2A23/1A23/1A02  remembered.


Euston over the years has seen much classic power depart on passenger trains but probably the most exotic powered  train of them all in more recent times was 2A23/1A23/1A02 also known as the “The Milk Empties”…

Running early on Mon-Sun ahead of any early service trains this was a classic night train running non advertised, being primarily for mail, papers and staff. It called at stations that saw no other loco hauled activity; all under the cover of darkness with a consist  of vans plus an ageing dual heat BSK for passenger accommodation. Legendary!


The  trains-The 0350 Euston-Bletchley (2A23)


            The 0350 Euston-Bletchley was locally known as the “Milk Empties” showing it must have run for many years.  Running as a non advertised staff train with some parcels and paper traffic  the 3 coach BSK/BG/NPV consist would normally arrive on the DS at Leighton between 0505-0510. Early running was commonplace! The train broke the early morning silence on arrival, hugely atmospheric!

            With just 1 or 2 staff aboard Jock would normally join you in the compo fresh off his night shift at Leighton station. With the rapid acceleration of this short formation train always noticeable the journey from Leighton to Bletchley was brief and nearly always in dull light.

            At Bletchley the stock would be shunted into the Field Sidings, On Mons-Fridays the loco would then run light to Northampton to work a morning Cobbler, or return South light. On Saturdays the loco would be parked up as spare for the weekend to assist with any failures forward from Bletchley. The stock was normally returned South on the rear of the Curzon Street-Euston vans.

            On Mon-Fri 2A23 was a fairly solid roarer turn although it became more canny in it’s later years, For a spell in 84-85 the Saturday 2A23 loco saw regular workings by the rarish 86’0 sub class. In the cuts associated with the loss of the paper contract and other privatisation farces saw 2A23 lost to railway history in May 88. 

            The redundant BSK from 2A23 saw renewed life as “Clarie” in the 2 coach rake based at Bletchley for frequent DMU substitutions.


1A23/2A23  0350 Euston-Bletchley (NA) E350 VB (Monday-Saturday)


Euston             0350


Queens Pk        A 0358

                       D 0358     

West Lon Jn         0401


Wembley C     A  0406          

                        D 0406

Harrow            A  0410

                        D  0411

Watford Jn      A  0419

                        D  0423

Hemel H         A  0430

                        D  0440

Berko              A  0445

                        D  0446

Tring               A  0451

                     D   0501

L.Buzzard       A   0511         

                        D   0512

Bletchley         A  0523


The 0235 Sun Euston-Bletchley (1A02/1A23/2A23)


The 0235 Euston-Bletchley was a “newspaper and staff train” running at a very early hour bringing Sunday papers to local stations. Like the Mon-Sat train an ageing BSK was the passenger accommodation, and it was often steam heated. This was the last of the procession of paper trains leaving Euston on Saturdays nights and Sunday mornings. For some years vans were detached at Watford for unloading and picked up as the empties (4A49 0530 Bletchley-Camden) returned South. The train got many, many “roarers” and “cans” over the years.

Booked Sunday morning ole isolations saw frequent diesel haulage and Control did attempt to find a boler fitted loco to work the train but post 1984 this became near impossible as steam heat boilers were isolated big time. Many boiler equipped 25’s worked the train over the years, and a few 31’s (and 45’0’s?) have steamed the train.  Non boilered 25/31/37/45/47 have also allegedly featured in later years, adding to this train’s legendary local status.


2A23 0235 Euston-Bletchley Passenger and News (NA) E350 Sun


Euston             0235


Queens Pk        A 0242

                       D 0243     

West Lon Jn         02X47


Wembley C     A  0251          

                      D    0253

Harrow            A  0258

                        D  0259

Watford Jn      A  0306

                        D  0314

Hemel H         A  0322

                        D  0323

Berko              A  0328

                        D  0333

Tring               A  0338

                     D   0346

L.Buzzard       A 0358           

                        D   0405

Bletchley         A   0417


A Steaming Sunday Papers, Sunday March 25th 1984


            Leaving my Linslade flat just after 0100 I heard an unusual sound. Running to the mid steps I viewed the outrageous sight of a class 50 departing Leighton with a rake of Mk I’s. This was 50009 on the return Penzance-Bletchley 1Z37 LNER Charter. 85019 had done the outward leg but this morning’s isolation meant the return leg was through diesel from Penzance!

            A short wait at Leighton with the “Axeman” also producing, we discussed what rat the “Milk Empties” we may get and if the guard would let us on his non advertised service. A few minutes down we joined a surprisingly busy Class 110 DMU on the 0015 Birmingham-Euston. 53439/53425 had taken over from a 310 at Bletchley.

            After a rattle and roll down the WCML we bailed at a deserted Watford Jn where the platform subway was eerily empty. The overnight clock change had cut in at 0200, so our 110 had managed to leave Leighton at 0146 and arrive Watford at 0330! We sought shelter in the “Pagoda” at the South end of the DF platform.

            The first movement saw 50009 thrashing South with the LNER ECS, closely followed by Slimline 33205 with SAGA ECS. 205 had worked a Folkestone-Rugby SAGAEX late on Saturday night and the Southern Empties were being returned home.

            The first van train viewed was 1A22 the 0215 (GMT) Euston-Hemel Vans which stormed though a little late with 31105. “More chance of a rat” both me and Tony commentated. Not far behind a rat rounded the corner with 2A23. A few highly suspect looking punks detrained from the leading, steaming BSK and we joined the only empty but cold compo. The guard came down to ask where we were bound and we then sat back and relaxed to the sounds of a steaming rat thrashing through Watford tunnel on a load 5 BSK/NCV consist.

