1 778 in France June 2011

£10,000 World War One veteran steam locomotive 12 week overhaul appeal

Published: 1st June 2015

An iconic WW1 locomotive needs YOUR help for its centenary overhaul in deepest Bedfordshire.

The Greensand Railway Museum Trust is trying to raise £10,000 in the next three months to ensure Baldwin 4-6-0T War Department Light Railway No. 778 (BLW 44656/1917) is fully overhauled and back in action for crucial 100th anniversaries in 2016.

The locomotive - the only currently operational Baldwin Class 10-12-D in Britain - was returned to steam in 2007 following an extensive – and expensive - restoration from near-derelict condition. It has run at its home base, the Leighton Buzzard Railway, since and has also visited a number of railways including the Froissy-Cappy-Dompierre line on the Somme battlefield, Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Apedale Valley Light Railway and the Golden Valley Light Railway – where it worked with an ex-Ashover Railway coach and wagon.

World War One iconic locomotive

No. 778 is representative of a design which was crucial to the 1914-1918 allied war effort and is itself a war veteran having served in France on the WDLR battlefield lines. Post-war, a number of these locomotives were employed on British narrow gauge railways throughout the country hence the Class 10-12-D Baldwin is considered an icon of British narrow gauge railway history.

Withdrawal for overhaul approaching

Logically, a ’10-year ticket’ would mean No. 778’s overhaul would not be due until 2017. However, the insurance company deemed the ticket as expiring in March this year. Discussions and a change of boiler insurance company resulted in an extended ticket to October 2015, meaning the loco has continued in action at Leighton Buzzard for a few more months.

However, it is essential No. 778 is operational from the start of 2016 with a new boiler certificate to ensure it is available to celebrate various upcoming anniversaries - not least its 100th birthday! It therefore has to be withdrawn around summer/autumn and sent to contractors for the necessary work to be undertaken with sufficient time to ensure No. 778 is back in action for the start of the 2016 season.

Thanks to steaming fees earned since 2007 at home and during visits, income from a filming contract and a generous donation by model railway manufacturer Bachmann Europe plc (who are to produce 4mm scale models of No. 778 and other similar 10-12-D locos) GRMT has built up funds towards the forthcoming work.

Money needed for mechanical attention

Cash is available to send No. 778 to a contactor to be stripped, have the boiler lifted and sent to a specialist for overhaul, have the boiler refitted with a modified ashpan (essential to provide proper access for future boiler inspections), steam tested and returned to Page’s Park.

There is insufficient finance in hand to cover various mechanical works to the motion, including replacing worn crankpins, while the boiler is off the chassis. Obviously the ideal time to undertake these works is during the period the boiler is away for overhaul. Moreover, dealing with the crankpins requires removal of the wheelsets – straightforward while the other works are in progress, but not possible at Page’s Park after the locomotive has been reassembled.

“Opportunities for the locomotive to earn income are limited and the trustees are not wealthy individuals able to finance shortfalls in the cost of required work,” observed GRMT chairman, Cliff Thomas. “We really need to be able to do a full and proper job over the coming winter.”

“As things stand, we can finance the boiler works needed to secure a new ticket and return No. 778 to operation, but that would simply be storing up a potential problem for a few years hence,” explained, Cliff Thomas. “Wear in components will worsen, not get better – and it would be dreadful if No. 778 was unable to celebrate its 100th birthday by hauling a celebratory train!”

GRMT wants to have the full package of work done – logic suggests this has to be the right course of action. Donations (preferably Gift Aided) made by the end of July 2015 will help reduce the funding ‘gap’ to the point where the difference may be handled by taking up offers of loans to enable the work to be done – although loans still have to be repaid!

Donors of £100 or more will be offered a ride on the footplate around the loop at Page’s Park. Donations of £500 or more will attract a footplate trip over the length of the LBR line to Stonehenge Works.

How you can you help

Donations can be sent to the GRMT Chairman Cliff Thomas, The Greensand Railway Museum Trust, c/o Page’s Park Station, Billington Road, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU74TN.

If you can also complete a Gift Aid form, tax can be reclaimed, increasing the value of your donation by 25%!

Greensand Railway Museum Trust was registered as a charity with the Charity Commission on 18 September 2001 (Reg. No. 1088460).

Caring for icons of the WW1 trenches

Greensand Railway Museum Trust also owns 40hp Armoured Simplex, WDLR No. 2182 (Motor Rail No. 461/1917) – the only example in Europe still with its original engine. Limited funds are ring-fenced towards restoration of No. 2182 but nowhere near enough to finance all the required work.

The engine has recently been stripped for examination, the outcome being confirmation it is in very poor condition. An application for PRISM funding is about to be submitted and if successful may be sufficient to finance getting the engine and gearbox overhauled and sufficient work to enable the locomotive to move under its own power - hopefully at some stage during 2016. Further money will still have to be raised to cover work (principally to the superstructure) to complete No. 2182’s restoration.

Baldwin supplied hundreds of steam locomotives of various gauges for the European war effort.

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