These photographs show the day more than 56 years ago that ‘mourners’ in their droves flocked from across Southend for a very sad funeral... of the last steam train.

It was March 1963 and the last steam train was facing its final journey from Shoebury Station before being broken up and thrown on the scrap heap.

Basildon Standard: Basildon Standard:

Not surprisingly, this saddest of ceremonies saw former steam train drivers, who had practically lived on the railway, come and pay their final respects.

Also present in the crowds were some schoolboy train enthusiasts who had given up hours of their free time to clean the grimy engine and to make sure it went to its final resting place looking its best, as well as current railway staff who had tears in their eyes as the engine spent its final moments on local soil.

The locomotive 42501, class 4, three cylinder type, had pulled the last steam passenger train from Fenchurch Street in London the previous June

Since then it had been stored in the dilapidated sheds at Shoebury Station, where it had collected cobwebs and grime as it awaited its final fate.

It had been running for 30 years, since 1933.

Thanks to the schoolboy railway buffs, the engine had since been cleaned and was looking spick and span as it embarked on the final journey.

The Southend Standard newspaper reported: “When it was known the engine was to be taken on its final trip half-a-dozen schoolboy railway enthusiasts were given unofficial permission from the depot master to clean the discoloured and shabby looking engine.”

One of the boys, a Southend High School pupil named Donald Mackinnon, age 15, explained he wanted to clean it for sentimental reasons.

“We thought the last engine deserved a good send off, seeing as steam engines have existed in Southend for 107 years,” he said.

“Having received permission we set to work at weekends and during out half term patching up the lining, polishing the connecting rods, wheels and sides of the tank.”

Thanks to their work the boys managed to completely change the look of the rugged engine

“Brightly painted lamps and buffers and the shining steel work added a polished look to the formerly grime and dirt covered locomotive,” praised the Standard newspapers.

Bright and early, however on a damp Wednesday in March of 1963, the boys’ pride was shunted from its unglamorous lodging (the shed) at Shoebury and prepared for its long journey to its burial grounds at Doncaster – around 160 miles away.

The water tank was filled and the coal bunker piled up with three-and-a-half tons of coal to first take the engine to March in Cambridgeshire where it was to be reloaded.

The driver for the fateful trip was 35-year-old Paddy Everett from Tilbury, who had worked on the railway for 15 years, five of them spend as a driver.

He was well aware of his responsibility of being the last steam driver in Southend

“Well this sort of thing is always nostalgic isn’t it,” he told the newspaper.

“Someone felt so sorry about it that they stole one of the number plates and a new one had to be quickly made and fitted.”

Paddy, accompanied by fireman John Nuemann of Stanford-le-Hope and foreman Bill Harper, climbed up to the footplate as fellow drivers climbed down on the tracks below to wave them off.

“There were several hoots on the whistle and as great billows of smoke lifted into the bright blue sky the last steam locomotive slowly drifted out of Shoebury with a long journey to Doncaster ahead of it, “ described the Southend Standard newspaper.

The Stanier designed engine which had been introduced in 1934 for the London Tilbury and Southend line, weighed 92 tons.

Upon reaching Doncaster, its fate was to be cut up and sold for scrap.

These were new times for the railways. On June 18, 1962 the first full electric service had commenced on the London-Southend line.

The move meant journey times for passengers were cut considerably, for example the journey time from Laindon to Fenchurch Street went from 50 minutes to 35 minutes. The romantic days of steam were over, though for many passengers, they were greatly missed.