82045 Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust Pub­lic­ity Of­fi­cer Chris Proud­foot asks how can we solve the skills short­age?

Steam Railway (UK) - - CONTENTS -

You may be ask­ing your­self: “82045 and all what?” Well, quite a lot re­ally – the whole steam preser­va­tion in­dus­try, in fact. But be­fore we get on to that sub­ject, a few words about No. 82045, which is just a small part of it.

The project to build a new BR ‘3MT’ 2-6-2T has been around for a long time, from its be­gin­nings un­der John Bes­ley in Devon in the late 1990s, through its re­lo­ca­tion to the Sev­ern Val­ley Rail­way un­der the aegis of Tony Massau and my­self in 2003, through the years of ridicule and de­ri­sion, to its emer­gence onto the sun­lit up­lands of op­ti­mism as folks be­came aware that we were se­ri­ous in our in­ten­tion to recre­ate a mem­ber of this ex­tinct class.


The great­est stroke of luck lay in Tony’s abil­ity to re­cruit, in the early days, a won­der­ful team of skilled, semi-skilled and just plain en­thu­si­as­tic peo­ple to work on the em­bry­onic No. 82045 at Bridg­north on Mon­days and Wed­nes­days, all the year round and in all but the very worst weather. The skills of our peo­ple have saved the project thou­sands of pounds.

By and large we’ve been lucky in that we’ve man­aged to avoid re­ally costly mis­takes, with most of the en­gi­neer­ing work done off-site meet­ing the strin­gent stan­dards re­quired. But do­ing all this, you are al­most lit­er­ally rein­vent­ing the wheel, and the process can be ap­pallingly dif­fi­cult, bear­ing in mind the tor­tu­ous leg­is­la­tion that we all have to live with these days, plus the fact that this coun­try has thrown away its skills base over the past half-cen­tury to the ex­tent that skills once com­mon­place are now on the cusp of ex­tinc­tion and have to be searched for – a point to which we shall re­turn.

So where is No. 82045 now, in 2018? The an­swer is that the new en­gine is on its wheels and well on the way to com­ple­tion, the prin­ci­pal out­stand­ing jobs be­ing the assem­bly and fit­ting of the pony trucks, brak­ing and lu­bri­ca­tion sys­tems and mo­tion…and the big­gest and most ex­pen­sive part of all, the boiler.

We have all the com­po­nents of the en­gine’s su­per­struc­ture: the cab, bunker and smoke­box, the side tanks (at the time of writ­ing be­ing stored for us at the Di­nas work­shops of the Welsh High­land Rail­way), while the prin­ci­pal el­e­ments of the mo­tion are all either ready or on or­der from a tried and tested sup­plier.

I had be­gun to think that my job as fund-raiser was all but done: with over £1,000,000 raised since se­ri­ous pro­mo­tion of the lo­co­mo­tive started in 2008, surely ex­ist­ing in­come streams would look after the rest?

Since then I’ve been given the job of rais­ing up­wards of £200,000 more. In or­der to speed up the build to­wards the day when the first fire is lit in No. 82045’s fire­box, the de­ci­sion was taken to con­tract out a larger pro­por­tion of the out­stand­ing en­gi­neer­ing work while our chaps con­tinue to get on with the rest.

Peo­ple have been amaz­ingly gen­er­ous to­wards what is a fairly mun­dane if at­trac­tive and prac­ti­cal en­gine, and I was look­ing for­ward to not hav­ing to hold out the beg­ging bowl any more. But here we are again, and in this is­sue of SR you will find a rein­car­na­tion of our ear­lier Boiler Ap­peal leaflet.

Please would you think about help­ing to give the 82045 project its fi­nal shove to­wards com­ple­tion? In re­turn, you should stand a chance of be­ing able to ride be­hind this lo­co­mo­tive pretty well wher­ever you live in the coun­try: while the SVR will, we hope, re­main its base and its sole home for its first oper­at­ing sea­son, the trust – sub­ject to the agree­ment of the SVR – will con­sider all re­quests to hire it out to other lines.

There have al­ready been sev­eral ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est in it, and it is our dear­est wish that some­one else will de­cide to build an­other one (or more), as we are, by and large, too old to do it all over again. We do, though, have a lot of hard­earned ex­pe­ri­ence, not to men­tion sev­eral shed­fuls of pat­terns, so any­one tak­ing the plunge would not be alone.


So much for No. 82045, at least for now. I’d like to go back to the rhetor­i­cal ques­tion posed in the first para­graph of this ar­ti­cle and look at the UK steam rail­way in­dus­try – be­cause that’s what it is – as a whole.

