Railway Relics – Locomotive Headboards

Railway Relics

Locomotive Headboards2023 torbay Express Repro

This is a reproduction headboard on loan to the museum.

Headboards were provided for locomotives hauling some of the crack express passenger trains which, for publicity purposes, were given official names.  Some of the more famous named trains were the Cornish Riviera Limited of the Great Western Railway (GWR), the Brighton Belle of the Southern Railway, the Flying Scotsman of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and the Royal Scot of the London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS).1591 Master Cutler

This is one of the Museum’s prize possessions.
One of the LNER stainless steel ‘Master Cutler’ headboards.  It was donated to the Railway Preservation Society after the organisation undertook probably the first hire of the Flying Scotsman by a preservation group.
This comprised a return Sheffield Victoria – Marylebone excursion on 15th June 1963.  This venture resulted in a loss of £100 – a large sum in those days!

Care must be taken not to confuse the name of the express train with that of a locomotive.  Both the LMS and the LNER named locomotives after their most prestigious expresses, including the Royal Scot and the Flying Scotsman.  The GWR named its 4-4-0s after towns on the routs, but the nameplates had to be removed because some passengers thought they referred to the train’s destination.

The headboards, which survived until almost the end of steam haulage, measured around 3ft (915mm) wide by 1½ft (457mm) high.  In pre-Nationalisation days, they were generally made of wood and very few have survived.  Under British Railways, they were made of cast-metal, usually aluminium, and often for use on trains whose origins lay many years in the past.

On the back of the board was a fitting which allowed it to be slotted on to the front lamp bracket of a locomotive.  This was normally at the top of the smokebox or the base of the chimney.  The boards from the steam era were often shaped to compliment the curve of the boiler front.  Boards introduced after the advent of diesel haulage tended to be rectangular, with straight edges.503 DMU Farewell

On the Eastern and North Eastern regions of BR, a standard sized back board pattern was used for casting the plates.  The back of the pattern was letter stamped with the names of all the trains using a board, with the result that the list appeared on the back of every headboard made from that pattern.

Several boards were produced for each train, with sufficient supplies being held at the locomotive depots on the route.  Many boards simply gave the name of the train, while others were embellished with the crests of appropriate towns, cities or counties.  Among these were the Aberdonian, incorporating the crests of London and Aberdeen, the Cornish Riviera Limited, with the Cornish crest and motto ‘One and All’, and the Hook Continental, featuring the flags of Britain and Holland.  On a more elaborate scale was the later type headboard of the Royal Scot, which had lettering in white on a tartan background and a shield projecting from the top bearing a red lion.Asbestos 100

A specially made headboard, celebrating the centenary of the Hawthorn Leslie  loco – Asbestos.

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