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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 42 - Autumn / Winter 1980 / 81
Kerr Stuart / Hunslet 0-4-0DM No. K4428 Redland
The Diesel - by Nimbus
In May 1968 the locomotive sub-committee of the LRPS (the forerunner of the Quainton Railway Society) held its first 'planning' meeting. At that time we were still based at Luton and Bishops Stortford, but Quainton Road was a goal now within our reach. So, as it was confirmed that we had a future and secure site, we decided we had better start planning for it! The final business on the agenda at that mammoth meeting was 'future acquisitions', which amounted to drawing up a list of locomotives considered suitable for our expanded field of activities at Quainton. To digress slightly, I remember that this list was considered wildly optimistic, including such things as an ex-GWR Pannier tank from London Transport, a North British side tank from NCB Warwickshire and sundry industrial locomotives by Hawthorn Leslie, Peckett and Sentinel , etc. Well, as our stock book reveals, nearly everything on that list eventually found its way to Quainton! But, back to the subject.
Right at the bottom of this catalogue of 'desirable acquisitions' was something of an afterthought, listed simply as 'diesel loco'. This had been added because it was considered useful to have a diesel for shunting the steam engines and also for Permanent Way duties. By the time we had reached this final item on the agenda it was very late into the night, the pubs had long since closed and the coffee pot was empty (some things haven't changed much in twelve years!). Whilst the assembled sub-committee had plenty of ideas for steam power, no one seemed to have any suggestions for a diesel and a period of head scratching and staring at the ceiling ensued. However, your scribe has always had an interest in early diesel locos (some would say any diesel loco, but I digress again), and suggested to the meeting that we should enquire after the unique Kerr Stuart diesel at the nearby Kempston Hardwick Brickworks of Messrs. Redlands. "It's out of use and we might get it for a very reasonable sum", I foolishly said. "Well", replied the chairman, "as you obviously know so much about it, you can have the job of enquiring about it; meeting now closed!" After kicking myself out of the door and vowing to keep my mouth SHUT in future, a suitable letter was drafted and sent to Kempston to see if the loco was for disposal.
A few days later a reply was received from Redlands Head Office at Horsham, to whom Kempston had forwarded our enquiry. This confirmed that the loco was indeed out of use and available at the scrap price of £100. It was, however, suggested that they might donate it to us, but this would have to be a board decision. Well, we were naturally very keen on the latter suggestion and, after another letter had been sent which outlined the Society's aims and emphasized the need to concentrate our financial resources on the Quainton project, Redlands generously agreed to donate it to us - provided we arranged and paid for the removal. This was a most welcome gesture and, as soon as I could fix a day off work, arrangements were made to view the loco.
On 2nd October 1968 I duly presented myself at Kempston Hardwick and met the Works Manager, Mr Green. He was very helpful and, after outlining our Society's aims and ambitions, I was handed over to the Works Engineer, Mr Crowsley, who took me over to the loco shed which, somewhat naturally, was a well-built structure in brick! It appeared the loco had finished work some 18 months ago and the rail connection to the British Railways Bletchley to Bedford line had been severed shortly afterwards. A thorough examination of the loco revealed that it was in fair order, The prime mover was a Ruston 5VPH five-cylinder diesel engine which had been fitted at Kempston in 1946. The engine was started by air from a reservoir mounted vertically in the cab. Air for this came from a small Ruston petrol-compressor unit which had to be started by hand.
In due course, it was agreed that a working party of Society members could visit the works one Sunday to check the loco over in more detail. Accordingly, on Sunday 17th November 1968, a small convoy of cars, containing nearly all the working members at Luton Depot, descended on the Brickworks armed with tools, diesel fuel and much else besides. The petrol-compressor, or donkey engine (as it soon became christened), was carefully checked and all oil levels topped up. Unfortunately, the donkey lived up to its nickname by being cantankerous and refusing to start. Even after extensive 'treatment', we were unable to coax any life from the infernal machine and we finally left in the dark, somewhat despondent, but a lot wiser about Ruston engines!
The following weekend our internal combustion expert, Dick Hall, arrived on site and applied suitable remedial measures to the donkey and soon it burst into life and began charging the air reservoir. Full pressure was soon reached and, with much trepidation, the main air valve to the diesel engine was opened. The shed rapidly filled with thick brown smoke, which made it difficult to see out of doors. As the air was turned off, the diesel engine died as well - it was obvious we had problems here too. "It's the fuel pump", said Dick , after the air had cleared somewhat. After some deliberation, it was agreed to remove the fuel pump for overhaul during the coming week.
Back at Kempston the following Sunday we all waited with baited breath as Dick re-assembled the newly overhauled pump and carefully primed the fuel system. The donkey once again charged the air reservoir, the air valve was opened, and sure enough the Ruston coughed into action with only a little smoke from the exhaust - success at last, what a change from last week! After carefully oiling the chains, axleboxes and brake rigging, the clutch was dropped and with a 'toot' on the whistle the yellow peril rumbled out of his shed for the first time in LRPS ownership. Having made sure all was well, a tour of the Brickworks rail system followed and it was a contented band of members who returned the loco to its shed later that afternoon. Now we had at least one Society loco in working order and one that would be of great use to us in the forthcoming move to Quainton.
After this memorable day, we made regular visits to Kempston every few weeks, to run up the engine and generally tidy up our pride and joy. Arthur Nutter's photograph shows the loco outside the shed at Kempston on one such occasion in December 1968 during a snowstorm!
When we moved into Quainton, in April 1969, the diesel was the first Society loco to arrive, so that it could assist with the unloading of the steam locos arriving from Luton. Apart from a few occasions when it has been laid up for attention to axleboxes or clutch, it has worked faithfully for us since then. Surely no other Society loco has done so much work for us at Quainton for so little an outlay as our diesel, yet it is ignored by the majority of visitors and not a few members! Hopefully, in the fullness of time, it will be possible to give this pioneer loco a thorough rebuild - possibly restoring it to something nearer to its original appearance.
The Society's thanks are due to Redlands for realising what a historic locomotive they had at Kempston Hardwick and making it available to us as a gift, at a time when the significance of early diesel locomotives was not as generally realised as it is now. Having been involved with many loco preservation schemes, both before and since, I can honestly say that the preservation of this humble loco was one of the most satisfying projects of them all and provides a suitable point to conclude this article.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 17 November 2017