by Cliff Thomas

World War 1 ‘Tracks to the Trenches’ event at Apedale Valley Light Railway

Published: 8th July 2014

September WW1 centenary railway event near Stoke by The Moseley Railway Trust

‘Tracks to the Trenches – 2014’ at the Apedale Valley Light Railway near Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire over September 12-14 and will present an amazing collection of WW1 era light railway equipment. The list of visiting locomotives is headed by The Greensand Railway Museum Trust’s Baldwin 4-6-0T WDLR No. 778 and North Gloucestershire Railway Trust’s Henschel ‘Brigadelok’ 0-8-0T No. 1091 (15968/1918).

The Baldwin, one of 350 built in America during 1916-17 for Britain’s War Department, is based at the Leighton Buzzard Railway and the only working example of this iconic locomotive in Britain. The ‘Brigadelok’ is a representative of the even greater numbers of ‘Feldbahn’ steam locos built by Germany to undertake essentially similar work on the WW1 battlefields.

Further visiting steam will be provided by the Statfold Barn Railway’s Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0WT 1643/1930 Surrey County Council No. GP 39. Apedale resident Kerr Stuart ‘Joffre’ 0-6-0T No. 3014 should also be in steam for the event, an example of the UK-built locomotives of this type constructed between 1915-1916 for the French military systems.

Steam debut bonus

The event will also present the public debut of restored Hudswell Clarke ‘Ganges’ class 0-6-0WT 1238/1916. A type which saw use on the WW1 battlefield lines, this example worked at a gold mine in Ghana (then known as The Gold Coast) until 1948, when an accident which resulted in the death of its driver left it upside down in a swamp.

The loco was rediscovered in 1996, recovered and displayed at AngloGold Ashanti’s mine complex until in 2008 the company allowed it to be repatriated. Restoration has been undertaken by a team of volunteers at a private location. The loco secured a boiler certificate following official boiler inspection on June 24 and was driven back and forth on a few yards of temporary track – its first moves under its own power for 66 years.

On completion of remaining tasks to finish the restoration it will be moved to the Apedale Valley Light Railway and steam in public for the first time at ‘Tracks to the Trenches – 2014’. Its military black livery will be quite a contrast with the similar Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0WT 1643/1930 Surrey County Council No. GP 39’s bright red!

Internal combustion shares top billing

Internal combustion motive power was as important as steam on the Western Front, especially for operations close to the front lines. Four versions of War Department Light Railway Simplex locomotives will be represented at the same location for, it is believed, the first time in preservation.

These comprise The Greensand Railway Museum Trust’s 40hp petrol ‘Armoured’ Simplex WDLR No. 2182 (MR 461/1917) from Leighton Buzzard, 40hp ‘Open’ version of the Simplex type MR1381/1918 from Amberley, Apedale-resident 40hp ‘Protected’ 40hp Simplex WDLR No. 3090 (MR1369/1918) and Motor Rail 20hp ‘Simplex’ 264/1916 (the oldest surviving Simplex in Britain – and still having its Dorman petrol engine) visiting from the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.

The latter will be accompanied from Porthmadog by 15hp Baguley 760/1918. Further 20hp Motor Rails from the MRT collection at Apedale are likely to also be in operation, along with restored examples of WW1 wagons.

“This meeting of the Motor Rails will be a preservation first, and something which the event organising team and the various locomotive owners have worked very hard to arrange”, said MRT Chairman, Phil Robinson. “This is yet another reason why Tracks To The Trenches should be firmly written into every railway enthusiast’s diary!”

On-Line ticketing available

Tickets for the event can be bought on-line to avoid gate queues – and qualify for a free copy of the event guide. The tickets are available via

Tickets can also be bought for a night-time photo-shoot on Friday September 12, and for the very limited number of ‘Access All Areas’ passes which give unparalleled out-of-hours and behind the scenes access and are ideal for the keen photographer.

Background reading on the role of wartime railways

The Moseley Railway Trust has arranged publication of ‘The Railway Gazette Special War Transportation Number’ in book form, a reprint of the original September 1920 publication described at the time as 'the first connected account' of the role of railways and inland water transport in supporting the British military campaign during the 1914-18 'Great War'. It is available in hardback (£19.95) or softback (£14.95) plus postage from Moseley Railway Trust, 11 Ashwood Road, Disley, Cheshire SK12 2EL.

Enthusiasts may also be keen to buy a copy of the July issue of The Railway Magazine (‘The Remembrance Issue’) which is a 132-page Collectors’ Edition presenting features following the theme of ‘Railways at War’. This includes an outline of the role of WW1 light railways in a feature by contributor and RM journalist Cliff Thomas which describes the work undertaken by the locomotive types appearing at the MRT’s ‘Tracks to the Trenches’ event.

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