Wel­com­ing back ‘Caley’ No. 419

Steam Railway (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Flag­ship – stop and think about that word for a mo­ment.

It im­plies some­thing im­pres­sive and im­pos­ing, the big­gest and most pow­er­ful of its kind – yet in the rail­way sphere, it can be used to de­scribe some­thing that’s ex­actly the op­po­site.

It’s by no means as over-used as the word ‘iconic’ – but in to­day’s preser­va­tion era it be­comes at­tached to lo­co­mo­tives that would never have mer­ited such a la­bel in their work­ing days. The rail­way press and pre­served lines alike can be heard to call even the lowli­est tank en­gine a ‘flag­ship’ be­cause a quirk of his­tory now makes it some­thing spe­cial.

Al­most cer­tainly, the Scot­tish Rail­way Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety was the first to de­scribe Cale­do­nian Rail­way No. 419 as such. Beau­ti­ful and grace­ful though it is, es­pe­cially when adorned with the or­nate ‘Caley’ blue liv­ery, it is merely a medium-sized 0-4-4 tank en­gine which spent its life on sub­ur­ban pas­sen­ger trains, branch lines, bank­ing du­ties – and ended it shunt­ing coaches onto ‘Duchess’-hauled ex­presses.

Yet it is now a price­less piece of Scot­tish rail­way his­tory – not only the last sur­vivor of a once 92-strong class, but one of just three ‘Caley’ en­gines in preser­va­tion – and when it lines up along­side an­other of those en­gines, 0-6-0 No. 828, at the Bo’ness & Kin­neil Rail­way in Novem­ber, it will serve as a shin­ing re­minder of the proud pre-Group­ing era.

Rags TO RIChes

Such a life story has par­al­lels with that of its re­mark­able de­signer, John Far­quhar­son McIn­tosh – a man who rose from hum­ble be­gin­nings, and over­came dis­abil­ity, to reach the top of his game.

Start­ing his ca­reer in 1860 as a 14-year-old ap­pren­tice with the Scot­tish North East­ern Rail­way, he be­came a fire­man in 1865 and a driver in 1867, the year after the SNER was ab­sorbed into the ‘Caley’. But an ac­ci­dent at Bervie on April 12 1876 put an end to his foot­plate days, as he lost his right hand and part of his arm.

Un­daunted, he con­tin­ued to climb through the CR ranks as a lo­co­mo­tive in­spec­tor and a fore­man, be­com­ing chief in­spec­tor un­der suc­ces­sive lo­co­mo­tive su­per­in­ten­dents Du­gald Drum­mond and Hugh Smel­lie, and then deputy to Lo­co­mo­tive Su­per­in­ten­dent John Lam­bie. When the lat­ter died sud­denly in 1895, McIn­tosh was pro­moted to the top job – and to crown his ca­reer, in 1911 he re­ceived the Mem­ber of the Vic­to­rian Or­der from His Royal High­ness King Ge­orge V on board the Royal Train at Perth.

As an ex-foot­plate­man, wrote O.S. Nock, McIn­tosh un­der­stood what his crews wanted – de­sign­ing big-boil­ered, free-steam­ing lo­co­mo­tives that could be driven hard for mile after mile on pun­ish­ing banks like Beat­tock.

The ‘439’ class of 0‑4‑4Ts, of which No. 419 is the last sur­vivor, were hardly his ‘flag­ships’ – that ti­tle would go to his most fa­mous mas­ter­piece, the ‘Du­nalas­tair’ 4‑4‑0s, or per­haps the beefy ‘Cardean’ 4‑6‑0s – but none­the­less, No. 419 makes a wor­thy memo­rial to the man and his work. Along with the Strath­spey’s No. 828, it gives us fine pre­served ex­am­ples of his pas­sen­ger and freight de­signs, and once an­other ‘flag­ship’ of the ‘Caley’ is added to the list – the beau­ti­ful ‘Sin­gle’ No. 123 – it cre­ates a rea­son­able cross‑sec­tion of lo­co­mo­tive his­tory for a com­pany that dis­ap­peared al­most a cen­tury ago.


The 92 ex­am­ples of the ‘439’ class built from 1900, up into LMS days in 1925, were very much among the work­horses of the CR, be­ing de­signed for pas­sen­ger work, but at the sec­ondary end of the scale.

The ear­li­est records of No. 419 show it at Glas­gow’s Pol­madie shed dur­ing the First World War and work­ing sub­ur­ban pas­sen­ger trains out of the city’s Cen­tral sta­tion – hard graft no doubt, but per­haps not as hard as its next du­ties be­fore the 1923 Group­ing, al­lo­cated to Locker­bie shed for bank­ing du­ties on Beat­tock’s ten gru­elling miles at around 1‑in‑74.

After spells at Ar­drossan and Ed­in­burgh Dalry Road un­der LMS aus­pices, the na­tion­alised era meant the en­gine (now num­bered 55189) was trans­ferred back to Pol­madie for empty stock work­ings, be­fore it ended up at Carstairs as sta­tion pilot – at­tach­ing and de­tach­ing por­tions from ex­presses at this ma­jor West Coast Main Line junc­tion.

