Royal Train at Penpergwm - Bob Green
Elegance in Action

Despite now being 83 years old, Princess Elizabeth is still admired by many who love steam locomotives for its elegant design, powerful performance abilities and magnificently evocative exhaust sound. Its robustness, sheer guts in hauling huge loads up long gradients and smooth riding qualities have endeared the engine to footplate crews and enthusiast alike.

Whilst it may not be the fastest British express locomotive, nor the most modern, it is in many ways the most impressive. Capable of developing indicated power outputs well in excess of 2,000 Horse Power; 6201’s lineside spectators and passengers on today’s main line special trains can hear every one of them in action!

Amazingly, 80 years after she shattered the world’s highest long distance steam average speed record, sustained non-stop in both directions between London and Glasgow, 6201’s record of over 70 mph for 401 miles still stands. Princess Elizabeth is a living testimony to the design quality that Sir William Stanier FRS and his LMS team applied to her creation and development, including the engineering excellence that the craftsmen of Crewe works put into her construction.

The Locomotive 6201 Princess Elizabeth Society Ltd strives to preserve those values of excellence for the delight, inspiration and education of future generations. They are values that can serve Britain well in the future, but preserving them and 6201 requires constant effort, skill and above all else investment in the engine.

If you share these values, please support the Society by becoming a member, or by making a donation. Princess Elizabeth has just completed a very costly 3½ year overhaul and more work will be required in Q1 2017. Your support can ensure that the magnificent spectacle of this locomotive in action on our national network can continue to be enjoyed by future generations.

6201 History


6201, LMS lot number 99, was built at Crewe for the sum of £11,675 and named Princess Elizabeth after the then Duke of York’s eldest daughter, now our present Queen. The locomotive left the works on 3rd November 1933 and with sister Classmate 6200 Princess Royal created a sensation; they were a very dramatic indication that the days of the former Midland Railway’s policy of small engines was over and a new power was abroad in the land of the world’s largest railway company, the L.M.S.

Record Run

The 1936 Record Run made by 'Princess Elizabeth' is an enduring piece of railway folklore. It is, however, interesting to reflect on the times in which that record was set (and remained unsurpassed in the days of normal steam working, and as a nonstop run, still does!). There was no internet, and little access to television. Some of the population had a wireless but for the most part news travelled - very slowly by modern standards - via newspaper.

The Railway Companies at the time naturally sought publicity and clearly some form of eye catching record was certain to bring the all important attention of the Press.

By 1936 the 'Stanierisation' of the LMS had really taken hold, and the Company was keen to present a public image which reflected the very necessary, radical changes and improvements which Stanier had brought about.  This was set against a background of competition with the LNER which, with the advantage of the relatively flat and straight East Coast Route, was able to - and did - run very successful short formation, and thus lightweight, high speed trains.

The operating conditions confronting the LMS were very different, the route was altogether more demanding and the need to operate heavy trains was ever present. Loads of over 600 tons of up to 17 coaches were commonplace and they had to be lifted to the summits of Shap and Beattock en route to Glasgow.

In a direct attempt to steal the limelight from the LNER the LMS elected to go for an Anglo-Scottish record over the West Coast Route which would rival its competitors 'Six Hour Edinburgh Expresses'.  So it was that the plans were drawn up - clearly success depended on tightly controlled conditions and meticulous planning, and 6201 was selected to make what was, unashamedly, a record breaking attempt.

The record was achieved and there was huge national press, film and radio coverage that would today be described as a 'publicity coup'.  The rest as they say 'is history', but the fact remains that 6201 achieved lasting national and international acclaim as did its driver Tom Clark, of Crewe, who was awarded the OBE in recognition of his remarkable skills as the driver.

In later life 6201 has notched up a few more 'firsts', but above all else she remains the Locomotive which set the record for the longest, hardest and fastest non stop run with a steam hauled passenger train.

Whilst in terms of pure fame this cannot expect to be as glamorous as Mallard's outright speed record (also achieved under specifically created conditions) it was nevertheless equally - if not more difficult - to achieve and is without doubt of huge historical merit and significance in its own right.

It created an iconic reputation for 6201, which earned her the affectionate nickname "Lizzie".

Transition to British Railways identity

In the late 1940's the Big Four, namely LMS, GWR, Southern and LNER were nationalised under the new name of British Railways and 6201 was re-numbered to 46201 and re-painted initially into LNWR style BR black then in to Brunswick Green.


With the onset of dieselisation and the delivery of increasing numbers of “Type 4” 2,000 hp locomotives, 6201 was placed in store in March 1961, but was returned to service in May 1961. Diesel failures were legion and the new deliveries were struggling to maintain services.

