Greensand Railway Museum Trust

Can you help? £5000 is all that’s needed to complete the restoration of a unique Armoured WW1 locomotive

Published: 9th December 2016

£5,000 could see Bedford built centenary celebrity locomotive celebration take place in 2017

The Greensand Railway Museum Trust is making an urgent appeal for donations. The registered charity fears restoration of World War One 40hp Armoured Simplex LR2182 will falter for lack of money – possibly as little as £5,000 - before this war veteran reaches its 100th anniversary in 2017.

The locomotive, superficially akin to a small tank on railway wheels, was built by Motor Rail and Tramcar Company of Bedford in 1917.

It is a unique survivor in still having its original petrol engine and is the only locomotive of its type in the northern hemisphere. Just one other of the type found its way to sugar industry service in Antigua - this example has recently been cosmetically restored, but has a replacement engine and bodywork modified from its original form.

Background to a WW1 veteran

The locomotive was built in Bedford to work on WW1 trench-supply railways. It seems 34 of this armoured type were built, although this might have comprised 27 actual armoured locomotives, plus seven ‘conversion kits’ for open 40hp Simplexes.

Records are confusing, but 2182 seems to have arrived in France in time to serve on the battlefields during the final year of WW1. Post-WW1 it was ‘de-mobbed’ and was bought by Furness Brick & Tile Co Ltd in Lancashire (now Cumbria) around July 1921. During the ensuing period of industrial service, it lost its distinctive upper bodywork.

Into preservation

Disused by 1963, it entered preservation in 1971 and spent periods at the (then) Narrow Gauge Railway Centre at Gloddfa Ganol (Blaenau Ffestiniog) and Museum of Army Transport at Beverley, being donated to the Army in December 2001. While displayed at Beverley it had the appearance of being in original form, the distinctive ‘armour’ platework being replicated in wood.

The Museum of Army Transport (institutionally separate from the National Army Museum) closed in August 2003. The Army offered LR2182 to Leighton Buzzard Railway (LBR) where it arrived in March 2005, unfortunately revealing serious damage caused by contractors during the move with the (wood) roof and cab doors being ripped off and damage to one of the original end panels. The Army donated the historic loco – as it stood – to LBR.

In 2005 a quotation for complete professional restoration estimated the cost as some £35,650. With numerous other projects in progress LBR could not devote the resources needed to undertake a total restoration, including replacement steel panels.

Greensand Railway Museum Trust (GRMT) offered to take on the project and ownership of LR2182 was officially transferred to the Trust in January 2009. Volunteers constructed a new replica (again, in wood) upper part of the loco to present 2182 in its original appearance, the aim being to stimulate fundraising towards full restoration by showing how it should look.

Revised objectives

Accepting raising the cash for a full professional restoration in the foreseeable future was very unlikely GRMT opted for a staged approach using as much volunteer input as possible. The aim was essentially to get the locomotive into a position where it could move under its own power for its 100th anniversary in 2017 with a very basic restoration, leaving non-essential details for later, the hope being that showing real progress would stimulate interest and help raise more money towards completion.

Although the easy option would be to install a modern diesel engine, GRMT was determined this should be a proper restoration utilising the original 40hp Dorman 4JO 4-cylinder petrol engine. Unfortunately, the engine was seized, but the full extent of attention required was unknown until it was stripped.

Restoration progress and grants

Supported by a PRISM fund grant and a small grant from the Museum Development - Bedfordshire Small Grants Scheme a start on dismantling and restoration was made.

The engine was sent to a specialist for stripping, assessment and repair. Unused for over 50 years, its condition was bad. Extensive repairs included stitch welding to deal with cracks in the cylinder block, crankcase and manifold, production of four new pistons and eight new valves and guides, machining the cylinder block and regrinding the crankshaft bearings. This soaked up so much money there was no cash to contract reassembly of the engine. Fortunately, a volunteer has taken on this task. Volunteers are also working on the gearbox, including fitting a new gear and bearings.

Meanwhile, the chassis was reduced to a bare riveted frame, professionally shot blasted and volunteers removed corroded steelwork and hot-riveted replacement angle sections and gusset reinforcements into place following which the chassis was re-wheeled. Volunteers have also repaired the radiator and ‘Shop 4 Tanks’ of Northampton produced, free of charge, a new fuel tank. Other components are being sourced or repaired as finance allows.

Renewed appeal to keep work going

A drawing for the iconic cupola (roof) has been prepared but with no more money in the kitty to produce the new steelwork the Trust is unable to invite contractors to tender for the work. New drive chains and other small components also need purchased.

Unless more money can be raised, there is a real danger the restoration will falter and 2182 will not be ready to attend its own 100th birthday party.

It is hard to put an exact figure on what is needed to bring this unique WW1 veteran back to life, but around £5,000 could cover it. The sum seems small, certainly in relation to steam locomotive restorations – but it still has to be found by this small charitable trust.

About Greensand Railway Museum Trust

The Greensand Railway Museum Trust was formed in 2000, officially coming into existence in February 2001 and registered as a charity with the Charity Commission (UK Registered Charity No. 1088460) on September 18 2001.

GRMT also owns Baldwin 4-6-0T WDLR No. 778 which it restored to steam in 2007. Following overhaul during the winter 2015/16 the Baldwin is back in action with a new 10-year ticket at its Leighton Buzzard Railway home with 2016 visits to France (Froissy-Cappy-Dompiere) and Apedale Valley Light Railway already undertaken. It is still the only operational Baldwin class 10-12-D in Britain, indeed the world in as-built steam locomotive form.

No. 2182 will be the perfect companion for No. 778 since they were built at close to the same time to undertake the same function – assist the allied war effort on the WW1 Western Front.

Please send a donation to, The Greensand Railway Museum Trust, c/o

Page’s Park Station, Billington Road, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 4TG. If you can also complete a Gift Aid form, GRMT can reclaim the tax and increase the value of donations by 25%!

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