Published: 17th June 2014
The first of 56 Type 1, 650hp 0-6-0 diesel-hydraulic locos, later Class 14, was introduced by British Railways on July 24, 1964. These were the last locos built for BR at the famous GWR Swindon Works, and were numbered D9500 to D9555.
This anniversary is being celebrated in fine style at the East Lancashire Railway on July 25-27 with the 14s@50 event. This promises to be one of the biggest and most prestigious classic traction events of the year. No fewer than 19 ‘Teddy Bears’ survive in the UK, of which 13 are currently operational.
However, they nearly became one of Britain’s shortest-lived loco classes as their BR service life ended with all being withdrawn by April 1969. This was because the work for which they were intended, branch line freight trip working, was fast disappearing and they were almost immediately declared redundant.
The story could have ended there, but many members of the class were to find work in industry, and just a few on the Continent. They were particularly well suited to the East Midlands ironstone quarry railways and were also employed by the National Coal Board in the North East.
Even when this life extension in industry came to an end they were to find yet another valuable use, in railway preservation. Today, they are an ideal size and power for many of Britain’s heritage railways. A range of modifications has been carried out in recent years to enhance their reliability and efficiency. Some have even been hired out for use on main line infrastructure construction trains, such as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (HS1).
The ELR event has been two years in the planning and will bring together at least ten working examples from all over the country. An intensive timetable will be in operation over the three days, each with a different twist, and the locos working over the full length of the line.
On the Friday night, No. D9537 ’Eric’, one of two ‘Teddy Bears’ resident on the ELR, will be making its return to service following restoration. It will haul a train for the first time in more than two decades when it works a pie-and-pea supper special. Limited edition bottled beer is being produced specially for this train.
Saturday night should see all ten locos working the ‘Bear-Ex’, with both cask and bottled ales on board. The 14s will all head the train from Bury to Ramsbottom, then top-and-tail with five each end for the rest of the journey.
The station footbridge at Bury Bolton Street will host a timeline display of the class along with a number of models of all gauges and scales. Dominating this will be a superb 7¼in gauge model of No. D9522, which was awarded ‘best in show’ at the 2011 national model engineering exhibition at Harrogate.
Hattons Model Railways will have a unique model of No. D9537 present, for which a free draw ticket will be included in every copy of the event booklet. This to be drawn at 2pm on Sunday at Bury.
In addition to the ales, a special T-shirt and a booklet detailing the Class 14 story including a guide to the event will be available. These can be pre-ordered with rover tickets.
Various rover tickets are available, for example 1-day £23.00 (pre-booked £20); concession £20.50 (£18.00), child £15 (£13) and family £60 (£55). The standard 3-day ticket is £55 (£50).
No-one seems quite sure how the universally used nickname ‘Teddy Bear’ came into being. Some say they were at first referred to as ‘Yogi Bears’ after the popular TV cartoon character of the time. This was possibly because of the similarity of the drooping cab windows when viewed from the front, compared to the eyes of the then-famous bear. Others say someone at Swindon thought the works had really declined from when they built the magnificent 4-6-2 steam loco The Great Bear, to now churning out ‘Teddy Bears’…
The East Lancashire Railway is easily accessible by all forms of transport. Bury Interchange is a five-minute walk away from Bury Bolton Street station and Metrolink trams operate at regular intervals directly from Manchester city centre.
Other stations on the line, which is more than 12 miles long, are at Heywood, Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall.