150 NOT OUT…
The road to the 150th Barry restoration
Taking stock of the ‘Barry Miracle’ so far Of the 213 locomotives to leave Barry scrapyard, 149 have returned to steam and the 150th restoration is on the horizon. How has this milestone been achieved?
It has been described as ‘The Preservation Miracle’… and to rescue 213 steam locomotives from a scrapyard is indeed a huge achievement in itself.
To return 50 of them to steam is an even bigger feat, and to restore 100 is a greater triumph still.
But now, the Barry scrapyard story is approaching its greatest landmark yet, with 150 engines restored.
As ‘Modified Hall’ No. 6989 Wightwick Hall looks almost certain to set that historic score, it’s an appropriate time to take stock and look back at just how the collective skill and determination of the preservation movement has accomplished this monumental task.
FIRST TO LEAVE
It is particularly fitting that the landmark should also take place in a significant anniversary year – for it was 50 years ago that the exodus from Barry began.
Midland Railway ‘4F’ 0‑6‑0 No. 43924 was the first engine to escape from the yard, in September 1968 (for more, see pages 62‑64) and went on to become another Barry pioneer – the first to return to service – when it steamed on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in the summer of 1970.
To restore it in just two years makes for a remarkable contrast to the 30 or 40 years it has taken some of the later restorations – proving how the engines that came out of the yard early were still in reasonably good condition, having been rusting in the salty air by the Bristol Channel for only a few years rather than decades.
Similarly, 1968 also brought the first moves to save ‘Small Prairie’ No. 4566 for the Severn Valley Railway, when Bob Sim and the late David Rouse spotted the engine at Barry and started an appeal fund to save it. The 4566 Group duly completed the purchase in 1970 and it arrived at Bewdley by rail that August – steaming again within five years, on June 29 1975.
The locomotive was an attractive buy because of its relatively good condition, having been the last engine to be overhauled at Newton Abbot Works in 1960. As a result, although its restoration – like so many other Barry engines since – took place in the open air and in all weathers, it was relatively straightforward, involving 91 replacement boiler tubes, some replacement steel on the bunker and a new ashpan. Ironically, when the locomotive was withdrawn from service again five years later, it was owing to the failure of one of the new tubes, while the originals fitted at Newton Abbot had held firm.
Even in these early days, there were those who doubted the feasibility of amateur enthusiasts restoring engines from scrapyard condition – and indeed, it is notable that a number of the earlier Barry restorations were carried out at BR workshops, making use of the steam‑era expertise that was still readily available.
The third ex‑Barry engine to be restored – the Dart Valley Railway’s ‘4575’ 2‑6‑2T No. 4588 – was overhauled by BR Engineering Ltd at none other than Swindon Works between May and August 1971; ‘Jubilee’ No. 5690 Leander and ‘Jinty’ No. 47357 both steamed in 1973 after equally appropriate ‘heavy generals’ at BREL’s Derby Works; and two restorations for the Dart Valley
Railway, No. 7827 Lydham Manor and ‘5205’ 2-8-0T No. 5239, were carried out at Newton Abbot.
The restoration process gathered pace during the 1970s, culminating in a record year (up to that point) in 1979, when seven engines returned to steam – four of them, remarkably, on the Severn Valley Railway.
The graph on the next page shows a number of such ‘peaks and troughs’, with bursts of activity as several restorations were completed, interspersed with quieter years when only one or two engines crossed the finish line.
Closer study reveals some odd parallels of history too: for instance, the only engine to steam in 1991 was ‘4F’ 0-6-0
No. 44422 at Cheddleton, which was also the sole engine to leave the yard during 1977 – the first year since the departure of classmate No. 43924 in 1968 that only one locomotive was rescued for preservation.
LOCOMOTIVE OWNERS AND GROUPS WERE PHONING THE STEAM RAILWAY OFFICE ASKING WHAT THEY HAD TO DO IN ORDER TO ATTAIN THE 100TH PLACE!
Fifty years to the month after it became the first engine to leave Barry scrapyard, Midland ‘4F’ 0-6-0 No. 43924 climbs the last few yards of the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway into Oxenhope station on September 23 2018.
As far as Steam Railway can ascertain, the 50th Barry engine to steam was ‘West Country’ No. 34105 Swanage, pictured leaving Alresford with its first passenger train, the 11.30am to Alton on August 23 1987.