John Bunch - 75mph N/A Carnforth
35018 British India Line SR "Merchant Navy" 4-6-2 N/A David Smith - 75mph N/A Carnforth
44871 - LMS "Black Five" 4-6-0 BR Black Ian Riley 2017 60mph Yes Fort William
44932 - LMS "Black Five" 4-6-0 BR Black David Smith 2017 60mph No Southall
45231 The Sherwood Forester LMS "Black Five" 4-6-0 BR Black Bert Hitchen 2020 60mph No Fort William
45305 *Alderman A E Draper LMS "Black Five" 4-6-0 BR Black Draper family 2017 60mph No Haworth
45407 The Lancashire Fusilier LMS "Black Five" 4-6-0 BR Black Ian Riley 2017 60mph Yes Fort William
5690 Leander LMS "Jubilee" 4-6-0 Black Undercoat Beet family - 75mph No Carnforth
45699 Galatea LMS "Jubilee" 4-6-0 BR Crimson David Smith 2020 75mph No Carnforth
46100 Royal Scot LMS "Royal Scot" 4-6-0 BR Green Jeremy Hosking - 75mph Underway Crewe
46115 Scots Guardsman LMS "Royal Scot" 4-6-0 BR Green David Smith 2015 75mph No Carnforth
6201 Princess Elizabeth LMS "Princess Royal" 4-6-2 LMS Crimson Princess Elizabeth Loco. Soc. - 75mph Yes Tyseley
46233 Duchess of Sutherland LMS "Princess Coronation" 4-6-2 BR Green Princess Royal Class Loco. Trust 2019 75mph Yes Tyseley
48151 - LMS Stanier 8F 2-8-0 BR Black David Smith 2017 50mph No Carnforth
4472 Flying Scotsman LNER A3 4-6-2 N/A National Collection - 75mph Yes Bury
60007 Sir Nigel Gresley LNER A4 4-6-2 BR Blue Sir Nigel Gresley Loco. Pres. Trust 2015 75mph Yes Grosmont
60009 Union of South Africa LNER A4 4-6-2 BR Green John Cameron 2019 75mph Yes Carnforth
4464 Bittern LNER A4 4-6-2 LNER Blue Jeremy Hosking Dec 2014 90mph Yes Southall
61264 - LNER B1 4-6-0 BR Black Thompson B1 Loco Trust 2021 75mph No Grosmont
61306 Mayflower LNER B1 4-6-0 BR Apple Green Neil Boden 2020 75mph No Washwood Heath
61994 The Great Marquess LNER K4 2-6-0 BR Black John Cameron 2015 (2016) 50mph No Carnforth
62005 *Lord of the Isles LNER K1 2-6-0 BR Black NELPG 2019 50mph No Fort William
70000 Britannia BR Standard Class 7 4-6-2 BR Green RSL&GT 2017 75mph Yes Ropley
70013 Oliver Cromwell BR Standard Class 7 4-6-2 BR Green National Collection Aug 2014 75mph No Southall

Diesel locomotives[edit]

All locomotives below are owned and operated by West Coast Railways.

