A street tram named ‘J70’
Richard Foster discovers how a wooden-bodied ‘shed on wheels’ got street-wise to get Fen fruit and veg to markets.
Richard Foster discovers how a streetwise ‘shed on wheels’ carried Fen fruit and veg to markets.
It was a chicken and egg situation: railways had the ability to bring investment to poor rural and lightly populated areas of Britain, but because population centres were sparse, there was little to attract investors, so such areas were seemingly condemned to a future without financial input to help create industry and jobs. What to do? The Light Railway Act of 1896 offered hope as it allowed railways to be built in rural areas without spending huge sums of money. The Great Eastern Railway had previously tried to tackle the issue of budget rural railways in 1880. If it built a railway along the edge of a road, it could give the rural Cambridgeshire settlements of Outwell and Upwell a link to the main line at Wisbech for a fraction of the cost of a conventional branch line. The Wisbech & Upwell Tramway opened on September 3 1884. It was steam-worked and GER Locomotive Superintendent Thomas Worsdell designed a special locomotive. Board of Trade restrictions meant that the locomotives needed sideplates, cowcatchers and bell. Worsdell designed a simple 0‑4‑0T, complete with all these features but the most distinguishing feature was a wooden body, with a cab at each end. This little design, of which ten were built, also found use elsewhere on the GER network, on the docks around Ipswich and on the Yarmouth Union Railway in Great Yarmouth. But as with all locomotive stories, traffic demand meant that Worsdell soon needed to design something bigger. That was the catalyst for this GER ‘C53’ (LNER ‘J70’) 0‑6‑0T.