FROM BARRY TO HAWORTH
No. 43924’s escape into preservation
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.
New DAwN FOR sTeAM
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.