Commemorative stamp set celebrates unsung heroes of steam railways

| 06 December 2010
a stamp sheet featuring several steam locomotives and a background picture of a steam train travellinmg over a wood and iron bridge
© Background photo Paul Riley copyright The Restoration & Archiving Trust
Railway buffs and philatelists alike may be interested in Royal Mail’s latest miniature sheet of commemorative stamps due for issue in February celebrating the workhorses of the railways.

With working lives of several decades on the public railway network and in industrial locations like factories, quarries and docks, these unsung heroes of the railways soldiered on for years before diesel and electric technology completely took over in the 1960s.

A good example is the Thor, a Peckett 1689 locomotive featured on the 60p stamp. It was built in 1925 for the Tunnel Cement Company of Purfleet in Essex and spent its entire life there before being scrapped in 1965.

“For many people the age of steam meant bright-liveried passenger locomotives, but in the background was a huge number of other ‘steam machines’ playing a massive role during the industrial revolution and beyond,” says Royal Mail’s Philip Parker.

“The Classic Locomotives series takes a look at the fascinating working lives of some of the less glamorous locomotives which powered their way around UK’s railways.”

a first class stamp design with a black and white photo of a steam engine
1st Class – BR Dean Goods No. 2532 A Newbury bound British Railways local service Dean Goods Class locomotive at East Garton photographed in 1951. These sturdy Victorian goods locomotives saw a great deal of use in both world wars, but by the 1950s they had been relegated to light duties, such as hauling passenger trains on rural branch lines.© Photo copyright National Railway Museum
a stamp design with a colour photo of a steam shunting engine
60p – Peckett R2 Thor. This Peckett 1689, named Thor was built in 1925 for the Tunnel Cement Company of Purfleet, Essex. Compact, powerful and rugged, industrial locomotives were the all-purpose workhorses of plants such as Tunnel Cement and many were used continuously for several decades.© photo Geoff Plumb
a stamp design with a photo of a small steam engine in a railway station
88p – L & YR 1093 No. 1100. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway locomotive photographed here at Liverpool Exchange Station in 1909 is pulling the 2.10 to Hull. From the middle of the 19th century, British companies offered integrated travel to continental Europe, combining rail services with steamships which sailed from ports around the United Kingdom.© Photo copyright National Railway Museum/Science & Society Picture Library reference 10444570
a stamp design with a colour photo of a steam engine on it
97p – BR WD No. 90662. During the Second World War heavy-freight “Austerity”’ locomotives were built for military service, transporting goods and troops. Before the Normandy Landings, the Army had very little use for these locomotives, so they were loaned to the Big Four railway companies. After June 1944, Austerity locomotives were shipped out to France. Eventually British Rail had 733 of these locos.© Photo Keith Pirt Copyright Book Law Publications
Stamps and stamp products are available at all Post Office branches, online at  the Royal Mail eBay shop: and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB

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