82045 - THE WAY FORWARD?
publicity officer for the 82045 steam Locomotive trust CHRIS PROUDFOOT argues that its bridgnorth-built ‘3mt’ tank should not be the last to be built for preserved lines, but stresses that it won’t involve this pioneering team.
An enthusiast website has for many years been running a thread entitled 82045 – The Way Ahead? This interesting piece of rhetoric was not coined by our own Severn Valley Railway-based group and we do not know its provenance. It does, however, point to one of the questions we have been asked most frequently during the life of the 82045 project: When are you going to build another one? The immediate answer to this, I’m afraid, is that we aren’t. At nearly 65, I am one of the youngest members of the group, which I think explains why we don’t intend to repeat what has grown from its tiny and much-derided beginnings into a Herculean effort that has won the respect of the heritage movement and is now within sight of its goal. This is to return to the upper world one of Riddles’s perfectly good - but coming along too late in the day - Class 3 2-6-2 tank engines, some 50 years after the mortal remains of the last examples had disappeared in the smelters of the all-devouring Hades that was the end of British steam. When BR’s 1955 Modernisation Plan put paid to schemes for building more steam locomotives, the ‘82XXX’ class numbered 45, Nos. 82000-44. Outstanding orders for 18 more, Nos. 82045-62, were cancelled. The first of these is well on the way to its belated entry into traffic. But what of the others? The first thing I have to admit is that we’ve always known that our engine would never be ‘the belle of the ball’. We’ve been motivated all along by the belief that a simple, modern tank engine is just what the heritage lines of our country need if the experience of travelling behind steam is to be experienced by future generations. I don’t even think that the ‘82000’ class is anyone’s particular favourite, attractive though these neat, effective little engines were. The ethos of the project has always been about practicality, and our efforts have been driven by the knowledge that existing locomotives - bearing in mind that the youngest of the BR Standards are now 60 years old - cannot be expected to continue in intensive service, day in, day out, indefinitely. Ask any of the chief mechanical engineers of our heritage lines up and down the country, and I’m pretty sure they will tell you the same thing.
LOOKING tO tHe Future
From the start, we’d always hoped deep down that No. 82045, if we succeeded in building it, might be a prototype for other groups to take inspiration from. Now success is all but assured, will No. 82045 be the end of it? The truth of the matter is that, if series production is to be contemplated,
two very big factors need to be taken into consideration: Where is there a suitably equipped and staffed facility for a locomotive production line, and who could provide the major injection of capital needed to get production under way? There is a sound economic case for the series building of these engines, but before the advantages of economy of scale could start to kick in, a great deal of money would need to be laid on the line, and those funding such a scheme would need to be patient while waiting for their investment to pay off. As regards setting up a facility for building these (and other) steam locomotives, I think that an excellent case could be made for grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). So far, as I know all too well from experience, the HLF has resolutely set its face against new builds on the grounds that they are not historical artefacts. It might, though, look more favourably on a scheme that is aimed at securing the overall future of heritage steam - legacy as well as new - as well as preserving some of the traditional engineering skills that made such an important contribution to Britain’s greatness in the past. Barring something monstrous happening to our way of life, leisure and tourism seem set to be growth industries in the future, and the popularity of tourist steam railways shows no sign of diminishing, so there is a significant economic factor to be taken into consideration here. It would certainly be worth exploring. To those who object to the idea of BR Standard tanks cropping up all over the place, I can only say that the passenger revenue of our heritage lines is dictated almost entirely by the family market. Enthusiast traffic accounts for a surprisingly small proportion of it, and most families out for the day are not too bothered about what is pulling their train, provided it is a steam engine!
SHARING THE BURDEN
It’s important to stress that we have never intended for new engines to supplant the existing fleet. Surviving steam locomotives are a cherished link to our past, and their working lives can be prolonged if new builds are able to share some of the burden. Doubts have also been expressed about the ability of a Class 3 to cope with heavy trains on the longest lines, but we have no such anxieties: they handled substantial summer trains over the much longer Cambrian system, where Western Region crews came to like them and achieved some sparkling performances. If 1,500 gallons of water and three and three-quarter tons of coal don’t seem adequate, then there is no reason why the virtually identical ‘77XXX’ tender design shouldn’t be resurrected, too: these carried six tons of coal and had exactly twice the water capacity. It has been said from time to time that there was never a good case for building either of the Class 3 types in the first place. That may or may not have been true - but there certainly is now! Although those involved in building No. 82045 have said they don’t want to do it all over again, they stand ready to offer their hard-won expertise to those who might want to pick up the torch. In the meantime, you will find an appeal leaflet in this issue of your magazine. Please join us and help raise the remaining £100,000 or so that we need to finish our prototype - if I dare call it that!
The inspiration! The second of the ‘3MT’ 2-6-2T breed, No. 82001, leaves Pylle Halt with a HighbridgeEvercreech Junction train in April 1962.
Ten new wheels in 2016 and the new boiler being riveted in 2017. Seeing is believing. No. 82045 gradually emerges at Bridgnorth.