No. 43924’s es­cape into preser­va­tion

Steam Railway (UK) - - CONTENTS - SR

One month af­ter Oliver Cromwell’s last run from Carlisle to Nor­wich called time on BR steam, ‘4F’ No. 43924 set out on a sim­i­larly epic jour­ney into preser­va­tion, paving the way for 212 more lo­co­mo­tives to be res­cued from Barry scrap­yard. JOHN ATHER­TON of the Mid­land 4F Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety tells the story.

Mid­land ‘4F’ 0-6-0 No. 43924 has a unique place in preser­va­tion his­tory, as the first of 213 lo­co­mo­tives to be re­moved from Dai Wood­ham’s yard and the first to be re­turned to steam.

Its preser­va­tion can be traced back to Crewe Works in late 1966 when I met Ian John­son. We were look­ing for any rem­nants of the Mid­land ‘4F’ class but none were to be seen. We de­cided that one should be pre­served and the only op­tions were the four at Barry.

Over the next 18 months we put a team to­gether and made many vis­its to Barry. The se­lec­tion process was easy, as No. 43924 was the only re­main­ing Mid­land Rail­way ex­am­ple (built in Oc­to­ber 1920), the other three hav­ing been built by the LMS.


Alan Fleet­wood and I set off from Liver­pool Lime Street on Septem­ber 10 1968 to travel on the foot­plate of the ‘4F’ as care­tak­ers dur­ing its jour­ney to the Keigh­ley & Worth Val­ley Rail­way, towed by diesels on Septem­ber 11/12.

Ar­riv­ing in Cardiff, we went to see a Mr Jor­dan at Mar­land House, and had been in his of­fice no more than a minute when he shocked us by say­ing that the lo­co­mo­tive could not be moved be­cause the front left-hand spring was in dan­ger of col­laps­ing, owing to a frac­tured bolt. How­ever, the men at Cardiff Can­ton diesel de­pot came up with the so­lu­tion of jack­ing the en­gine up, knock­ing the spring back into po­si­tion and put­ting clamps around it, adapted from those of a ‘Hymek’ diesel.

We stayed in a guest house over­look­ing Barry sta­tion, where our room had a mag­nif­i­cent view of the scrap­yard. The num­ber of dif­fer­ent classes there, when a only month ear­lier the last stan­dard gauge steam en­gine had run on BR, made our minds bog­gle.

On a wet and dis­mal Tues­day morn­ing, we had a sub­stan­tial break­fast, as it would prob­a­bly be 24 hours be­fore we had an­other hot meal. Our ar­rival at the goods yard co­in­cided with that of the diesel which was to take us on the first stage of our jour­ney, Brush Type 4 No. D1699 with Driver Al­bert Port­lock and Fire­man Pe­ter Rolfe, both of Cardiff, at the con­trols. The guard was J.J. Phillips of Barry.

Al­most the first thing we checked be­fore de­par­ture was the faulty spring, which had come out of po­si­tion dur­ing the night when a brake van had been buffered up be­hind the en­gine, caus­ing the bal­ance weight on the wheel to catch the front clamp.

The only thing we could do was re­move the clamp for a fit­ter from Barry wagon re­pair de­pot to take some more metal off with cut­ting equip­ment. By this time, 1½ hours had passed and Cardiff con­trol was tele­phon­ing Barry Goods to see what had gone wrong. Af­ter ex­plain­ing the sit­u­a­tion they sug­gested that their own men should check this on Pe­narth East curve by Can­ton shed.

At 10.50am, and in pour­ing rain, we moved out of Barry Goods Yard, not­ing sev­eral more steam lo­co­mo­tives go­ing into the scrap­yard, in­clud­ing ‘4MT’ 2-6-0s Nos. 76077 and 76084 which

had been shed­ded at Sut­ton Oak in St He­lens, only a mile away from where I lived.

We had a smooth run to Pe­narth East curve where the Can­ton fore­man fit­ter sug­gested that the en­gine should be taken onto the diesel de­pot for fur­ther re­pairs. We set off to­wards Cardiff Cen­tral sta­tion in or­der to gain the cor­rect road to ap­proach the shed, which was then reached through the wash­ing plant – mak­ing the diesel very clean but hav­ing ab­so­lutely no ef­fect on our en­gine!

