Bedfordshire’s 2ft gauge Leighton Buzzard Railway aimed to set a new world record for the number of ‘Coffee Pot’ locomotives in one location over May 14-15.
The boiler of most steam locomotives is mounted horizontally (lengthwise) in the frames, but a small number of locos have the boiler mounted upright or vertically. They have a rather quirky appearance which reminded people of coffee pots, hence the nickname! The boiler layout is decidedly vintage and in truth the type did not catch on in great numbers – but they also have a very special charm, inspiring a number of people to construct their own locomotives using this principle.
The previous high for a public gathering of ‘Coffee Pots’ was reckoned to be when four Baltimore and Ohio Railroad locomotives of the type headed the line’s first train into Washington D.C. in 1834. The all-volunteer Leighton Buzzard line did not merely break this record, they demolished it!
No less than seven full size vertical boiler locomotives ran on LBR metals, plus a further ten miniature locos (5in and 7.25in gauge) on a specially laid dual gauge line at LBR’s Stonehenge Works terminus, making 17 VBTs in steam capable of carrying or hauling people. In addition, over 40 models of the type ranging in size from live steam 16mm scale locos running on layouts set up at Stonehenge Works down to the smallest, a 4mm scale electric powered model, were displayed. So, the record has now been set at around 60 vertical boiler locos together at the same location – that will take some beating!
The oldest ‘Coffee Pot’ for the LBR event by a long chalk was the venerable De Winton 0-4-0VBT Chaloner built in 1877 saved for preservation in 1960 by LBR vice-president, Alf Fisher and an icon of the Bedfordshire line. The other 2ft gauge locos of the type gathered for this event were all built in much more recent times and comprised Taffy (Alan and Patrick Keef), Paddy (David Potter), Iorwerth (Adam Barber), Leary (Ffestiniog Railway volunteers), Perceverance (Chris Parmenter) and Forshaw (John Forshaw).
As if the VBT feast of steam were not enough, three conventional locomotives were in action on the LBR main line over the weekend, O&K 0-6-0WT Elf, Andrew Barclay 0-6-0T Doll and Kerr Stuart 0-4-0ST Pixie.
Over 900 visitors came to see the spectacle – thought to be the highest weekend attendance at the Leighton Buzzard Railway since its 1992 25th anniversary celebrations.