The first known reference to the Cambridge-Ipswich footex is in The Railway Observer, May 1972 issue, where it says: “the 12.47 Cambridge-Ipswich, 2G07, was locomotive hauled on two Saturdays during March, a class 31 and seven coaches being used on both 4th and 18th. 5566 was the locomotive concerned on the latter date”. The first direct linkage of the locomotive haulage to football is in the December 1973 issue, which says: “On 6th October 5859 (FP) was in charge of the 12.48 Cambridge-Ipswich (locomotive hauled SO when Ipswich Town are playing at home)”.
Providing locomotive hauled trains for Ipswich Town home matches in this way may go back before 1972: Ipswich Town were promoted back into League Division 1 in 1968, so the practice may have begun then. From the 1972/73 season the train was usually formed of a GN set of coaches hauled by a Finsbury Park based class 31, this coming to an end in February 1978, when locomotive hauled trains between Cambridge and Kings Cross finished. From then on GE coaches were used, usually hauled by March or Stratford based locomotives.
The last season that the Cambridge-Ipswich footex ran was 1985/86, Ipswich Town being relegated out of League Division 1 at the end of that season. From a rail enthusiast’s point of view, however, the 1983/84 and 1984/85 seasons were the most interesting, because the Cambridge-Ipswich footex was the most accessible opportunity to experience steam heat in East Anglia during those two winters. In these three seasons the Cambridge-Ipswich leg was usually an additional train, running in front of the DMU formed service train, but the return running as a loco hauled vice DMU substitution.
A summary of the dates that the Cambridge-Ipswich footex ran, and the locomotives used, in each of the 1983/84, 1984/85 and 1985/86 seasons, can be viewed by clicking the links below or to the left.
If you have any further information, to fill any gaps, or on Cambridge-Ipswich footexes of earlier years, please send it to Peter Hall.
Thanks to various data sources, notably the Soccerbase website for providing dates of matches played by Ipswich Town.
MisterC – December 2020
Page maintained by Peter Hall.