Published: 30th August 2014
The first working steam locomotive at the privately-owned Essex working railway museum when it opened its doors to the public over the 1989 August Bank Holiday was ex-Cadley Hall Colliery Bagnall 0-6-0ST 3061/1954.
Originally named Empress, the loco ran at Mangapps as Demelza until August 1999 when withdrawn on expiry of its boiler ticket. Its overhaul was finally completed around May, ensuring it – carrying the name Empress once again - would be back in steam for the 25th anniversary gala.
John Jolly, (Once erroneously reported as being deceased!) is the man behind the railway museum near Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, figured having the locomotive which was there at the start back in steam again to mark 25 years of operation was not quite enough. What was needed was to give stalwart steam loco ex-Kinneil Colliery (NCB No. 47) Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST (2157/1943) a makeover. The result was a fresh black livery and a brand new name – meet No. 8 Fambridge, unveiled to the public for the first time during the gala.
You will look in vain for Fambridge colliery. “It is named after the Essex village where I grew up,” laughed John. “I thought about naming the loco Southminster but there were too many letters and the panel would have to have been bigger, so I settled on Fambridge!” Southminster? “Some people comment that the railway does not go anywhere, but that is not true,” John explained. “When we opened the extension, the end of the longer line fell in the postcode for Southminster, so we go from Burnham to Southminster!” Getting to the museum is pretty straightforward as well since it is located only a mile north of Burnham-on-Crouch main line station.
In addition to the two operational steam locos there is a fleet of diesel locomotives. The celebration gala, which also marked the 125th anniversary of the opening of the Great Eastern Railway lines to Southminster, Southend and Maldon, featured classic traction and steam. Diesels ruled on August 23, with August 24-25 seeing steam and internal combustion taking turns to run passenger trains over the mile long running line which curves around fields in the Essex farming landscape. But there is much more to Mangapps than train rides.
The sheds at the main station easily qualify for the ‘treasure trove’ tag. Locomotives, rolling stock, tube trains (yes really, Northern Line cars from London Underground!) and an astounding collection of railwayana and artefacts has been assembled over the last quarter of a century.
Mention has to be made of the first vehicle you see on arrival at the site. It’s huge, it’s bright yellow, it’s a brake van – but unlike any brake van which ever ran on British Railways. What you are looking at is a 1981-built Canadian Pacific caboose, known as Conductor’s Van No. 434677 in Canada. It was constructed at CPR's Angus Shops, Montreal in 1981 and one of the last examples to be built for CP.
Mangapps opened talks aimed at securing a caboose in early 2007, the idea being to use it to accommodate the collection of Canadian railwayana at the museum. When purchased it was in Fairfield, Iowa, USA. Its journey to Essex involved travelling nearly 2,000 miles on its own wheels via BNSF and Canadian National from Fairfield to Halifax, Nova Scotia, then by sea to Liverpool and on by road to Burnham where it arrived in mid-July 2011.
As far as we know, it is the only genuine standard gauge vehicle of its type in Britain. The only thing which comes close is the near-replica (its construction was based on original drawings) of a 1903-vintage Sandy River & Rangeley Lakes caboose which sees service on the 2ft gauge Brecon Mountain Railway.
As things transpired, the collection of Canadian memorabilia had outgrown the capacity of the caboose by the time it arrived at Mangapps. Moreover, the interior is so well equipped it is worth keeping as-is to show the heaters, stove, cooking ring and yes, kitchen sink (with hot/cold water tap!) – there is even an upstairs with four seats in the observation section.
In theory it could be run in a demonstration capacity, although it is slightly too wide to clear Mangapps’ present platforms. In practice, it forms a sort of gate-guardian adjacent to the car park with public access to the interior without actually entering the museum – but having been enticed by the vehicle surely you would want to discover the other delights at Mangapps!