On De­cem­ber 29 1962, it be­came a vic­tim of a mass steam cull when the Scot­tish Re­gion with­drew 200 lo­co­mo­tives – thought to be the largest num­ber to be dis­carded in one go. Steam Rail­way’s his­tor­i­cal con­sul­tant Richard Strange con­firms: “It was cer­tainly spo­ken of as be­ing un­prece­dented at the time.” And there the story of the ‘Caley’ tank would have ended, had it not been for one ar­dent en­thu­si­ast of rail­ways north of the bor­der. The fledg­ling SRPS had No. 55189 in its sights for preser­va­tion, but strug­gled to raise BR’s ask­ing price of £750 (around £15,000 to­day) – and it was only thanks to a gen­er­ous do­na­tion from Worces­ter­shire farmer W.E.C. ‘Ted’ Watkin­son that the lo­co­mo­tive was se­cured in March 1964.

Mr Watkin­son is best known for sav­ing the old­est sur­viv­ing ‘Black Five’ at the end of BR steam in 1968 – ex‑Perth en­gine No. 5025 – but also bought a com­plete train of LMS coaches to go with it. How­ever, with plenty of other sur­viv­ing ‘Black Fives’, his role in sav­ing the ‘Caley’ tank is ar­guably his most im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to rail­way preser­va­tion, Scot­tish or oth­er­wise.

He went one bet­ter by also putting up £500 to re­store No. 419 to its orig­i­nal CR blue liv­ery, which was done in the sum­mer of 1964 – iron­i­cally at the Cowlairs Works of the ‘Caley’s’ ri­val North Bri­tish Rail­way – be­fore it ar­rived at the SRPS’ first base of Falkirk shed the fol­low­ing April.


From its first pub­lic steam­ing at Falkirk in the au­tumn of 1971, No. 419 has re­mained the SRPS ‘flag­ship’ – ap­pear­ing on the so­ci­ety’s let­ter head­ing and rep­re­sent­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion at the 1975 ‘Stock­ton & Dar­ling­ton 150’ cav­al­cade at Shildon.

In 1982, the 0‑4‑4T trav­elled the fur­thest south it had ever been, to take part in the Blue­bell Rail­way’s cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions – giv­ing rise to the in­con­gru­ous sight of this quintessen­tially Scot­tish ma­chine dou­ble‑head­ing with a sim­i­larly revered vet­eran, LSWR ‘Adams Ra­dial’ No. 488!

Closer to home, its sole re­turn visit to gen­uine ‘Caley’ met­als in preser­va­tion was to to­day’s pre­served Cale­do­nian Rail­way in the sum­mer of 2002, to com­mem­o­rate the 50th an­niver­sary of the last train on the Brechin branch – an es­pe­cially ap­pro­pri­ate en­gine to do so, since the ‘439s’ worked on the line in steam days.

At the time of the Blue­bell jaunt, it was painted in the Cale­do­nian’s more aus­tere plain black, and it ended its last ‘ten-year’ boiler cer­tifi­cate in 2009 by car­ry­ing BR lined black as No. 55189 for the first time in 45 years. Now, how­ever, fol­low­ing its lat­est over­haul in preser­va­tion, it once again looks very dif­fer­ent.

The ‘Caley’ lined blue ap­plied to it through­out its preser­va­tion life so far has been the darker shade favoured by St Rol­lox Works (as cur­rently worn by No. 828), but it now wears the lighter vari­ant used on en­gines over­hauled at Perth.

It might be seen as ‘just a coat of paint’, es­pe­cially after an over­haul that has taken nine years and suf­fered set­backs along the way (in­clud­ing the theft of its axle­boxes) but on a pre-Group­ing gem like this, it’s the all-im­por­tant fin­ish­ing touch.


On Novem­ber 3/4, the mem­ory of the ‘Caley’ will be cel­e­brated like never be­fore, with No. 419 mak­ing one of its first ap­pear­ances to form the cen­tre­piece. For what SRPS direc­tor Mark Ash­mole de­scribes as “the one and only time for a gen­er­a­tion”, the freshly out­shopped lo­co­mo­tive will be joined by its McIn­tosh coun­ter­part from the Strath­spey Rail­way – ‘812’ class 0-6-0 No. 828, and the only two sur­viv­ing op­er­a­tional CR coaches – in a bright and vi­brant re­minder of those far-off days.

Short of bring­ing the ‘Sin­gle’ out of Glas­gow’s Riverside Mu­seum – or even re­turn­ing it to steam – there could surely be no finer trib­ute to the great ‘Caley’.


SaNdy smeatoN

Re­splen­dent in its new light blue liv­ery, McIn­tosh 0-4-4T No. 419 poses with Cale­do­nian Rail­way coaches at Bo’ness on Oc­to­ber 2. With thanks to the SRPS shed and op­er­a­tions staff for set­ting up the cameo.

David an­der­son

The LMS con­tin­ued pro­duc­tion of the sturdy Cale­do­nian 0-4-4Ts after the Group­ing, with a slightly larger ver­sion. One of a batch built by Nas­myth Wil­son of Manch­ester in 1925, No. 55261, pre­pares to leave Carstairs with a lo­cal train to La­nark on Septem­ber 17 1956.


Dur­ing its visit to the Blue­bell Rail­way, No. 419 pi­lots an­other Scot­tish-built vet­eran – Neil­son-built LSWR Adams 4-4-2T No. 488 – up Fresh­field Bank on June 26 1982.


Fresh from its pre­vi­ous over­haul, No. 419 pre­pares to leave Bo’ness with the ‘Caley’ coaches on March 31 2001.

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