The first, 87001, was the ‘head engine’ of a new class of 35 locomotives intended for the WCML electrification. The SLS persuaded BR to abandon its dreary no-naming policy, asking that an AC electric be named ‘Stephenson’ as part of the 1975 celebrations marking 150 years of railways in the UK, and therefore, the world. BR agreed, and the SLS presented two specially designed stainless steel nameplates for a naming ceremony held on 14 January 1976. Mr David Borwick, a top BR executive, invited SLS President, Jack Boston to do the honours. Shortly afterwards, 87001 Stephenson worked the 3.45pm Euston-Glasgow train.
Came another anniversary, 50 years since the ‘Royal Scot’ first ran, and 87001 was duly renamed Royal Scot. Accordingly, the nameplates were transferred to 87101, the pioneer thyristor locomotive. Jack Boston obliged with a second naming ceremony in Manchester Piccadilly, 12 October 1977.
Stephenson (87 101) was further adorned with two stainless steel oval plaques marking the bicentenary of George Stephenson, February 1982. One of these plaques was presented to the SLS by the Bounds Green depot manager in 1985; it is on loan to the ‘Head of Steam’ - Darlington Railway Museum.
In 1994, 87101 had a major repaint at Crewe; new brass nameplates as well as brass numbers were sponsored by the SLS, and unveiled by SLS Chairman, Ian Johnson at Crewe Works Open Day, 15 October 1994. Unfortunately, 87101 suffered a major traction motor failure and was withdrawn in April 1999; one of the brass plates was returned to the SLS and remains in their possession.
This was not to be, however, the end of the ‘Stephenson Electric’ saga. Through the generosity of Porterbrook Leasing and Virgin trains, 87001 was renamed Stephenson by Ian Johnson, 1 June 2003.
By way of marking Robert Stephenson’s bicentenary, it had two plaques added, unveiled by the new SLS Chairman, Brian Lewis, at Newcastle Central station, 1 October 2003. After 87001 was withdrawn from service in December 2005 it was added to the National Collection at the NRM, named Stephenson on one side, Royal Scot on the other, thereby continuing to honour two major symbols of railway history that it had celebrated in one way or another for a quarter of a century.
Compiled by R A S Hennessey from notes kindly supplied by Ian Johnson and Brian Lewis.