By Cliff Thomas

Samson or Georgina? Who will win the title of newest narrow gauge steam locomotive to enter service?

Published: 20th May 2016

Hot and friendly rivalry in race to complete two new steam locomotives

Currently Samson, the replica of a Stephen Lewin-built 0-4-0T originally constructed in 1874 at Lewin’s Poole Foundry supplied to the London Lead Company holds the title of Britain’s newest (full-size) steam locomotive. This worked over a one-mile tramway between Cornish Hush lead mine and a crushing plant at Whitfield Brow near Frosterley

The first fire was put in the replica Samson in January while the completed new locomotive was test steamed on April 6 - 142 years after the original first ran in County Durham. The trials confirmed Samson needs some further work before entering service, including adding ballast to the front end to compensate for the locomotive being found somewhat tail-heavy.

Poldark Railways?

Cornish Hush lead mine seems to have ceased production by 1883 and the company was wound up in 1905 when the original locomotive was apparently sold, probably for scrap.

Construction of the replica at Beamish, a flagship project at the museum’s Regional Heritage Engineering Centre, commenced when the frame plates were cut in late 2012 by a contractor. Almost all work on the locomotive has been undertaken at Beamish, the primary exceptions being work on the wheelsets and axleboxes at Statfold Barn Railway and assembly of the boiler components at Severn Valley Railway’s boiler shop.

A nice touch is the lettering ‘David Thomas Young Builder’ cast into the fire hole door plate, reflecting the central role of Beamish’s Dave Young in construction of the locomotive.

The design is similar to an ‘overtype’ traction engine with a crankshaft, flywheel and valve gear all mounted above the boiler. Stephen Lewin built other locos to this pattern including a pair (named Hops and Malt) for brewers Guinness.

The original Samson was 1ft 10in gauge, however the replica has been constructed to the more common nominal 2ft gauge, enabling it to run on Beamish’s narrow gauge line near the colliery area and visit other railways. Its first visit away from Beamish will be to the annual steam gala at Threlkeld over July 30-31. This event will also feature Statfold Barn Railway’s latest restoration, Hudwell Clarke P class 1172/1922 Alpha and Phil Mason’s Kerr Stuart ‘Sirdar’ class 0-4-0T Diana, restoration of which was completed late last year.

Other motive power will comprise Statfold’s Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0WT 1643/1930 Surrey County Council No. GP 39 (formally Bronllwyd), West Lancashire Railway’s Kerr Stuart ‘Joffre’ 0-6-0T+WT Joffre (2405/1915) and Threlkeld’s resident Bagnall 0-4-0ST Sir Tom .

Georgina introduces steam to Scarborough North Bay

For a month, the 20in gauge Scarborough North Bay Railway’s newly constructed 0-4-0ST Georgina, which steamed on NBR metals for the first time on March 3 held the title of Britain’s latest steam locomotive. While pushed out of that slot by Beamish’s replica Samson, Georgina can perhaps still claim to be the UK’s newest steam passenger loco!

Georgina is based on a Bagnall ‘Sipat’ design. The project commenced around Easter 2013, facilitated by the presence of two Engineering Skills Training Initiative-funded apprentices. The frames, cut by contractors, were riveted together and the loco was test assembled with the boiler (welded construction with a marine-type firebox built in-house at Scarborough) temporarily located in position in early June 2014 – but then taken apart again to allow final construction to progress.

Georgina undertook further trials during March and was launched into traffic for Easter. Since it opened in 1931 Scarborough North Bay Railway had been worked by 1930s vintage steam-outline diesel locomotives built by Hudswell Clarke in the early 1930s, three of which (4-6-2DHs Triton, Neptune and Poseidon) are third-scale ‘models’ of LNER A3s. The fourth, Robin Hood , is a 4-6-4T. Georgina therefore introduces steam operation of passenger trains at SNBR for the first time ever.

When the frames for Georgina were produced a second set was also cut. These will be used to build another loco of the same design, but 2ft gauge which will see service at other railways. The Scarborough North Bay locomotives are a completely different project from a separate trio of Bagnall 0-4-0ST Sipat design locos being built by Station Road Steam in Lincolnshire, the frames for which were produced a couple of years ago.

Rolling chassis for Lyn by Alan Keef Ltd Open Day

With the aid of a generous loan and assuming fund raising efforts continue successfully, expects its recreation of 2ft gauge Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Baldwin 2-6-2T Lyn to be presented as a complete rolling chassis with driving wheelsets and pony trucks fitted at the September 17 Alan Keef Ltd Open Day at the firm’s works near Ross-on-Wye.

The smokebox saddle, cylinders and brake stand should also be in position, some, if not all, inside motion fitted together with a surprise ‘special item' (762 Club is not saying what – the wooden cab perhaps?) in place, if only temporarily.

The 762 Club is expected to make an announcement very shortly of the projected first steaming date for Lyn, together with a timetable for completing the locomotive by spring 2017 – at which point Lyn will take over the ‘Britain’s newest steam locomotive’ title!

Other attractions for the Alan Keef Ltd Open Day are still being developed, but steam on the demonstration line is likely to feature Patrick Keef’s Bagnall 0-4-0ST Woto and Graham Morris’ Kerr Stuart 0-4-0ST ‘Wren’ Peter Pan.

New James Spooner Double-Fairlie for Ffestiniog

Ffestiniog Railway has started work on construction of a new Double-Fairlie at its Boston Lodge works with the first components for the new boiler (of hybrid welded/riveted construction) already delivered. To be named James Spooner, it will carry FR fleet No. 8, the number carried by the Ffestiniog’s original James Spooner built by Avonside in 1872 and withdrawn in 1928.

The new locomotive will replace 1979-built Double-Fairlie Earl of Merioneth , which will be withdrawn and stored. The new James Spooner will employ the 1986-built power bogies currently under Earl of Merioneth along with cab fittings and controls from the latter. All other elements of the new James Spooner will be constructed afresh to produce a Double-Fairlie of traditional appearance featuring stovepipe chimneys and a removable cab roof centre section.

The new locomotive is scheduled to enter traffic in 2020 - the 150th anniversary of the 1870 Little Wonder trials which first introduced the Fairlie patent design to FR and revolutionised operation of the line.

While plainly a Double-Fairlie, the 1979-built Earl of Merioneth had a very angular appearance in comparison with the traditional outline of the type which contributed to FR’s fame. With the locomotive approaching the end of its 10-year ticket the conclusion was reached it was life-expired with almost every component requiring replacement, including the boiler, boiler cradle, smokeboxes, chimneys and water tanks.

With its present power bogies to be removed and refurbished for use under the new James Spooner, Earl of Merioneth’s original 1979 bogies will be put back the loco when it is retired to dry storage, available should a future decision be made to restore it.

Controversial as its appearance may be, Earl of Merioneth will hold a unique place in railway preservation history. It was first new-build steam locomotive to enter service on a preserved line in the UK, and will become the first to be withdrawn.

During its existence Ffestiniog Railway has had six Double-Fairlie’s, four of which have been constructed at Boston Lodge. The others are Little Wonder (George England 1869 - scrapped), James Spooner (Avonside 1872 - scrapped) and Boston Lodge-built Merddin Emrys (1879), Livingston Thompson (1886 – static display NRM), Earl of Merioneth (1979) and David Lloyd George (1992). James Spooner will thus become the FR’s seventh of the type and the fifth built entirely at Boston Lodge.

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