Published 27th February 2013
For the first time since its overhaul was completed at the Flour Mill works in the Forest of Dean last November, the loco usually known simply as ‘Met No. 1’ steamed on the home turf of its BRC base on February 17.
The overhaul was financed by London Transport Museum and following trials during brief visits to the Avon Valley Railway and Severn Valley Railway. It was tested at speeds up to 50mph between Bewdley and Kidderminster under a special dispensation granted by ORR) in late November.
After these tests were completed, the loco was moved to the London Transport network to work a series of astonishing steam-hauled passenger trains through the LT tunnels as part of the Underground 150 celebrations. These marked the 150th anniversary of the first steam-hauled underground train to run in London.
The February 17 return to home metals by ‘Met No. 1’ was cause for double celebration by its Buckinghamshire Railway Centre owners. Also making its debut, hooked on behind No. 1, was 1919-built Metropolitan Railway third class carriage No. 465. This vehicle, owned by the Vintage Carriages Trust (based at Ingrow on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway), was also back on familiar territory after many decades’ absence.
Its working life included operating between Verney Junction, Quainton Road, Aylesbury, Amersham and Aldgate. Its time in London Transport use ended in September 1961 when the Rickmansworth to Amersham line was electrified and following a period in private ownership it was acquired by VCT in 1974.
The ‘Dreadnaught’ carriage was commencing a five-year loan to the BRC. As a ‘thank you’, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre chairman, Tony Lyster, presented a framed painting depicting No. 1 hauling carriage No. 465 at Quainton Road station, the centerpiece of the BRC site, to Trevor England, chairman of the Vintage Carriages Trust. Also present was VCT Board member, Ian Smith.
MR No. 1 stayed on to undertake further steam dates at the BRC during February before departing again to participate in more London Transport events. It will be back at Quainton Road for the whole of August
Later this year there could be another locomotive running at the BRC in Metropolitan Railway livery. The 115 year old Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST Swanscombe (699/1891) is in the latter stages of overhaul work including fitting new tubes at Quainton and its owner, Keith Lobley, is considering applying MR livery when the work is completed.
The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre has two running lines, the centre of the site being bisected by a section of national network still used by ‘bin liner’ refuse trains so they are not connected to each other or the main line.
The Up yard has the longer running line for heritage trains and is the section on which MR No. 1 (and carriage No. 465) operates. The Down yard running line uses the Quainton Road station platform once employed by the Brill Tramway, which was worked by the Metropolitan Railway (as the MR Brill branch) from 1899 until closure in 1935. The smaller ex-industrial locomotives at the BRC run on the Down yard line, including Swanscombe.
‘Met’ livery is not authentic for Swanscombe, but the idea is for Keith’s engine to adopt the guise (in rather broad terms, not least the manufacturer and number of wheels!) of BRILL No. 1, a Manning Wardle 'K' class 0-6-0ST (1249/1894) which once worked on the Brill Tramway.
The East West Rail Link and HS2 are pencilled in to cross in the BRC’s car park so there is an uncertain future there at the moment.
The BRC also put out a statement that says for the first time in many years, it will no longer be opening on Fridays or Saturdays between Easter and October, which could be due to a lack of volunteers.
The BRC GWR Pannier Tank No. 7715 has been withdrawn half way into its 10 year boiler ticket following cracks being found. There is no apparent funding available to put the engine back into service. It was returned to steam as part of a deal whereby the overhaul was paid for by a Portland based company in exchange for a five year operating lease. This is similar to the Met No. 1 Agreement where another organisation has paid the overhaul costs and takes the engine on loan for 10 years with limited visits back to its owners at Quainton.
Attendances have dropped dramatically in the last five years at Quainton and most paid staff were laid off. Finances were not helped by having to reclad Rewley Road station in new wood after it was seemingly erected incorrectly a few years earlier.
When the next series of steam trains on The Met run, it will take Met No. 1 back to Rickmansworth where for 10 days in May 2000, it was displayed with Metropolitan Railway carriages. The engine was in need of an overhaul then so was towed by a battery locomotive from Ruislip via Neasden to Rickmansworth with rail.co.uk’s Phil Marsh on board.