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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 62 - Spring 1987

Peckett 0-4-0T No. 1900

Peckett in Port

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Ron Mardle - No. 1900 is dwarfed by its surroundings as it heads along Anchor Wharf towards Medway House and the Admiral's offices. One of the two vessels on the right is a paddle steam tug.

Ron Mardle - Trains cross here! A Fowler 0-4-0DM prepares a train for No. 1900 outside No. 5 covered slip at Chatham Dockyard.

During 1985 Frank Boait was approached by the North Downs Steam Railway (NDSR) for the loan of his Flying Bufferbeam Peckett 0-4-0T No. 1900. Suitable terms were agreed and so plans were made for the loco to spend a few months at the NDSR site in the former Chatham Naval Dockyard. Mike Goodwin lived near Chatham at the time and in the following pages tell us about the visit and the interesting operations in the dockyard.

The intention was for the loco to leave Quainton after the October Enthusiasts Day and to steam for an NDSR event at the end of November. In the Spring another Open Day was planned, prior to No. 1900's return to Quainton, in time for Easter. Since at the time I lived in Gravesend, which was quite handy for Chatham, I went down to help out and spent most of the time firing.

My first visit was for a press steaming. In addition to several local papers, at least one national was represented, as a picture later appeared in The Times, showing Sir Steuart Pringle leaning over the side of Frank's Peckett. Sir Steuart was Chairman of the Chatham Dockyard Historical Trust, who own the part of the dockyard in which the NDSR operated. The remainder of the yard was divided between the Chatham Dock Co. (part of Medway Ports Authority), who operated a commercial dock with a BR connection, and English Estates, whose land in the middle was being developed and the railway disconnected.

The first noticeable feature of NDSR operation was that both steam locos (the other being former naval RSH 0-4-0ST Ajax) were lit up inside the shed. This was possible because the building, known as No. 3 slip, had a vast high roof, necessary to clear the masts of small ships when in use in its original role as a covered slip way.

A former London Transport tube car was in use as the passenger train at Chatham, bar-coupled between Ajax and a Ruston diesel. We were unable to take a turn on this with No. 1900, as our loco was not fitted with the block necessary for the bar couplings. However, we were able to give demonstrations of shunting for the press and on the subsequent open days shared duties on a goods train with the Ruston.

These trains were started from an area known as the 'plate wharf and ran around a curve which turned through 90 degrees in the length of about six wagons! After rounding this 'corner' the line ran for about 100 yards along a roadway on inlaid track until joining the passenger route coming off a far more gently curved siding from the left.

At this point the connections into the slipway sheds crossed the route at right angles and to get from the goods line to the shed involved a double shunt to turn the corner. The Line then continued for about another 150 yards past the sheds on the right and a workshop on the left before curving to the left and climbing slightly around a dry dock (then in use by a private company). Still on the roadway, the railway then passed the former Captain's House and turned slightly to the right again to regain a parallel line with the river bank.

About thirty yards short of the main gate the line left the road and plunged down a steeply inclined connection to Anchor Wharf alongside the former ropewalk and stores. Trains reversed here, freight engines running round and the double ended passenger train merely setting off back again, after the token had been transferred to the other end.

During train movements flagmen were required at several places to protect us from road traffic, although some vehicles did get past. It is quite an experience rounding a blind corner with a unbraked train to find a car heading for you, but at least we had right of way!

The trackwork in the docks was interesting, as the inlaid points had only one moveable blade. With nowhere to put a clip, security was by means of a shaped plug of steel laid in the flangeway to prevent the blade moving. The only non-inlaid points we used very much were of an industrial type, the blades being about three feet long and a complete crossover between two sidings only took up the space of about three wagon lengths!

The NDSR supplied their normal Welsh coal, but, although the Peckett steamed alright on this - when working, we had some fairly long spells idle, long enough for the fire to lose its brightness, which was just regained on each run before we had to stop again. Although speeds were, of necessity, low, the loco probably ran further in a day than ever at Quainton. The climb up from Anchor Wharf was a full regulator job. Indeed, descending that bank with four or five unbraked wagons needed considerable care, since speed has to be reduced to a crawl for a sharp curve at the bottom.

Unfortunately, during the winter, the NDSR disagreed with the Dockyard Trust and were given notice to quit, so the planned Spring Open Day did not take place. The loco was steamed again though, for the benefit of the membership, before returning to Quainton as planned in the Spring of 1986.

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1987 and so does not reflect events in the 27+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

Peckett in Port - Quainton News No. 62 - Spring 1987

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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