RACES TO THE FINISH
The Barry story peaked in 1987, with ten engines completed – the only time the total reached double figures. It is no surprise that this momentous year was also the one in which the 50th engine was restored.
As far as Steam Railway has been able to ascertain, this was ‘West Country’ No. 34105 Swanage at the Mid-Hants Railway – although it was only a matter of days between the Bulleid ‘Pacific’ and SDJR ‘7F’ No. 53808 at the West Somerset Railway.
The Fowler 2-8-0 was photographed moving under its own steam for the first time at Minehead on August 15, while MHR Operations Manager Richard Bentley says: “Our official records first show No. 34105 running on August 22, covering 24 miles, though it is possible it moved prior to that.”
The ‘Spam Can’ hauled its first trains the following day, and was officially launched into traffic on August 26 – double-heading with Urie ‘S15’ No. 506, which had itself only hauled its first train the previous month.
What an exciting year it must have been for enthusiasts
– and restoration teams for that matter – with new engines returning to steam almost every month, many within days of each other (see panel).
Perhaps the volunteers on those engines had been spurred on by the knowledge that one of them would be the 50th restoration?
That was certainly the case at the turn of the millennium. Former Steam Railway editor Tony Streeter remembers how, with the occasion of the 100th restoration approaching, locomotive owners and groups were phoning the Steam Railway office asking what they had to do in order to attain the 100th place!
One of those vying for the coveted position was BR ‘4MT’ 2-6-4T No. 80105 at the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway – but in the event, its first steaming on December 11 1999 put it in 99th place, and the 100th engine was the GWR Preservation Group’s ‘8750’ 0-6-0PT No. 9682, which moved under its own steam for the first time at the Swindon & Cricklade Railway on January 7 2000.
Ironically, that was not to be the last time an ‘80XXX’ tank narrowly missed out on setting a historic Barry benchmark – with No. 80097 having been the 149th to steam, at the East Lancashire Railway on October 18.
So if one defines a Barry engine as having been completed when it first moves under its own steam (see panel) what could happen if, or when, we are closing in on the 200th restoration?
After 198 engines have been completed, might we end up in a stand-off situation, with two or three locomotives fully restored and ready to roll, but with no fires lit and not budging an inch because nobody wants to be number 199?
It would certainly be an interesting conclusion to the story…