Strategic steam reserve

A Strategic steam reserve (SSR) is a collection of withdrawn steam locomotives which is kept in working order for possible use in a national emergency. During the Cold War several countries, including Sweden and the Soviet Union, kept SSRs.

Need for a SSR

Many European railways have a large mileage which is electrified. In the event of a war, or major natural disaster, electricity supplies could be disrupted and electric locomotives would be unworkable. Diesel locomotives could also be at risk for two reasons:
# supplies of imported oil might be cut off,
# solid state components in diesel locomotives might be destroyed by the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nuclear weapon.

United Kingdom SSR

The UK did not officially have a SSR. The UK government did discuss the matter in the 1960s but decided against it. Possible reasons include:
# Britain has a smaller electrified mileage than most European countries,
# the first generation of British Railways diesel locomotives had no solid state components and would not have been vulnerable to EMP.

However, rumours persist that the UK did have a SSR at RAF Rudloe Manor [] and photographs have been published purporting to show locomotives from the SSR at work [] . The BBC radio programme "Punt PI" reported on the alleged SSR on 1 October 2008 [] .


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