I think there is a struc­tural prob­lem, al­most a malaise, af­fect­ing the whole in­dus­try. This is the fact that the de­mand from what has grown into a huge con­cern (and a sig­nif­i­cant el­e­ment of the UK’s im­por­tant tourism in­dus­try) has far out­stripped sup­ply, in terms of avail­able work­shop space and skills. In the early post-BR years, when steam preser­va­tion was more or less a cot­tage in­dus­try, this wasn’t a prob­lem; it cer­tainly isn’t a cot­tage in­dus­try now.

The re­sults are to be seen al­most ev­ery­where: dead­lines over­run, en­gi­neer­ing cen­tres with full or­der books, some­times for years to come, lo­co­mo­tives side­lined for decades; all lead­ing to frus­tra­tion and bad feel­ing.

When you look at what has been achieved since the end of BR steam – the restora­tion of Duke of Glouces­ter from a hope­less wreck, the re­turn of a bas­ket case like Braun­ton to the main line, not to men­tion the en­tirely new Tor­nado

– it is just plain won­der­ful. As a non-en­gi­neer, I can only marvel at the skills that have brought all this about. The prob­lem is that these skills are split into penny pack­ets all over the coun­try and I can’t see a ready so­lu­tion to what is bound to be an in­creas­ing prob­lem of sup­ply and de­mand.

I re­cently met Alan Brassey, the Great Cen­tral Rail­way’s in­fras­truc­ture projects man­ager. He is cur­rently in­volved in a num­ber of ex­cit­ing projects, one be­ing to cross the Mid­land Main Line and canal north of Lough­bor­ough sta­tion and so join to­gether the north and south sec­tions of this in­spir­ing rail­way. Alan voiced an idea that I’ve long thought would help free the log­jam: the set­ting up of a cen­tral (no pun in­tended) boiler-mak­ing fa­cil­ity to which all could have

re­course. I can al­ready see fin­gers



twitch­ing as the scep­tics get ready to rub­bish the no­tion, but in all se­ri­ous­ness this is an idea worth fur­ther thought.

Prob­lems to be over­come would in­clude the ini­tial in­vest­ment of cap­i­tal needed, plus the re­cruit­ment – and re­ten­tion – of suit­ably qual­i­fied staff, though the first of these could qual­ify for as­sis­tance from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund. I ex­plored this twice in the early days of No. 82045 but we were knocked back be­cause the lo­co­mo­tive is not an orig­i­nal arte­fact. I think a bet­ter case could be made for a com­mon-user boiler shop, as there is no doubt that new boil­ers and fire­boxes will be needed more and more if the fu­ture of the steam rail­way in­dus­try is to be a healthy one.

An­other as­pect of the move­ment as a whole is that of co-op­er­a­tion be­tween the var­i­ous rail­ways and cen­tres. There are heart­en­ing ex­am­ples of this all over the place, but equally there are too many in­stances of what Alan de­scribes as “in­di­vid­u­al­ism” – I would use a less kind word

– in which ego gets in the way of the com­mon good. That is re­gret­table as well as un­healthy for our col­lec­tive fu­ture, when all most of us want to do is to see steam live on for as long as it can, and in as var­ied a form as pos­si­ble. Any­one of good in­tent is wel­come to share any­thing

I have to of­fer (not that that’s much, since I have the en­gi­neer­ing know-how of a frog), and many of my col­leagues feel the same.

I hope that this ar­ti­cle has given read­ers food for thought: it’s im­por­tant to plan ahead, to an­tic­i­pate and to look round cor­ners where pos­si­ble. I’ve al­ways tried to do that with

No. 82045, and I think it would be pru­dent for the steam in­dus­try as a whole. Never get caught with your trousers down – if you can help it!

Any­one who would like to dis­cuss or com­ment on any points raised in this ar­ti­cle is wel­come to write to Chris at ‘Wood­ford’, School Bank, Nor­ley, Cheshire WA6 8JY or email chris.proud­foot045@bt­in­ter­net.com

The 82045 Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust’s web­site can be found at www.82045.org.uk


With its smoke­box in place, but be­fore its driv­ing wheels went un­der the frames, ‘3MT’ No. 82045 makes an im­pres­sive sight at Bridg­north on Jan­uary 2 this year.

(Pho­to­graph: Peter Hack­ney)

de­lap­sus …82031 at Cash­more’s Yard, Newport, Oc­to­ber 1968

(Pho­to­graph: Mike Jack)

82045 at Bridg­north, Au­gust 2018 … resurgam!

(Pho­to­graph: Trevor Ben­nett)

82041 at Bath Green Park, April 1962

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