Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of revisiting an old byway

7th October 2012

Back when I was about 20, I was invited to an Open Day at a private railway not far from Southampton, then under the general auspices of the Hampshire Narrow Gauge Railway Society. They had started building a small circuit on land belonging to their Chairman, Barry Curl, in 1967 and I was there the day the finished ballasting the far side of the line and were able to do the full circuit for the first time, with ex Dinorwic 0-4-0ST "Cloister" as well as a selection of Simplexes and one of two O&K RL3 0-4-0DMs.

Forty years on, the HNGRS had relocated but the railway had survived as the "Durley Light Railway" under Barry's wing until he died and his widow decided to sell up. The auction was last Saturday and there were a number of interesting bits in the catalogue that might be of interest to me or Andrew, so it was decided that I would attend the viewing last Friday and if Andrew could wangle it, he would join me for the auction itself. In the event, he could not, and I was left to it after a long telephone call discussing what each lot comprised and what we thought it worth.

The DLR finished its days incidentally with 3 locos, which were on display outside. The largest is a Feldbahn 0-8-0T, and if that seems a bit of a beast for 2ft gauge remember this is one of hundreds built for serving the German army as it fought the First World War from the trenches, and so designed to run on hurriedly laid lightweight track. The Germans were better prepared for this than the Allies, who initially got bogged down (literally!) in mud attempting to move the materials of war in volume over unprepared roads, and had belatedly to place massive orders for 2ft gauge equipment with UK and American manufacturers.

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The second steamer is another oddity. Built by Hunslet to a Kerr Stuart "Brazil" design of 0-4-2ST, it was 3ft gauge and came from British Aluminium in Scotland. It was ultimately regauged and made into an 0-4-2T - its saddle tank surviving as a water tank.

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Finally there was an O&K diesel, reputedly built in the second war to haul V2 rockets at Peenemunde, but latterly hauling clay on the lines that fed the Swanage branch at Norden, where once the WHR's "Russell" ran, as an 0-6-2T.

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Much as I would like, I was not in the running for these, but I did walk around the circuit, trying to recall that sunny day in the 70s. Most of the lots I was interested in were set out on tables in a great marquee, ranging from ex IoWight loco whistle to a galvanised bath tub, from Whitworth taps to fire buckets.

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The news that the planned parking arrangements had been abandoned as the field was so wet that to have used it as such would have resulted in mud that the Feldbahn might have recognised caused me to arrive at eight o'clock Saturday morning to get a space in a nearby layby. I wandered back after a half-hour or so and was promptly assailed by Chris Theaker from Scunthorpe, who plied me with tea. Others I knew too, from Alan Keef and Bryan Lawson to Andy Blackwell, and vehicles parked adorned with inscriptions of "Statfold Oils" and "Whipsnade Zoo" gave some indication of others. A group gabbling in German and photographing all the O&K spare parts showed where their allegiances were.

I would like to tell you that I came away with everything I wanted and the van brimming in useful bits. In truth, I only bought 2 lots (one of which I hadn't had any intention of buying!) and more than got my money's worth, but two bidders seemed to be mopping up al the small stuff at prices that to me were out of all proportion. All three locos have apparently gone to the same well-known farm in Staffordshire - a shame as the group now creating the museum at Norden were hoping to acquire the diesel, and it really should be its spiritual home - but interestingly, the price paid for the diesel was more than the Feldbahn by several thousand pounds. Has diesel loco preservation really come of age?

Back north Saturday night, there was a discussion as to what to do Sunday. We could really have been in two places at once usefully. On the one hand, Andrew wanted to be in Scunthorpe, progressing the engine on "Beverley" and collecting the spare radiator for "Tom". But if we were to lift "Tom's" power unit out first thing Monday morning without delaying Peak Rail's work schedule it would be best if it was as near ready to lift as possible, and I was feeling the strain of many miles driven over several days. I won.

It didn't actually take too long. The casing doors and front roof pieces were unbolted and lifted off. The silencer detached, its casing section slid forward, the last engine mounting bolts removed (left in in case the loco needed to be shunted to during the week) and apart from one tie-wrap, it should all be straightforward. Afterwards Andrew started moving more bits from the VBA to storage elsewhere. The Peak Rail PWay gang had been lifting the sidings that were once Darley Dale's "North Yard", some for re-use as extended sidings at Rowsley, other sections as planned relayings in the South Yard, and the works train is off again shortly for the remainder. "Charlie" was fired up as the afternoon drew to a close and the train repositioned ready.

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