David Wilcock in­ves­ti­gates NSR No. 2’s move to the Fox­field Rail­way, and the shrink­ing of the Na­tional Col­lec­tion

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents -

In April this year, the Na­tional Rail­way Mu­seum ‘gifted’ North Stafford­shire Rail­way 0‑6‑2T No. 2 to the Fox­field Rail­way ‑ but made no an­nounce­ment about the give­away. Five months on, it is still listed by York as part of the Na­tional Col­lec­tion. Over the last decade, the ap­pointed keep­ers of our rail­way in­her­i­tance have dis­posed of, or ‘de‑ac­ces­sioned’, al­most 500 items, in­clud­ing many his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant ex­am­ples of rolling stock. Is the NRM, un­der ever‑in­creas­ing bud­getary pres­sures, play­ing fast and loose with our rail­way her­itage, and ‘shrink­ing’ the com­pen­dium by stealth in or­der to cope with the grow­ing fi­nan­cial de­mands of its man­age­ment?

The rev­e­la­tion that ‘New L’ Class No. 2 was to move from Lo­co­mo­tion at Shildon to the Fox­field Rail­way for as­sess­ment, and a probable re­turn to steam, was warmly wel­comed through­out the preser­va­tion move­ment - and so it should have been. For the greater part of the last 51 years since it was re­tired from col­liery ser­vice at the NCB Walk­den sys­tem in north-west Manch­ester, this last sur­viv­ing North Stafford­shire Rail­way en­gine has been some­thing of a spare part - a hobo with­out a ‘proper’ home, with lit­tle prospect of ever run­ning again. In the late 1960s and through much of the 1970s, the ‘Knotty’ tank lan­guished be­hind closed doors at Stafford­shire’s Shug­bor­ough Hall County Mu­seum. For most of the decade after 1984, it slum­bered at Chat­ter­ley Whitfield Min­ing Mu­seum (seven miles due north of Stoke), but rarely saw day­light. Hopes for a live steam rein­car­na­tion - and on the en­gine’s orig­i­nal North Staffs Rail­way stamp­ing ground - flick­ered in Novem­ber 1993, when, fol­low­ing the clo­sure of the min­ing mu­seum, it was trans­ferred to the Chur­net Val­ley Rail­way.

This last sur­viv­ing North Stafford­shire Rail­way en­gine has been some­thing of a spare part - a hobo with­out a ‘proper’ home

But tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties in re­mov­ing its cop­per boiler tubes pushed it to the back of the restora­tion queue at Ched­dle­ton, and with fund­ing for over­hauls in short sup­ply, it slipped back into the shad­ows, keep­ing quiet ac­quain­tance in the shed for most of the next decade with the only other sur­viv­ing NSR lo­co­mo­tive, four-wheel bat­tery-elec­tric shunter No. 1. Even when No. 2 was taken back into Na­tional Rail­way Mu­seum cus­tody in 2004, it was to ‘Lo­co­mo­tion’ - the north eastern out­post at Shildon - that it was sent, more than 160 miles from its home turf, and with­out any am­bi­tion for restora­tion. The an­nounce­ment six months ago by the Fox­field Rail­way, that No. 2 would be mov­ing to its Blythe Bridge rail­head to be as­sessed for a re­turn to full work­ing or­der and fu­ture op­er­a­tion with the Knotty Coach Trust’s vin­tage train of four-wheel­ers, was hailed from all sides as a hugely wel­come de­vel­op­ment. The clear im­pli­ca­tion, and in­deed the nat­u­ral as­sump­tion widely made by those read­ing the Fox­field an­nounce­ment, was that the move was a stan­dard NRM fixed-term loan to a preser­va­tion-in­ter­est group, in the

