132 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces From Chasewater News January 1991 Pssst – Wanna buy a steam loco? – Ian Newbold

132Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces

From Chasewater News January 1991

Pssst – Wanna buy a steam loco? – Ian Newbold

There I was sitting in the Holloway pub, Birmingham, enjoying a Thursday evening drink with a group of fellow gricers, better known as ’You lot Tours’ (where are you lot off to next?), when a wall known Chasewater member turned around and asked me if I wanted to buy a loco.  I will admit to being somewhat surprised, not that surprised that I was put off my beer mind you; it’s just that it’s not something that had ever crossed my mind, its being the sort of thing that someone else does.

Anyway, after a few weeks thinking about it and actually seeing the loco, which turned out to be ‘Lion’, I had a problem.  If I decided against it, I would probably regret it later on in life, and if I decided to buy it, I (and/or my bank manager) would also probably end up regretting it but for different reasons.  In this sort of heads you win, tails I lose situation, my parents were against me wasting my money on such a project but on the other hand, my girlfriend (now my wife) didn’t scream when I tentatively raised the subject, in fact she seemed quite relieved, having been wondering why I had been so pensive over the previous weeks.

So the decision was made, and after parting with my hard scrimped savings I became the owner of one slightly derelict Peckett.  My parents, still thinking I was mad, probably are not that far off the mark.

Writing about a loco which has had so many owners during its spell in preservation is something of a minefield, probably most other people know more about ‘Lion’ than I do, so I beg their indulgence for any ‘goof-ups’ which follow.

‘Lion’ was built by Peckett & Sons of Bristolas works number 1351 of Class E, completed  on 8th August, 1914.  It is an 0-4-0 saddle tank with 15 inch diameter by 21 inch stroke cylinders working at 160 lbs./sq. inch (originally 180 lbs./sq. inch as built) generating 16,810 lbs. tractive effort or 448 hp at 10 mph (as built with the higher boiler pressure).

‘Lion’ was supplied new to the Royal Arsenal Railway, Woolwich,London, where according to the very scant records now in existence at theArmyTransportMuseum,Beverly, the name ‘Lion’ originated.  From a very poor reproduction of a photograph taken at Woolwich it can be seen that it was here that the unusual shaped rear cab window originated.  The loco also carried a bell (steam operated?) and a water tank gauge on its left-hand side, just forward of the spectacle plate.

At this point I would like to digress slightly to talk about the railway systems of Woolwich.  In 1824 a primitive narrow gauge tramway system using horse or human propulsion was started, the various departments operating their own traffic.  It seems that the standard gauge first put in an appearance in 1870, initially as mixed gauge track.  A standard gauge connection from near Plumstead through a hole in the arsenal’s defensive wall was installed in 1876, initially worked by the SER.  The first standard gauge loco appeared in 1890 and from then until 1918 the standard gauge system of the RAR expanded to over 120 miles of track.  The early system of each department maintaining its own stock and organising its own traffic movements left something to be desired, and it fell to the Royal Engineers, initially responsible for track maintenance, to maintain and operate the system.  After the 10th Railway Company RE returned to Woolwich in 1885, it was arranged that the RAT should be used as a transport training centre, a function it fulfilled until the Woolwich instructional (later Longmoor Military) Railway took over these duties.  The RAR came under civilian control in 1921.

A passenger service was operated on the standard gauge during the First World War and diesel traction started to appear in 1939.  The standard gauge railway extended outside the arsenal perimeter with a connection to the Royal Dockyard, which was used as a WD store, and extensive sidings on the Plumstead and Erith Marshes.  The traffic required the use of gun ‘sleighs’ of up to 170 tons, and up until 1946 two barges called ’GOG’ and ‘MAGOG’, which were fitted with railway tracks, were used to carry guns between Woolwich and Shoeburyness gun ranges.

The narrow gauge had mostly gone after a 1923 decision to limit its use solely to feeding certain magazines.  The last narrow gauge loco to be delivered was an articulated Hunslet diesel built in 1954.  The last narrow gauge loco left in 1959, and by late 1960 the narrow gauge had been abandoned, although the last of the stock was not disposed of until 1971.  The standard gauge line to the Royal Dockyard closed in 1949 and the last standard gauge diesel left in 1967.  Nothing now remains of the Royal Arsenal Railway, much of the area now being factory or housing estates.

‘Lion’ was sold from Woolwich in 1950, from which it may be deduced that it was probably rendered surplus by the closure of the link to the Royal Dockyard.  G>E>Simms (Machinery)Ltd. then sold the 36 year-old loco to the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company where it became their No.2.

The Wallsend Slipway Co. was formed in 1871 with works  situated on the north bank of the River Tyne, and was served by a branch from theNERa quarter mile east of Point pleasant Station.  The firm later became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swan Hunter Group.  In 1959 the loco was converted to burn light fuel oil, and in 1964/5 it was given a major overhaul after which it saw comparatively little use.  Railway traffic ceased at Wallsend in 1972 after which the loco came to Chasewater.

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