Lengthy stops at Hemel, Berko and Tring followed where the papers were unloaded. We set back a coach length at Tring to align the van with the road exit ramp. On arrival at Leighton Albert in overhauls was signalling to draw forward as we slowed for us to “get out.” Our bash over I returned to the flat (which overlooked the line), jumping into bed there was just time to look at the rat heading off to Bletchley. Unforgettable memories!


2A23 was recoded 1A23 from 14/5 84 but retained Passenger And News consist. It was lost to us all with the cessation of the newspaper contract in May 88 ( a class 31’4 worked the last 1A23-(what a dire loco class to grace this legendary train’s last working!)  .. When booked for diesel haulage classes 31 did regularly operate. 31222 of CW retained it’s xb status until 1986 and regularly featured on the train.  I last bashed the train on 29/6/86, after hassle from the new station Bert I needed “leg up” assistance from a PW man to join the BSK behind the massive 25109 as it was way off the end of the platform at Leighton!. A loud daylight run was sheer hell but I didn’t have my camera on which may have been the last 25 hauled “service” train off Leighton, as rodents were rarer by then. 

The train was allocated 25313 on the freezing morning of 18/1/87 and me and Mr Evans made the effort to wander down to Leighton for 0400 with temperatures of –10 and much snow. Graham, our sociable station night shift Bert  was most amused, as he advised that the isolation was cancelled due to the severe low temperatures. 85023 did the honours



Sample “confirmed 1A02/1A23/2A23” gen from my notes.



4/9/82 sa

85010  0350 Euston-Bletchley                                               LB-BY

4/6/83 Sa

86031  0350 Euston-Bletchley

23/7/83 Sa

85021  0350 Euston-Bletchley                                               LB-BY

20/8/83 Sa

85024  0350 Euston-Bletchley                                               LB-BY           

10/3/84 Sa

81011  0350 Euston-Bletchley                                               LB-BL

24/3/84 Sa

86009  0350 Euston-Bletchley

25/3/84 Su

25057  0235 Euston-Bletchley 2A23 (steaming)                    WJ-LB

7/7/84 Sa

85012  0350 Euston-Bletchley

25/8/84 Sa

86001  0350 Euston-Bletchley

26/8/84 Su      

25201}            0250 Euston-Bletchley


27/8/84 Mo

31149  0350 Euston-Bletchley                                               LB-BY

1/9/84 Sa

86007  0350 Euston-Bletchley

8/9/84 Sa

86007  0350 Euston-Bletchley

29/9/84 Sa

86230  0350 Euston-Bletchley

27/10/84 Sa

86034  0350 Euston-Bletchley

1/12/84 Sa

86037  0350 Euston-Bletchley

8/12/84 Sa

81019  0350 Euston-Bletchley

22/12/84 Sa

86001  0350 Euston-Bletchley

28/12/84 Fr

81021  0350 Euston-Bletchley

29/12/84 Sa

85032  0350 Euston-Bletchley

12/1/85 Sat

85021  0350 Euston-Bletchley                      

9/2/85 Sa

85025  0350 Euston-Bletchley

23/2/85 Sat

86314    0350 Euston-Bletchley        

9/3/85 Sa

85005    0350 Euston-Bletchley                                 LB-BY

6/4/85 Sa

86036    0350 Euston-Bletchley

18/5/85 Sa

85026    0350 Euston-Bletchley                                 LB-BY

28/5/85 Tu

85017    0350 Euston-Bletchley                                 LB-BY

15/6/85 Sa

85003    0350 Euston-Bletchley

29/6/85 Sa

81011  0350 Euston-Bletchley                                   LB-BY

13/7/85 Sa

85005    0350 Euston-Bletchley                                 LB-BL

18/7/85 Thu

86324    0350 Euston-Bletchley                                 LB-BY

24/7/85 We

86420    0350 Euston-Bletchley                                 LB-BY           

31/8/85 Sa

85037   0350 Euston-Bletchley                                  LB-BY

3/9/85 Tu

86227   0350 Euston-Bletchley

21/9/95 Sa

86030   0350 Euston-Bletchley

5/10/95 Sa

81009   0350 Euston-Bletchley                                  LB-BY

12/10/85 Sa

85024   0350 Euston-Bletchley                                  LB-BY

2/11/85 Fr

81008    0350 Euston-Bletchley

17/11/85 Su

31263   0235 Euston-Bletchley                                  LB-BY

28/12/85 Sa

85012  0350 Euston-Bletchley

8/11/86 Sa

85011  0350 Euston-Bletchley

11/1/86 Sa

85009  0350 Euston-Bletchley

31/3/86 Mo

85006  0350 Euston-Bletchley                                   LB-BY

26/4/86 Sa

85007  0350 Euston-Bletchley

5/5/86 Mo

86030  0350 Euston-Bletchley

29/6/86 Su

25109  0235 Euston-Bletchley 1A02                         LB-BY

18/1/87 Su

85023  0235 Euston-Bletchley (alloc 25313-eng possession canx due frost)

11/11/87 We

85038  0350 Euston-Bletchley                                   LB-BY

(85038 0715 Northampton-Euston                             NO-EU)


1A02/1A23/2A23 phot spot


Running under the cover of darkness and travelling on a train you really shouldn’t have been on, plus personal early morning apathy means phots of this legendary train are very rare. Contributions welcome!


 25057 was steaming like this at Leighton back in March 84 after our move from Watford on 1A23. The North Norfolk railway bringing back the memories in November 2012.


Link to our final Local class 25 last workings page


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