A PARTY will be held at the railway station and interchange this summer to mark 50 years since the last day of steam in Bolton.

On June 29 1968, LMS locomotive 45629 rolled out of Bolton loco sheds in Crescent Road, Great Lever - and became the final working steam service to operate from the town.

Half a century later, a community gala featuring stalls, live music, street theatre and a showcase of Bolton’s new trains has been organised by Arriva Trains employee Professor Paul Salveson – whom, aged 15, rode aboard the footplate that fateful day 50 years ago.

“Me and some friends used to help clean the engines in the sheds,” he remembered.

“I was aboard with the driver, Tommy Sammon, and the Fireman was Malcolm Frost, who still drives engines on the East Lancashire Railway.

“A friend of mine created a headboard for the front of the engine out of an old bed head.

“The engine was on a freight run, but there was a guardsman’s strike that day.

“When we got to Patricroft we couldn’t pull the train without a guard, so we just spent the day driving on the lines around Manchester.”

Mr Frost has been invited to attend the event at Bolton station and interchange on Saturday, June 30, which is being co-ordinated by a new organisation called Bolton Station Community Development Partnership.

The partnership includes Northern, Network Rail, Transport for Greater Manchester, Bolton Council, Bolton University, Bolton at Home, Octagon Theatre, Bolton School, Bolton CVS, community groups and businesses.

Vicky Cropper from Northern said: “We want to mark a major anniversary in our railway heritage but also showcase rail’s positive role in the community, as a sustainable and accessible form of transport.

“We are keen to hear from a wide range of community groups and local businesses. Current plans include music, poetry, face-painting, stalls, food, an exhibition on Bolton’s railway history and a vintage bus giving tours around the town.

“We are also hoping to have a miniature steam railway giving rides for kids.”

The event will also feature activities in the new interchange, which is connected to the railway station by the ‘Sky Walk’ which will have photographic displays and art work.

Plans are being made for a pre-gala event on the Friday evening, June 29, with a talk and film show about Bolton’s railway past.

The last day of steam in Bolton came just two months before the end of the line for steam engines in the UK, when the final mainline rail passenger train to be hauled by a steam locomotive ran from Liverpool via Manchester to Carlisle and back on August 11.

Known as the ‘fifteen guinea special’ because it cost £15 and 15s in pre-decimal currency to ride aboard (equivalent to £250 today), it was hauled at various stages by three black fives, as well as Britannia Class 70013 Oliver Cromwell, along a route packed with enthusiasts.

The end of steam was an emotional time for thousands of people across the country – many around Bolton – involved in designing, building and maintaining the UK’s steam engines.

The former Horwich loco works site is soon to be occupied by a houses, while The Sheddings housing estate now sits on the site of Bolton's Crescent Road loco sheds, which closed officially the day after Paul's footplate ride on June 30.

Professor Salveson, who chairs the new partnership, added: “Bolton has a great railway history which stretches as far back as 1828.

“As a local rail enthusiast I can remember with sadness when steam ended at the sheds.

“Today, Bolton station is as busy as it has ever been and this year we hope to see electric trains running to Manchester and Blackpool.

“There’s a lot to celebrate and there are some great ideas developing for how we can make Bolton station a real community hub for the town.”

If your group is interested in being involved in the gala, contact Laura Calvert at laura.calvert@northernrailway.co.uk or ring Paul Salveson on 07795 008691.