The at­ten­tion we re­ceived at Can­ton was se­cond to none and every­body seemed in­ter­ested to see a steam en­gine on the shed af­ter a good num­ber of years. It was an op­por­tu­nity for us to check the bear­ings and this proved to be wor­ry­ing be­cause the cen­tre axle on the left hand side was run­ning warm. The main­te­nance staff too were con­cerned, but sug­gested that we should con­tinue to New­port and let their fit­ters carry out a check.


As we ap­proached New­port shed we could see a band of men com­ing to­wards us car­ry­ing lots of oil. As soon as the lo­co­mo­tive stopped we jumped down to check the sus­pect axle­box, only to find it was still run­ning warm. But the New­port men said: “Hey lad, that’s not hot. If it was, you’d be able to fry an egg on it.” As we had no eggs this could not be proved!

An hour and a half later, we passed Aber­gavenny sta­tion, but it be­came ap­par­ent we were not go­ing to stop as booked and we were con­cerned as to how the cen­tre axle­box was far­ing, as our next stop was Here­ford, two hours away.

As we emerged from Pon­tri­las Tun­nel we could see that the points were set for us to go into the re­lief road. We quickly alighted from the en­gine to check the bear­ing but, to our sur­prise, it had cooled down. With all the anx­i­ety about the axles nei­ther of us had given any thought to the front spring; for­tu­nately its con­di­tion was un­changed.

At Here­ford we came to a stand in the cen­tre road, 1 hour 24 min­utes late, for a sched­uled en­gine and crew change, with English Elec­tric Type 4 No. D338 back­ing onto our train. A crowd of in­ter­ested peo­ple had gath­ered on the plat­form, but our new guard was fran­ti­cally blow­ing his whis­tle to get us mov­ing again.

We were now trav­el­ling at a lit­tle over our per­mit­ted speed of 20mph, and passed Leomin­ster at around 30mph. With our next booked stop at Woof­fer­ton not far away, we de­cided to take no ac­tion, but as we were run­ning late we sailed on by and at Lud­low the speed had risen to about 47mph. We ap­plied our hand­brake and in­di­cated to the guard that we wanted to slow down. He ap­plied his brake and started to blow his whis­tle, but this had no ef­fect so he started to wave his red flag, yet we con­tin­ued at around 45mph. We could only hope that the axle­box and spring would stand up to this speed. At last, eight miles fur­ther on, one of the en­gine crew no­ticed what was go­ing on. We in­di­cated that we

would like to stop and carry out some checks, which we did near Craven Arms at 6.03pm. To our sur­prise all was OK, but we made the point that our speed limit should be ob­served and main­tained.

Pass­ing Church Stret­ton and Dor­ring­ton, in a sid­ing there were four Stanier ‘8Fs’, Nos. 48637, 48450, 48510 and 48061 go­ing in the other di­rec­tion to­wards South Wales [all four were cut up by But­tigieg of New­port]. Shrews­bury was now loom­ing on the hori­zon, where we had an­other crew change. We in­formed the new crew of our con­cerns and they were sym­pa­thetic, promis­ing to keep an even speed.


The light was now fad­ing, and we were not look­ing for­ward to trav­el­ling all night. We had ex­pected the evenings to be cold, so we had warmer cloth­ing to hand, and with no glass in the cab win­dows we cer­tainly needed it.

Af­ter Whitchurch we were shunted up the old Ch­ester line to let other trains pass, and we were in­vited up to the sig­nal box for a drink and to get warm, which we ap­pre­ci­ated.

Dark­ness had now closed in and time and stop­pages be­gan to mean very lit­tle as we had very lit­tle to do and noth­ing to see. The rain had started to fall, mak­ing the jour­ney mis­er­able as it was com­ing in through the win­dows and run­ning down the boiler face plate. We passed very slowly through Nantwich at 10.04pm, by which time (and with a lit­tle in­ge­nu­ity) we had man­aged to board up the win­dows and stop the rain from com­ing in.

