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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 19 - Spring 1974
The Locomotive Department, 1969-1973 - Part Two - Turning Point by John Hutchings
Our first winter at the Quainton Road site was quite eventful. The only steamable Society loco was Sir Thomas. Work on the Beattie was progressing very slowly but it seemed feasible to have her in service by mid-summer if all went to plan. This meant that for Easter 1970 Open days we would still only have two steam locos, Sir Thomas and Juno.
However, fate took a hand with the arrival of a letter from London Transport. Some time previously the Loco Sub-Committee had drawn up a list of engines it would like to add to the Society's collection. One of these had been a GWR Pannier Tank of which eight were still, at that time, in service with London Transport. We had accordingly written to LT expressing our interest. Now, out of the blue, tender documents arrived for two Panniers which were to be sold.
Well , of course we were very interested but as usual the Society had no spare funds available, nor were they likely to have the money for some time to come! Anyway, there was no harm in going to inspect the Panniers on offer even if we could not tender for one. In due course a contingent from the Loco Dept called at LTs Lillie Bridge depot in West London where both Panniers Nos. L89 and L99 were located. It became obvious that both were in very good condition; indeed they were still in regular use. The only reason for their impending withdrawal was that both were due for hydraulic boiler tests and LT did not consider that the work involved in stripping the boilers was justified. Diesel replacements were due in two years and there were other Panniers that could fill the breach until then. Obviously this was a golden opportunity for the Society to acquire a Pannier in good order if only the money could be raised.
Once more fate stepped in. A member, who still wishes to remain anonymous, was very keen for the Society to have a Pannier tank as it was obvious such a chance would not come again. He therefore generously agreed to offer to the Society the purchase price in the form of an interest free loan. Such an offer was a magnificent gesture and one we gladly took up. Accordingly a tender was placed with LT for L.99, which we considered marginally the better of the two. Two weeks passed and at last another letter arrived from LT giving the glad news that our tender had been accepted. Arrangements were made for transport and L.99 was moved from Lillie Bridge to Neasden for loading up. It is interesting to note that when the low-loading collected L.99 she was still warm(1) having been in use right up to the night before. After arrival at Quainton on New Years Day, 1970, a steam test was quickly arranged and the insurance company agreed to our using the Pannier at Easter providing we carried out a hydraulic test as soon as possible afterwards.
We now had three steamable loco's for Easter! Just two weeks before the Open days Ron Mitchells Hudswell Clarke tank loco arrived from Millom and as she was in steamable condition that made a total of four! As 1970 was the first year we had an Easter Open day event we were not sure what sort of attendance to expect so early in the year. Little did we expect that we were to have more visitors than ever before and our extra motive power was to come in very useful. For the first time we had 'two-train running' this being possible as the ex GNR six-wheeler coach had arrived from Bishops Stortford and had been repainted by Loco-Department 'volunteers'. The 'big three', Sir Thomas, Juno and L-99 worked on the train, two at a time during the Sunday and Monday afternoons, and Millom gave footplate rides in the short siding, which proved to be a popular attraction.
After Easter, the Pannier was withdrawn for a hydraulic test but a number of setbacks occurred which kept her out of service until mid-1971. Traffic at the Spring Bank Holiday 1970, therefore, was in the hands of Sir Thomas and Juno, assisted by Millom on occasions. Whilst the Pannier had been a welcome aid at Easter the Beattie was still our first priority and at long last on the July Steam Weekend 1970, 30585 re-entered service and could be seen steaming again for the first time in nearly eight years. A great deal of hard 'graft' had gone into 30585 to get her workable again and I don't think anybody who saw her that weekend didn't think it had been very worthwhile. Although not yet in first class order she acquitted herself very well and gave much pleasure to those who had waited to long to see her at work once more.
The overall position in midsummer 1970 was that we now had two workable steam locos, Sir Thomas and 30585, with five others still awaiting 'attention'. Of these, 7715 (as L.99 had now become), was now having top priority as she required the least work doing on her, L.44, and Tom Parry were still in store at Aylesbury so we couldn't do much on them yet; Punch Hull and Sydenham were both 'long term' cases but in view of the lack of smaller loco's at that time some work was started on Punch Hull with Andrew Bratton and Peter Hoskins in overall command.
The rest of the operating season was completed with Sir Thomas and 30585, helped out by Juno, Ron Mitchell having now started rebuilding work on his Millom. So, once again we drained out for the winter, with one more steamable loco than at the same time in 1969 but with hopes for more in 1971. Just before the onset of winter a number of items arrived, L-44 and Tom Parry from Aylesbury, together with most of our coaches and goods stock which gave the site quite a cramped appearance but it did even up the balance of engines to rolling stock somewhat. About this time we received news that an engine in which we had been interested for some time was about to be put up for tender!
This was the North British Loco Co., side tank, Coventry No. 1, located at Newdigate Colliery, Nuneaton. A few days later, tender documents arrived from the NCB for a number of steam locomotives including Coventry No. 1. A group of Society members went to Newdigate to see what sort of condition the loco was in, though previous scouting missions some months earlier had suggested she was very sound. A thorough inspection confirmed this and revealed that it had been reboilered by Hunslets in 1961 and had done very little work since. The only defect found was badly worn eccentric straps which could be rectified quite easily, even if expensively!
Well, it was the Pannier story all over again! A good sound loco which would be an asset to the Society in years to come, and a rare make which was worth preservation. We must have it!
The Society, therefore, forced itself to tender for the loco, though some members of the Committee needed forcing more than others! In order to offset the large sum involved it was agreed that as many members as possible be approached to contribute a small sum weekly for a period of two years and so try to 'buy' the loco for the Society. Response to this appeal was very good and although not all the money was raised in this way a large proportion was collected. Needless to say, the NCB did accept our tender and in January 1971 the NBL arrived at Quainton. The eccentrics were then removed for treatment and the boiler prepared for hydraulic test etc.
The winter of 1970/1 soon passed and the Easter Open Days were drawing near. The Loco Department were quite confident and planned to have 30585, Sir Thomas and Juno in steam; the Pannier was not complete but three engines should suffice. Alas! Fate stepped in again, but this time not in our favour! A few weeks before Easter, Sir Thomas and 30585 were lit up to check everything was OK before the holidays. It soon became clear that all was not well with Sir Thomas's tubes and we could not use him at the Open Days. So, once again, and we hope for the last time, we were down to two serviceable steam locos, our oldest and our youngest, 30585 and Juno. These partners worked side by side at Easter 1971 and saved the day. A restricted timetable had to be operated but disaster was averted and nobody realised the situation we were in, except the boys in the Loco Department! 30585 must have earned many an honest penny in her main line career but she never was needed more than for those three days in April 1971.
Looking back, there is no doubt that this was our turning point. From that time a gradual improvement came about as we learned to make better use of our available manpower and resources, whereas before we were only just keeping abreast of events. Work on the new motive power, 7715 and Coventry No. 1 was going well and we knew that these two engines, once in sound condition, would give us many years of service. Furthermore, there was yet another loco for the Society 'in the pipeline' and some of the privately owned tank engines were, at last, nearing steamable condition. We still had the rest of 1971 to get through but there was little doubt that we were now at the End of the Beginning.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 28 October 2017