Key: In service Under repair Stored Spares donor Currently not operational on Network Rail
Number Class Name Livery Date Acquired Into Traffic Previous Operator Status Location
03196 03 - BR Blue July 2002 July 2002 ex-British Rail Stored Carnforth
D2381 03 - BR Green March 1976 March 1976 ex-British Rail Stored Carnforth
08418 08 - EWS Red August 2010 November 2010 ex-DB Schenker Depot shunter Carnforth
08485 08 - BR Blue August 2010 September 2010 ex-DB Schenker Depot shunter Carnforth
08678 08 Artila Glaxo Blue and Black November 1994 November 1994 ex-Glaxo, Ulverston Under repair Carnforth
33025 33 Glen Falloch WCR Maroon September 2005 November 2005 ex-Direct Rail Services Operational Southall
33029 33 Glen Loy WCR Maroon September 2005 March 2006 ex-Direct Rail Services Operational Carnforth
33030 33 - DRS Blue September 2005 N/A ex-Direct Rail Services Spares donor Carnforth
33207 33 Jim Martin WCR Maroon September 2005 November 2005 ex-Direct Rail Services Operational Southall
37214 37 WCR Maroon May 2006 May 2006 ex-Preservation Spares donor Carnforth
37516 37 Loch Laidon WCR Maroon February 2009 June 2009 ex-EWS Operational Carnforth
37517 37 - Loadhaul December 2007 N/A ex-EWS Stored Carnforth
37518 37 Fort William/An Gearasdan InterCity Swallow October 2013 October 2013 ex-Ian Riley Operational Carnforth
37668 37 - EWS December 2007 N/A ex-EWS Under repair Carnforth
37669 37 - WCR Maroon March 2011 N/A ex-EWS Under repair Barrow Hill
37676 37 Loch Rannoch WCR Maroon November 2007 November 2008 ex-EWS Under repair Carnforth
37685 37 Loch Arkaig WCR Maroon December 2007 May 2010 ex-EWS Operational Carnforth
37706 37 - WCR Maroon December 2007 December 2008 ex-EWS Operational Carnforth
37710 37 - Loadhaul December 2007 N/A ex-EWS Spares donor Carnforth
37712 37 - WCR Maroon December 2007 June 2008 ex-EWS Stored Carnforth
47194 47 - Railfreight September 2005 N/A ex-Fragonset Spares donor Carnforth
47236 47 - RfD December 2006 N/A ex-Fragonset Spares donor Carnforth
47237 47 WCR Maroon January 2011 July 2011 ex-Advenza Freight Operational Southall
47245 47 - WCR Maroon April 2004 April 2006 ex-HNRC Operational Carnforth
47270 47 Swift BR Blue May 2010 May 2010 ex-Preservation Under repair Carnforth
47355 47 - Fragonset May 2010 N/A ex-European Metal Recycling Stored Carnforth
47368 47 - Railfreight December 2006 N/A ex-Fragonset Spares donor Carnforth
47492 47 - Rail Express Systems March 2010 N/A ex-Preservation Spares donor Carnforth
47500 47 - WCR Maroon December 2009 July 2010 ex-EWS Stored Carnforth
47526 47 - BR Large Logo December 2006 N/A ex-Fragonset Spares donor Carnforth
47746 47 - WCR Maroon March 2011 October 2013 ex-Preservation Operational Southall
47760 47 - WCR Maroon February 2007 April 2008 ex-EWS Operational Carnforth
47768 47 - Undercoat March 2011 N/A ex-Preservation Stored Carnforth
47772 47 - Rail Express Systems June 2008 N/A ex-EWS Stored Carnforth
47776 47 - Rail Express Systems February 2007 N/A ex-EWS Stored Carnforth
47786 47 Roy Castle OBE WCR Maroon February 2007 October 2008 ex-EWS Operational Carnforth
47787 47 Windsor Castle WCR Maroon February 2007 February 2008 ex-EWS Under repair Carnforth
47804 47 - WCR Maroon February 2007 June 2007 ex-EWS Operational Carnforth
47826 47 - WCR Maroon April 2005 June 2005 ex-Virgin Trains Operational Carnforth
47851 47 WCR Maroon April 2005 June 2005 ex-Virgin Trains Under repair Carnforth
47854 47 Diamond Jubilee WCR Maroon June 2003 February 2004 ex-Virgin Trains Operational Carnforth
57001 57 WCR Maroon January 2011 March 2011 ex-Freightliner Under repair Carnforth
57005 57 - Advenza Freight Blue January 2011 N/A ex-Advenza Freight Stored Carnforth
57006 57 - WCR Maroon April 2011 June 2012 ex-Advenza Freight Operational Carnforth
57313 57 - Arriva Trains Wales Blue January 2013 April 2013 ex-Virgin Trains Operational Southall
57314 57 - WCR Maroon January 2013 April 2013 ex-Virgin Trains Operational Carnforth
57315 57 - WCR Maroon January 2013 March 2013 ex-Virgin Trains Operational Carnforth
57316 57 - Arriva Trains Wales Blue January 2013 March 2013 ex-Virgin Trains Operational Carnforth
57601 57 - WCR Maroon November 2003 February 2004 ex-Porterbrook Spot Hire Operational Carnforth

Preserved locomotives[edit]

Number Class Name Livery Owner Status Location
345 40 - BR Blue CFPS Operational Bury
47580 47 County of Essex BR Blue (with Union Jack) Stratford 47 Group Operational Carnforth
47773 47 - BR Two-Tone Green Vintage Trains Operational Tyseley
47798 47 Prince William Royal Train Plum National Collection Operational York
50007 50 Hercules BR Blue Boden Rail Engineering Operational Washwood Heath
D1015 52 Western Champion BR Maroon Diesel Traction Group Operational Tyseley
55002 55 The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry BR Blue NRM Operational TBA
D9009 55 Alycidon BR Green Deltic Preservation Society Operational Chesterfield
86259 86 Les Ross BR Electric Blue Les Ross Operational Willesden TMD


  1. ^ Butt 1995, p. 115
  2. ^ a b c "Obituary - Dr Peter Beet". The Guardian. 7 December 2005. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  3. ^ "Steamtown miniature railway". Mike Hanson. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  4. ^ "Steamtown Museum, carnforth". BBC Domesday. 2012-02-06. 
  5. ^ "Steamtown early 1970s". Mike Hanson. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°07′52″N 2°46′22″W / 54.1311°N 2.7727°W / 54.1311; -2.7727