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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 16 - June 1973
The Locomotive Department 1969-1973 - John Hutchings
or The impossible is done at once; miracles take a little longer!
Anticipation is sometimes better than realisation so I have heard and many of us in the Locomotive Department must have had this in mind when we moved into Quainton in April, 1969.
At long last, after years of waiting, we had our own permanent home. True, it was merely an old goods yard with absolutely no facilities but the potential was there and,most important, we actually owned it. Now we could set about restoring our locomotives to working order. In fact, not all of them had yet moved to Quainton. The Metropolitan tank, L44, was in store at Aylesbury and could not be delivered until a rail connection with BR was made, and our other 'main line' loco at that time, the Beattie, 30585, at Bishops Stortford, was not expected for at least another month.
The Executive Committee then presented us with something of a dilemma. They had decided that the Society would hold its first 'Steam Weekend' at the August Bank Holiday, just three months away! What would a 'Steam Weekend' be without locomotives in steam? But the only Society-owned steam locomotives then at Quainton comprised the Barclay saddle tank, Punch Hull, and the Aveling geared loco, Sydenham, both needing very extensive overhauls before they could work again. Even if we had the time available for this work we certainly did not have the necessary machinery and equipment. Likewise we could not expect the owners of any of the privately owned steam locos at the site to prepare them in the short time remaining before the Holiday. So what could we do?
The answer to our prayers arrived at the weekend at the end of May 1969. On Saturday 31st, Juno arrived. This Hunslet tank, of the well known Austerity type, had been purchased by our Secretary and our Chairman, Roy Miller and Peter Clarke from Stewarts & Lloyds Minerals Ltd's Market Overton Ironstone Quarries in Rutland and was in working order with a current boiler certificate. Now, at least we had one workable steam locomotive!
On the next day the same low loader that brought Juno delivered Sir Thomas which is illustrated on arrival. This engine, a Hudswell Clarke tank, was acquired from the Oxfordshire Ironstone Co. Ltd., where it had been used at their quarries at Wroxton, near Banbury. Although out of service for several years, Sir Thomas had been kept under cover and well greased and was in far better order than any of the Society's other locos at that time. It was therefore decided to put Sir Thomas into working order for the 'Steam Weekend' to work with Juno.
The Beattie tank arrived on 9th May and although it was impossible to have her ready for August we started preliminary work on her for the 1970 season.
By now there were only twelve weeks left and Sir Thomas did not have a valid boiler certificate! In the short period prior to the "Steam Weekend" we had to strip the boiler right off for a thorough inspection, give it a hydraulic test and finally reassemble it for a steam test. Some job!
Throughout June and July work went on in earnest for the inspection. Roy and Peter also had to have an annual thorough inspection on Juno which she passed with flying colours. At long last, on 10th August, the insurance inspector applied the hydraulic test to Sir Thomas and declared the boiler fit for use. Work now reached fever pitch to get all the fittings and lagging back for the steam test. While all this boiler work was going on other members were busy tending the paintwork to ensure she was a credit to the Society. At weekends and on weekday evenings the work went on. One or two members even spent their holidays on this job. On 21st August, with only seven days to go, Sir Thomas was lit up for the first time at Quainton. As the steam pressure rose we were all on tenterhooks. Would everything stand the strain? Would the injectors work? In the event all went well, and after a few test runs up and down the long siding, the fire was dropped and we spent the next week awaiting the great occasion, our first "Steam Weekend", with a mixture of confidence and anxiety.
When the day came everything - well, almost everything - went like clockwork. On the Saturday Sir Thomas worked the inaugural train and breasted the ceremonial ribbon in great style. We were in business! Throughout the weekend Sir Thomas and Juno worked turn and turn about and on the Sunday and Monday afternoons long queues formed for rides behind real steam locomotives. In the October open days the same trusty couple worked the services and then, at the close of the event, boilers were drained and the motions greased for the winter.
On reflection I doubt if, twelve months before, any of us would have believed we could have achieved what we had done in the few weeks available. It had been a real team effort, not only on the loco side but in all departments. Nevertheless, the loco position was not at all secure. We had no reserves; we needed more motive power and we had no illusions! Those queues of waiting passengers endorsed the need to run two trains at the same time but this would require at least one more workable and reliable locomotive. Although the work on 30585 had started, her eight years of storage and disuse had taken their toll and it seemed unlikely that she could be made ready for service until mid 1970 at best.
As it turned out, the winter of 1969/70 brought many surprises on the motive power front that partly solved our problems. How these came about and our further progress will be related in another instalment of the 'History of the Locomotive Department'.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 21 October 2017