Welshpool & Llanfair 60 years on, and saying farewell to Lew
Bidding a fond farewell to the legendary L&B locomotive. Photography: Robert Leslie Sherwood
Eighty years ago, the last surviving Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Manning Wardle 2-6-2T, No. 188 Lew, was used to help dismantle the 19-mile railway. In September 1936, with its solemn duties completed, the locomotive was shipped to Brazil. What happened to Lew after it left our shores is one of the biggest mysteries in railway history. Lew’s last moments on the much-mourned 1ft 11½in railway were captured by Robert Leslie Sherwood, a pharmacist from Birkenhead. These photographs are, possibly, the last ever images taken of this famous locomotive before it crossed the Atlantic Ocean. It hasn’t been seen or heard of since. Lew was built in 1925 along similar lines to the L&B’s other Manning Wardle 2-6-2Ts - Yeo, Exe and Taw. After a working life of only ten years, Lew, double-heading with stablemate Yeo, would haul the last train over the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, on September 29 1935. Following the railway’s closure, the original Manning Wardle locomotives, as well as Baldwin-designed 2-4-2T Lyn, were auctioned off for scrap. Only Lew survived, retained to haul the demolition trains; by the summer of 1936, the track between Pilton and Lynton had been torn up. Little is known of what happened to Lew after it left the L&B. The locomotive departed Swansea aboard the SS Sabor on September 28 1936, destined for Recife, in the state of Pernambuco in north-east Brazil. After that, the trail goes cold. There is no record of Lew ever arriving in South America, nor is it known who purchased the locomotive. There have been various failed attempts to track down the legendary locomotive, but Lew’s fate seems unlikely ever to be solved. Instead, let us enjoy R.L. Sherwood’s last images of Lew, and ponder what might have been.
An unidentified LSWR 4-4-0 arrives at Barnstaple Town station with the steam crane and well wagon in tow, ready to take Lew to Swansea. Although the locomotive’s identity is unknown, it appears to be a Drummond ‘K10’, introduced in 1901/2. Farewell Lew. Secured to the well wagon, and with an LMS three-plank wagon coupled behind, No. 188 is prepared for its long journey to Swansea, where it would be loaded onto the SS Sabor for its voyage to Brazil. Is this the last picture of Lew? On its last day on Lynton & Barnstaple Railway metals, No. 188 Lew is in deplorable condition. Already stripped of its nameplates, the Manning Wardle’s distinctive cowcatchers have been removed and placed on top of the tanks. The writing on the front and side relates to Lew’s forthcoming voyage, but the significance of the letters ‘ALC’ is not clear.