As more diesels were delivered, in October of the same year 6201 was again placed into storage at Carlisle Kingmoor. However, again in January 1962 6201 was returned to traffic to cover for diesel failures and continued to work until September 1962 where it was once again placed into storage.  It was subsequently withdrawn by BR in October 1962 and purchased by Roger Bell.

Driver Clark and Fireman Fleet at Glasgow after the record run in 1936.
Photo:  Driver Clark Collection
On Beattock in 1962 with a Birmingham-Glasgow
Photo: D. Anderson
In 1980, 6201 takes part in the Rainhill celebrations of the 150th anniversary
of the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway
6201 at Marshbrook
Photo:  Bob Green
Preserved History of 6201

1963 - Purchased from British Railways for £2160

1975 - Attends "RAIL 150" at Shildon

1976 - First Mainline tours "Gwentman" and "Inter City". Limited company formed.

1980 - Attends "Rocket 150" at Rainhill

1987 - Becomes 1st steam loco to enter the then new Crewe Heritage Centre & 1st Steam loco in the confines of Crewe Station for 20 years

1987 - Locomotive inspected by HM the Queen at the official opening of Crewe Heritage Centre. Understood to have been the first occasion that Her Majesty had seen the engine which had been named in her honour

1988 - 1st steam loco to work out of Crewe for 20 years as a trial, initial trains 100% oversubscribed and effectively started the process of returning steam to the WCML

2003 - 1st Princess Royal to work out of Euston in 41 Years, & 1st steam hauled through train Liverpool - Euston via WCML since the 1960's

2009 - 6201 is granted extension of mainline boiler ticket until March 2012

2010 - 6201 is the first steam loco to work out of the modern Birmingham New Street (steam was officially banned there following the reconstruction in the 1960s), and also becomes the first steam loco to work from Birmingham into Euston in the preservation era

2010 - The overhaul base for 6201 became Tyseley Locomotive Works, Birmingham

6201 has now been in the continuous custodianship of the same group for 54 years, far longer than its ownership by the LMS and British Railways combined. It is a testimony to the excellent condition of 6201’s maintenance that her mainline boiler certification was extended for her Royal Jubilee activities in 2012.

At the end of 2012 Princess Elizabeth was withdrawn from traffic by the Society to enable its scheduled but deferred overhaul to be carried out at Tyseley Locomotive Works. This consisted of work on the boiler including firebox stays, boiler fittings and superheater flues, plus the repair and renewal, as necessary, of cladding sheets, crinolines and firebox doors. The air braking system and pump have been overhauled and the OTMR and TPWS systems renewed and brought up to current required standards. Additionally, work has been carried out on bearings, cylinders, valves, motion and running gear, and new bogie wheel tyres have been acquired for future fitment in view of their long sourcing lead times. Finally, repainting and varnishing have superbly restored Princess Elizabeth’s magnificent LMS maroon livery.

6201 was first steamed in public for the October 2014 Tyseley open day, and appeared in a state of “boiler undress” creating considerable interest. Initial test running-in was carried out between Tyseley and Stratford-on-Avon in June 2016 before the locomotive left to start its extensive series of “Cathedrals Express” and West Coast charter workings. Unfortunately, en route to Derby a bogie axle bearing was found to be running warm, so 6201’ s first working was missed. This was rapidly rectified at Butterley, thanks to our friends at the West Shed of the Princess Royal Locomotives Trust, and the locomotive then travelled to Southall shed which will be its operating base until the end of 2016.

6201 Back at Work

Apart from a split tender water bag after negotiating a very sharp crossover, and a problem with the blower valve at Gloucester, Princess Elizabeth has performed magnificently. Her travels have taken her back to Derby, down to Swanage, to the West Somerset Railway and to Penzance, north to Shrewsbury and to Gloucester and Salisbury. On the Shrewsbury run, she became what is expected to be the last operational steam locomotive to pass through the Severn Tunnel at the head of a revenue train before the route is electrified. The return from Shrewsbury was delayed by operating difficulties but, after Craven Arms, 6201 made a massive and very impressive time recovery along the Welsh Marches line.

After completing the current charter train schedule in late December, the locomotive will be withdrawn for the renewal of the small tubes after which another very busy period of charter train work will commence for 2017.

Britain’s biggest and only operational world-record-holding steam locomotive is back in action!
Locomotive 6201 Princess Elizabeth Society Ltd, 39 Newton Street, MILLOM, Cumbria, LA18 4DR