THREE WIGHT MICE
Bringing together three Ivatt ‘2MTs’ for a special event on the Isle of Wight
Never in the field of railway preservation has so much been organised for so few… The Isle of Wight Steam Railway brought all three of its Ivatt ‘2MTs’ together in a heartfelt thank you to just two preservationists and a relative handful of volunteers. TOBY JENNINGS reports from Havenstreet.
Usually, when a railway reunites locomotives for a gala, it’s done to recreate a piece of history, bring enthusiasts through the gate and, hopefully, make a few bob in the process. But while it certainly made history – not least by running a tender locomotive on Vectis for the first time in its 154-year railway history – the Isle of Wight Steam Railway’s ‘Three Island Ivatts’ gala on May 26-28 was organised for none of those reasons. It was intended simply to do the most important thing of all: say thank you. ‘Thank you’ to the two long-serving railway preservationists who saved these ‘2MTs’ from scrap in the first place. ‘Thank you’ for their generosity in donating them to the IoWSR; ‘thank you’ to the volunteers of the East Somerset Railway who restored two of them from Barry condition; and, of course, ‘thank you’ to the engineering staff of the IoWSR itself, who completed the restoration of the other one. It is the culmination of a 40-year dream for Roy Miller and Peter Clarke, who purchased 2-6-2T No. 41298 at scrap value from Nine Elms shed at the end of Southern Region steam in 1967, and went on to rescue fellow ‘Mickey Mouse’ tank No. 41313 and 2-6-0 No. 46447 from Dai Woodham’s scrapyard.
GALA FOR TWO
“We didn’t conceive this as a gala,” said IoWSR director Steve Oates. “We wanted to get the three together as a thank you to Roy and Peter – as well as the ESR, and to our staff.” But fortunately, many others were able to enjoy the Bank Holiday event too. General Manager Peter Vail commented: “Actual income generated was similar to our ‘Island Locomotive Gala’ the same time last year, when we ran ‘O2’ Calbourne and ‘Terriers’ Freshwater and Newport, with no guest locomotive brought in. “However, this was the one occasion when our commercial demands were second to the celebrations.” Steve also points out: “We didn’t think we’d see all three Ivatts in steam together,” referring to the fact that, when they were originally donated, the plan was only to overhaul the two tank engines – which have some historical precedent here, being almost identical to the Riddles ‘84XXX’ class proposed as replacements for the ‘O2’ 0-4-4Ts in the 1960s – and for No. 46447 to be cosmetically restored as a static exhibit. Thanks were therefore due to the ESR, which restored the tender engine in a swap deal for ‘E1’ 0-6-0T No. B110 Burgundy, and went on to do the same with No. 41313. The trio steamed together for the first time at a private event on May 25, arranged for Roy, Peter and 33 ESR members who travelled to the island by coach. Sadly, Peter was unable to make the cross-Solent journey owing to ill health – although the railway had been prepared to charter a helicopter to fly him there. Watching No. 41298 coasting down the gradient into a sun-drenched Havenstreet, Roy declared it “a joy to behold.” “We’re really pleased that they’ve come here – it’s a good retirement home, the railway is an ideal length and they’re well looked after,” he said. “It’s the icing on the cake.” “I’m only sorry that Peter couldn’t be here to share it – we always did everything together as partners. “We always said that when we restored No. 41298, Peter would
drive it and I’d fire – which we eventually did on the IoWSR under supervision – and on No. 41313 I’d drive and Peter would fire.” This explains a further small gesture of thanks, and one that ensures the IoWSR’s footplate crews, at least, will never forget the Ivatt Trust’s contribution. On the inside of the cab roof, above the driver’s seat, No. 41298 bears a plate reading ‘Driver Peter Clarke’ while No. 41313 has one stating ‘Driver Roy Miller’. Len Pullinger, the railway’s former chief mechanical engineer, made these – which are copies of those fitted to the ‘O2s’ in steam days to record the names of their regular drivers.