At Crewe, Gresty Lane No. D338 moved off and was re­placed by No. D373. The new train crew voiced very strong ob­jec­tions to the max­i­mum speed of 20mph, and on be­ing told that BR had seen fit to im­pose the limit and that it should be ob­served, the driver was very un­happy and stalked away.

We had now been trav­el­ling for over 12 hours so we both tried to get some sleep; I must have had a lit­tle as I don’t re­mem­ber pass­ing Chelford, but Alan recorded the time at 11.24pm. Our chair­man, Ian John­son, had asked us to keep an eye out for his un­cle, a Mr Park, who would be at Stock­port sta­tion. As the move­ment had been kept quiet he was the only per­son there to see it, and was glad when we ar­rived as he had been wait­ing since 10pm, our ar­rival be­ing at one minute past mid­night.

Join­ing the line from Manch­ester Ex­change to Leeds, we passed through the long tun­nel at Staly­bridge. It was al­ready full of fumes and our diesel only made things worse, mak­ing the pas­sage very un­pleas­ant. Pass­ing Moss­ley and Green­field, both of us were rolled up like lit­tle balls try­ing to keep warm. We had re­sorted to put­ting on ex­tra lay­ers of cloth­ing as we were fast ap­proach­ing Dig­gle Tun­nel, one of the long­est in the coun­try at 3 miles 57 yards. The jour­ney through was very un­com­fort­able and it was dif­fi­cult to breathe.

Ar­riv­ing at Healey Mills at 3.08am, our EE Type 4 pulled away to be re­placed with a Type 3, No. 6946. The new guard ap­peared to tell us that the brake van from Barry was be­ing left at Healey Mills, so we moved all our be­long­ings into the rear cab of No. 6946. Without fur­ther ado, the guard was blow­ing his whis­tle to get us un­der way at 3.27am.


Dawn had bro­ken as we passed Keigh­ley at 6.30am, com­ing to a halt at the sig­nal box to the north of the sta­tion, re­vers­ing into the goods yard and stop­ping out­side the goods shed.

We had ar­rived 1 hour 15 min­utes be­hind sched­ule, hav­ing trav­elled 232 miles in around 20 hours through three re­gions of British Rail. Hav­ing said our good­byes to the train staff, we headed to the sta­tion fore­court to meet Alex McDon­ald, an­other mem­ber of the team, for the jour­ney home.

Sev­eral days later Ian, Alex and I were present to wit­ness Manch­ester Ship Canal 0‑6‑0T No. 31 com­plete the ‘4F’s’ move­ment to Haworth. There, the team worked most week­ends to get No. 43924 back to run­ning con­di­tion, in the sum­mer of 1970.

It was quite an achieve­ment for nine men from Mersey­side who, col­lec­tively, are the Mid­land 4F Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety. But the big­gest achieve­ment of all has to be that, as I write this 50 years af­ter the ‘4F’s’ res­cue, it is still ac­tive on the Keigh­ley & Worth Val­ley Rail­way, which now owns it. Long may it con­tinue.

he shocked us by say­ing that the lo­co­mo­tive could not be moved be­cause the front left­hand spring Was in dan­ger of col­laps­ing


Just over two weeks be­fore leav­ing for Keigh­ley, No. 43924 sits at Barry on Au­gust 25 1968.


Alan Fleet­wood with No. 43924, ready to leave Barry be­hind Brush Type 4 No. D1699 on Septem­ber 11 1968.


Re­cently re­stored Keigh­ley & Worth Val­ley Rail­way ‘4F’ No. 43924 pi­lots 1968 vet­eran ‘Black Five’ No. 5025 near Damems in April 1972.


Manch­ester Ship Canal 0‑6‑0T No. 31 pre­pares to tow No. 43924 up the Worth Val­ley to Haworth for restora­tion, on Septem­ber 15 1968.


The ‘4F’ sits in the cen­tre road at Here­ford while the diesel lo­co­mo­tives are changed.

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