Colliery and Paddy Train – Part 2
The Paddy train service was withdrawn in about 1955 when the coaches had all fallen into a poor state of repair. However, pressure from the miners’ union saw the service restored in 1958 when an LNWR six compartment brake third was purchased from British Railways.
This coach seated 72 persons and must have sufficed for the next few years. However, with increasing car ownership and improved bus services the necessity for a Paddy train was no longer there and the service was withdrawn – this time for good. The only photograph I have seen of this period with the ex-LNWR coach is with ‘Progress’, a Peckett built ex Swansea Harbour Trust loco at the head. The RPS purchased the LNWR coach from the National Coal Board in 1964; the cost was just £15.
By the time I got to know the colliery myself (from 1968 onwards) the line from the pit to Littleworth had been lifted for some years and the days when the Cannock & Rugeley best deep coal from the Ripper Deep seam went down to the canal basin at Hednesford would never return. Sadly the only one of the old CRC locos extant is ‘Cannock Wood’, the old London, Brighton & South Coast Railway E1 0-6-0T, originally named ‘Burgundy’.
‘Cannock Wood’ in Southern Railway livery.
This loco was purchased buy the company in 1926 and remained a favourite with the men until a boiler inspector pronounced her as unfit for further use in 1964. The company bought her from the Southern Railway for £850 and the National Coal Board realised £240 for her when the RPS acquired her in 1964. Unfortunately she marred her stay at Cannock Wood when she ran over a little girl on the road crossing outside the colliery.
The last steam loco at Cannock Wood was ‘Wimblebury’ a 1956 built Hunslet Austerity who had her last days of glory in 1970 when, with the English Electric diesel away at Newton-le-Willows for repair, she handled most of the traffic that summer with a little help from ‘Topham’,
the Bagnall 0-6-0ST temporarily transferred from West Cannock and Hem Heath No.1, a Bagnall post-war built 0-6-0ST which only actually steamed for about two weeks. With the return of the diesel, the three steamers retired to the shed.
‘Hem Heath No.1’
After some months passed ‘Topham’ returned to West Cannock and ‘Hem Heath No.1’ went back to the Stoke area. ‘Wimblebury‘ was only steamed for an ‘Open Day’ in 1972 when rides were given in the yard on a gaudily painted wagon. This wagon went back into the shed with ‘Wimblebury’ and most of its upper planks found their way into the shed furnace during the 1973 winter.
Coal production which had been falling steadily had by 1973 almost ceased altogether and what was being lifted was of poor quality. It was no surprise to the men who worked there when the decision to close was announced, thus bringing 112 years of mining to an end.
The last coal was mined at 2.00pm on Friday, June 8th 1973, and the last coal to leave by rail was a train of slack fro British Leyland at Longbridge, which left at 11.35am on Friday, June 22nd, behind the diesel with the familiar ex-LMS 20 ton brake van n tow. I was privileged to ride down on the loco and returned with the loco and brake van.
The English Electric loco with the brake van.
The diesel and brake van were transferred away to Littleton but the diesel did not stay long here as she went to Lea Hall within a few weeks. ‘Wimblebury’ was sold for preservation, being moved to Foxfield in September 1973. (She has visited Chasewater on a couple of occasions for Gala Weekends).‘Wimblebury’ at Chasewater.
Many wagons remained after closure, including one of Taff Vale Railway origin which was sold to the Great Western Society and now resides at Didcot. Six wagons and the unusual brake van (possibly a special for the colliery), went to Ironbridge for the open air museum. The six-wheeled LMS van owned by Wagon Repairs Ltd. remained full of tools and wagon spares but eventually vanished during a few months earlier this year (1975/76) when I was unable to get to the place for a look around.
All the wagons went by last year (1975, the last and most interesting example being of North Birmingham Railway origin, the rest were mainly GWR or LMS with a couple of Midland Railway examples.
The slotted post signal continued to guard the crossing until removed to Chasewater in September 1975, where it has been re-erected. As the line it stood beside was of LNWR construction it is reasonable to assume that the signal is genuine LNWR, considering its age it is in a fine state of preservation.
The slotted signal at Cannock Wood in 1966
Through the good offices of Mr. Boonham, the Colliery Engineer, we were able to obtain several loco drawings, including some of the original Lilleshall ones, as well as Avonside, Bagnall and Hunslet ones.
The other item of steam interest left, the horizontal engine built in 1873 by Black Hawthorn of Gateshead for operating the fans on the ventilating shaft, has also gone for preservation, at Beamish, County Durham.
English Electric Diesel loco – Driver Tommy Cross – Last coal train from Cannock Wood