‘Do­min­ion’ dilemma

Steam Railway (UK) - - COMMENT -

It is fair to say that dis­pos­als is an area of mu­seum prac­tice that has been a prom­i­nent is­sue for preser­va­tion in re­cent times.

We’ve had the Na­tional Rail­way Mu­seum’s de‑ac­ces­sioned steam lo­co­mo­tives – ex­ten­sively re­ported and de­bated in these pages, as well as Par­lia­ment. In­deed, yet more items of stock are again to come un­der the dis­posal spot­light as part of the Sci­ence Mu­seum Group’s lat­est col­lec­tion re­view which, as our sis­ter ti­tle RAIL re­ported last month, has meant the ces­sa­tion of work on its op­er­a­tional diesel fleet, at least while that fleet is au­dited.

Else­where, the Dan­ish Rail­way Mu­seum made even deeper in­roads into its col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing scrap­ping some ob­jects.

Anger en­sued – there were even threats made to mu­seum di­rec­tors over the course of con­tro­ver­sial ac­tion, as ten­sions boiled over.

Now, Canada’s own na­tional mu­seum is about to em­bark on its own col­lec­tions re­view – one that might well re­sult in the dis­posal and, there­fore, po­ten­tial per­ma­nent repa­tri­a­tion of LNER ‘A4’ No. 4489 Do­min­ion of Canada, as well as LBSCR ‘A1’ 0‑6‑0T No. 54 Wad­don.

The Cana­dian Rail­way His­tor­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, which re­sides at the snap­pily ti­tled Ex­po­rail, says that much of its col­lec­tion rep­re­sents a “li­a­bil­ity”, es­pe­cially those that re­tain haz­ardous as­bestos lag­ging. In­deed, it has specif­i­cally iden­ti­fied non‑Cana­dian ex­hibits as po­ten­tial dis­pos­als.

The de­cree co­in­cides with the Gres­ley ‘Pa­cific’ be­ing taken off a prime dis­play spot at Ex­po­rail and put back into ‘Build­ing 5’, where it in­fa­mously suf­fered no­tice­able cor­ro­sion prior to restora­tion in the UK, join­ing fel­low ‘ex‑pat’ Wad­don in the process.

One of the Bri­tish vol­un­teers re­spon­si­ble for the up­keep of ‘Ter­rier’ No. 54, ex­plained on so­cial me­dia how “over the win­ter, the en­gine be­comes a 130‑ton lump of ice which, even in May, and be­ing in the shade, re­tains that cold, while the spring hu­mid­ity causes con­den­sa­tion to build up all over the en­gine.

“This has a cor­ro­sive ef­fect that is wickedly de­struc­tive as it is ex­ter­nal as well as in­ter­nal, where you can’t see the dam­age be­ing done.”

Clearly, there is con­cern for the fu­ture

well­be­ing of these ma­chines and while Ex­po­rail hasn’t yet made a firm de­ci­sion, its rhetoric will un­doubt­edly pique the in­ter­est of en­thu­si­asts on this side of the pond. Read­ers may re­call the re­buffed bid to ac­quire ‘Do­min­ion’s’ North Amer­i­can sis­ter, Dwight D. Eisen­hower, in 2013.

What now?

Noth­ing will be de­cided for a while yet, but be­cause Ex­po­rail demon­stra­bly no longer con­sid­ers the ‘A4’ to be a key ex­hibit, it makes sense, in the­ory, to ex­plore op­tions for a more se­cure fu­ture for No. 4489 – and the ‘Ter­rier’.

That could mean a home­com­ing… lead­ing to the in­evitable ques­tion, ‘where could they go that be­fits their his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance?’

Fur­ther, there re­mains the huge ob­sta­cle of as­bestos which, in the case of the

‘A4’, had its ‘white stuff’ in­su­lated with ex­panded foam for cus­toms clear­ance ahead of its two-year trip to the UK in 2012-14. Were it to re­turn, such a tem­po­rary ar­range­ment would al­most cer­tainly not be coun­te­nanced.

It’s an­other prime ex­am­ple of the del­i­cate na­ture of mu­seum dis­pos­als – a sub­ject that shows no sign of fad­ing into the back­ground any time soon.


A stun­ning vi­sion of the LMS in the 1930s, Stanier ‘Pa­cific’ No. 6233 Duchess of Suther­landglides past Lit­tle Rock, be­tween Eard­ing­ton and Hamp­ton Loade. The ‘Duchess’ was given top billing at the Sev­ern Val­ley Rail­way’s Septem­ber 20-23 en­thu­si­asts’ gala.

Nick Bro­drick, Ed­i­tor

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