RIDDLES REVIVAL: 75069 IN STEAM AGAIN AFTER 24 YEARS
Rebuild of standard ‘4MT’ 4-6-0 is “probably biggest we’ve ever done” says project leader.
LOOKING INTO THE SMOKEBOX, LITERALLY EVERYTHING YOU SEE IS NEW – EXCEPT FOR THE SUPERHEATER HEADER
When ‘4MT’ No. 75069 last ran in 1994, British Rail was still in existence, the Channel Tunnel had just opened, and John Major was four years into his tenure as Prime Minister.
Now, a new generation of volunteers at the Severn Valley Railway are seeing the BR Standard 4‑6‑0 in action for the first time in their lifetimes.
It moved under its own steam for the first time since overhaul on December 11 – the same day as Wightwick Hall made its first moves at Quainton Road (see page 10).
Said Bridgnorth Works Planner Martin White: “We’ve got a number of passed cleaners who weren’t even born when it last steamed,” while Will Marsh, who has overseen its mechanical overhaul, was just three years old in 1994.
Mr Marsh, who started at the SVR as an apprentice and now leads the running maintenance team at Bridgnorth, said that it was “pretty awesome” to see No. 75069 in steam – “and a relief!” he added.
“It’s probably the biggest overhaul we’ve done here – it’s not really an overhaul but a rebuild.” Indeed, he has applied a worksplate reading ‘Rebuilt Bridgnorth 2017’ on one side.
The ‘rebuild’ has taken nearly a decade – and two attempts. Work commenced in June 2009 (SR365), but having been stored outside since withdrawal, the Riddles engine was found to need such extensive attention that it was sidelined again until 2013 (SR414) with 0‑6‑0PT No. 1501 taking its place in the overhaul queue.
Explained Mr White: “The moment we took the first roll of boiler cladding off, we thought ‘this doesn’t look good at all…’
“I’ve never seen scale like it; water got in, the glass fibre lagging absorbed it and it never dried out, even in summer – it was always in a humid atmosphere.
“We got as far as lifting the boiler and then put it back in the frames again, because we realised it needed way more work than we imagined.”
The corrosion meant that the entire boiler barrel had to be replaced, together with extensive repairs to the firebox wrapper. Said Mr White: “Looking into the smokebox, literally everything you see is new – except for the superheater header.”
As of December 17, the engine had undertaken 108 miles of light engine trials, with the only significant glitch having been a crosshead requiring adjustment after running warm. Loaded test runs were due to take place on December 19‑21.
However, Mr White cautioned: “We’ll have to see how those go before we know what comes next or commit to anything” – but he did not rule out the possibility that No. 75069 could haul a revenue‑earning train before the end of the year or during February half‑term. Its official launch is planned for the SVR’s Spring Steam Gala of March 15‑17.
A further celebration for the former Dover and Stewarts Lane engine will take place at the autumn gala on September 19‑22, which, Event Co‑ordinator Lewis Maddox hints, “will (hopefully) focus on BR Standards with a Southern twist. We have at least three visiting engines in the pipeline.”
BR ‘4mt’ 4‑6‑0 No. 75069 rolls through Bewdley station during a light engine trial run on December 14.