We cer­tainly weren’t con­sulted by the NRM, or in­vited to make a bid for it chuR­NeT Val­ley Rail­way chaiR­MaN ToNy haN­cock

same way, for ex­am­ple, that Taff Vale Rail­way ‘O1’ 0‑6‑2T No. 28 is farmed out to the Gwili Rail­way, and LSWR Beat­tie 2‑4‑0 well tank No. 30587 is at the Bod­min & Wen­ford Rail­way. That broad un­der­stand­ing by the en­thu­si­ast fra­ter­nity was demon­strated in a dis­cus­sion on the Na­tional Preser­va­tion on­line fo­rum, when a con­trib­u­tor asked: “When was the last time the NRM chose to steam a new en­gine, as dis­tinct from over­haul­ing one that has been pre­vi­ously steamed?” Then came the first sug­ges­tion that the NRM’s ‘loan’ of No. 2 to Fox­field might not be a loan at all. As re­ported by an­other con­trib­u­tor to the dis­cus­sion: “A trus­tee of the Fox­field Rail­way is say­ing on Face­book that own­er­ship of the en­gine has passed to the Fox­field Rail­way Trust, and that it is no longer a pub­lic as­set. “I’m not say­ing I don’t be­lieve him, but it would be highly un­usual for the NRM to do this, as such deals are usu­ally long‑term loans, with the item re­main­ing part of the na­tional col­lec­tion. Does any­one know any more?” Five days after NSR No. 2 had been de­liv­ered by low loader to Fox­field’s Caver­swall Road head­quar­ters, NRM Se­nior Cu­ra­tor An­thony Coulls was drawn to con­firm: “Yes, we have trans­ferred its own­er­ship to the Fox­field Rail­way Trust.”


The rev­e­la­tion stunned not only those in­ter­ested in the for­tunes of the NSR 0‑6‑2T, but also the man­age­ment team of the Chur­net Val­ley Rail­way and its sup­port­ing char­ity, the North Stafford­shire Rail­way Co. (1978) ‑ Fox­field’s neigh­bours at Ched­dle­ton, just nine miles away. “I’m ab­so­lutely flab­ber­gasted,” de­clared Chur­net Val­ley Rail­way chair­man Tony Han­cock when I re­layed to him the news that No. 2 had been given to the Fox­field Rail­way. “We read in the rail­way press and in lo­cal news­pa­pers that the en­gine was mov­ing to Fox­field ‑ but we all as­sumed, nat­u­rally, that it was a loan. We cer­tainly weren’t con­sulted by the NRM, or in­vited to make a bid for it. “Be­fore we were al­lowed to take cus­tody of the en­gine in 1993, we had to un­dergo a rig­or­ous ex­am­i­na­tion by the NRM to en­sure that the Chur­net Val­ley Rail­way was a suit­able and re­spon­si­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion, and could pro­vide fit and proper care. “A team of our vol­un­teers even had to go to York, to re­ceive ‘in­struc­tion’ on how to clean it. There was a lot of bu­reau­cracy, and we had to jump through a lot of hoops just to bor­row it.”

He con­tin­ued: “I must stress that we don’t be­grudge Fox­field this de­vel­op­ment, and we wish them good luck, but we think of Fox­field first and fore­most as be­ing heav­ily into in­dus­trial steam, and I wouldn’t have thought that a North Stafford­shire Rail­way fleet en­gine was their bag at all. “We didn’t have the money to re­store No. 2 all those years ago, so there were no sour grapes when the en­gine was taken back by York - but if that sit­u­a­tion had arisen to­day, we would cer­tainly have jumped at the chance of do­ing some­thing with it. But we were never asked. It’s not a dis­as­ter for us, but it’s cer­tainly a dis­ap­point­ment.” The CVR chair­man’s shock is hardly sur­pris­ing. The NRM’s mouth­piece, the press of­fice un­der the lead­er­ship of nowde­parted Se­nior Press Of­fi­cer Cather­ine Far­rell, made no an­nounce­ment about the move­ment of the en­gine, nor any at­tempt to make pub­lic that it had been ‘de-ac­ces­sioned’ (ie: ‘dis­carded’) from the Na­tional Col­lec­tion.


North Stafford­shire Rail­way ‘New L’ 0‑6‑2T No. 2 is loaded at ‘Lo­co­mo­tion’ Shildon for its road move­ment to the Fox­field Rail­way on April 20. Re­stored to NSR liv­ery dur­ing the lat­ter days of its NCB ser­vice, No. 2 pi­lots a sis­ter ‘New L’ with a train...


No. 2 on dis­play with Dubs 0‑4‑0CT W/No. 4101 dur­ing the Fox­field Rail­way’s Sum­mer Steam Gala on July 17. No. 2 on dis­play at Ched­dle­ton shed on the Chur­net Val­ley Rail­way in 2004, along with the only other sur­viv­ing NSR lo­co­mo­tive, bat­tery‑elec­tric...

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