GWR 'Hall' No. 4953 Pitchford Hall and GWR Large Prairie No. 4141 have been purchased for the Epping Ongar Railway.
In a dramatic swoop which will catapult the Epping Ongar Railway into the major league of steam heritage lines, Roger Wright (owner of the Epping Ongar Railway) has bought two ex-main line locomotives from Dr John Kennedy.
GWR 'Hall' No. 4953 Pitchford Hall and GWR Large Prairie No. 4141 will work steam-hauled trains on the EOR when it reopens following major refurbishment later this year. They will join the EOR’s other steam locomotive, ex-industrial Hawthorne Leslie 0-6-0ST Isabel (3437/1919) bought for the EOR in 2010. The latter, presently at the Colne Valley Railway, has yet to steam on the EOR line and will be moved to Ongar shortly.
Pitchford Hall was restored to steam from ex-Barry condition in 2004. The ‘Hall’ has subsequently appeared on the main line and latterly been based at the Great Central Railway. It will move to Ongar when its present commitments to the GCR are fulfilled shortly before the EOR reopens.
Prairie No. 4141 was also rescued from Barry, returning to steam in late 1997. The 2-6-2T is in the latter stages of a 10-year overhaul which has been progressing at Llangollen since mid-2010. It will be taken to the EOR when the overhaul is completed and it has returned to action. At this stage it is not clear if it will appear at the 6880 Betton Grange Society’s April 21-29 2012 ‘Steel, Steam & Stars III’ gala at the Llangollen Railway before moving to Essex.
In the longer term, the EOR anticipates also being the home base of a new-build Holden GER F5 2-4-2T being built by The Holden F5 Group.
The Epping Ongar line entered preservation following its sale by London Transport in 1998. Heritage services commenced in October 2004 in the form of a DMU operation, although steam has been present at the Ongar station site in the form of a Finnish Tk3 2-8-0 which was occasionally steamed during 2007 on a length of 5ft gauge track adjacent to the EOR standard gauge running line.
Roger Wright became the sole owner of the EOR in early 2008 when he purchased the shares of Epping Ongar Railway (Holdings) Ltd from his four fellow directors. No public passenger trains have run since the change of ownership (which also marked the end of earlier ideas for converting the line to Finnish 5ft gauge) other than limited rides at North Weald during an Open Day last year. During this closure period extensive work on the line’s infrastructure has been in progress including major refurbishment to original (pre-London Transport) condition of many of the line’s buildings.
In addition to the steam locomotives, the line has a number of diesels ranging from shunting locos to ex-main line traction.
Reopening of the EOR is expected ‘soon’ although no date will be given until the railway is absolutely sure everything is ready for its re-launch as a steam heritage line on the fringe of London.