CHANGE OF CHIMNEY
The gala should also be considered a thank you to many others who helped them in their quest to save an Ivatt from the cutter’s torch – right from the start, when their chosen engine was actually former Chesham branch stalwart No. 41284, which had previously hauled them both to school. “We were concerned that nobody was preserving a modern branch line engine,” Roy remembers – but the shedmaster at Nine Elms, where No. 41284 ended its career, was extremely helpful. “Peter and I obtained a day’s shed permit which we stretched a little and visited often. Then one day the shedmaster said: ‘Sorry, I have some bad news for you both. Our boiler inspector has condemned No. 41284 with a faulty foundation ring that is not worth repairing. No reason why you should not still have this locomotive, but why don’t you have No. 41298? It’s in far better condition, having been the last to have a general overhaul. The boiler has always received the Southern water treatment and it is fitted with BR AWS equipment.’ “We replied: ‘Yes, but it’s fitted with that terrible thin Western chimney’. ‘Don’t worry about that,’ came the reply, ‘they made no difference anyway.’ The next thing we knew, the Nine Elms steam crane had removed the chimney from No. 41284 and placed it into
the bunker of No. 41298. It is said that the locomotive did a couple of turns with the chimney buried beneath the coal, but we have no means of proving this.” That BR-design chimney is now on No. 46447, the tank engines having received new Ivatt-pattern chimneys in a joint order with the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway – so this gala also ‘reunited’ No. 41284’s chimney with the engine it was intended for! After the curtain came down on SR steam on July 9 1967, BR management, who wanted no privately owned steam locomotives on their property, was threatening High Court orders to move No. 41298 on – but the 70A ‘gaffer’ arranged for it to be towed to the nascent preservation centre at the Longmoor Military Railway, along with ‘West Country’ No. 34023 Blackmore Vale and ‘Merchant Navy’ No. 35028 Clan Line, while the main line was closed for an engineering possession. “By the time we got to Liss, the possession had run out, and time was getting tight before the first train,” recalls Roy, “but the Army was waiting and pulled us in with its diesel.” When the Longmoor scheme folded three years later, No. 41298 had to be moved to its new home of Quainton using road transport – something that, as Roy reminds us, “was almost unheard of at the time.” But a haulage contractor in Nottingham was happy to do the job “at a very cheap rate - because they were selling their trailer to a firm in Australia, and wanted some photos of it with the locomotive on!”
HAVE IVATTS, WILL SAIL
Today, of course, shifting locomotives by road is no problem – though it is a little more difficult for the IoWSR, which has to take ferry sailings and tide times into consideration. In the case of No. 46447, it involved two separate sailings for the engine and tender, and the transport costs and ferry fees came to £14,987 – the gala costing £20,000 in total. However, even that wasn’t the only logistical hurdle. Unlike Nos. 41298 and 41313, which have received former ‘O2’ air pumps (more of which later), the ‘Mogul’ is only vacuum-braked, and therefore incompatible with the island’s air-braked stock. This was solved by fitting a through air pipe, allowing it to double-head with the tanks for two passenger trains each day – provided it was marshalled between 2-6-2T and stock as the train engine. There were other limitations to what it could do: after arrival at the Wootton terminus, it was unable to run round the train because it is too long for the headshunt. The tank engine therefore had to return to Havenstreet with the train, after which No. 46447 followed light engine under ‘staff and ticket’ working – as it was not permissible to have the tender engine on the rear of the train as a ‘swinger’. A heartwarming conclusion to the event came at Monday’s lineup; with ‘O2’ No. W24 Calbourne lit up for use during the following week, the opportunity was taken to pose all four BR lined black engines together. Then the driver of No. 46447 blew his whistle, and for a few seconds it sounded a little like the ending to The Titfield Thunderbolt, the air rent with the combined sound of four Caledonian-style hooters as the other Ivatts and Calbourne answered in unison.
FISHING FOR PARTS
On the subject of ‘O2s’ and air braking, Roy revealed that he and Peter – both of whom were early members of the Wight Locomotive Society – briefly considered trying to buy one of the last 0-4-4Ts at the end of island steam in December 1966. He did manage to salvage one fragment of a particularly historic example: the air pump now fitted to No. 41298 originally came from the oldest survivor, No. W14 Fishbourne, which was broken up at Newport by scrap merchant Jolliffe’s. “When the ‘O2s’ were being scrapped here I thought I’d never hear the sound of a Westinghouse pump again – so I paid Jolliffe’s for one and took it home in my Bedford Dormobile. “So the Ivatts were doomed to come here even at that stage!” he joked. The word ‘doomed’ prompted a tongue-in-cheek ‘Oh, thanks Roy’ from Len and the other IoWSR staff present. But you knew it was all harmless banter, and they really meant a very sincere thank you.
A sight that is owed to the two men who saved Ivatts Nos. 46447, 41298 and 41313: Roy Miller and Peter Clarke.
The most un-Isle of Wight train you’re ever likely to see! ‘Repatriated’ No. 46447 becomes the first tender engine to ever run on Vectis as it shuffles a train of ex-British Railways ballast wagons between Griffin’s Field and Havenstreet station.
Roy Miller and former Havenstreet CME Len Pullinger share the cab on May 25.
INSET: The nameplate for Peter Clarke in No. 41298’s cab.
Whistle while you work: Four lined BR black locomotives (all with the late crest) gather at Havenstreet as the Ivatt trio are joined by classic island ‘O2’ No. W24 Calbourne.