Hitchin Branch

Locomotives of the Bure Valley Railway


Following the account of our visit to the BVR last month we take a look at their interesting stud of 15 inch gauge locomotives.

   BVR 2-6-4T No.1 'Wroxham Broad' on the turntable at Wroxham. 30th August 2011   Norman Hill
For the first two years of operation, 1990-2, locomotives were leased from the RHDR. The RH&D locos, however, could not tackle the gradients on the BVR. In 1992 the BVR received two engines of its own; number 24 was an American styled 2-4-2 named 'Sydney' which was also underpowered, while No.20 was a steam outline diesel-hydraulic 2-6-2T, built in 1964 as a petrol-hydraulic by Guest Engineering and called 'Tracy-Jo' after Trevor Guest's daughter. No.20 was initially taken by the Fairbourne Railway when a Captain Hewitt cancelled his order for the engine during its construction. After a very varied career during which it was a diesel-mechanical for Sir William McAlpine in 1974 then converted to diesel-hydraulic in 1986, No.20 was purchased by the BVR in 1991 when it was converted to its present steam 2-6-4T configuration by Winson's, named 'Wroxham Broad', and entered BVR traffic in 1992. Finally, dressed in 'Caledonian blue' and numbered 1, the loco was purchased by the 'No1 Preservation Group' between 1999 and 2008 and is now on long-term loan to the BVR from the group. No.1 took us to and from Aylsham on 30th August.

The BVR presently has no locomotive No.2, the number being reserved for a hoped for new engine. You could assist in this addition to the fleet with a one off donation of 150,000.

No.3 is a diesel-hydraulic Bo-Bo powered by a 105h.p. Bedford 6-cylinder engine. Constructed and tested on the RH&DR in 1988 by John Edwards of Great Yarmouth, No.3 provided much needed pioneer power with 'Sydney' and 'Tracy-Jo' on the BVR in 1990. Today No.3 is in constant demand, assisting with passenger trains and working p.way and engineering trains. Completely overhauled in 1998, No.3 was named '2nd Air Division USAAF' by Earl Wassom, president of the 2nd Division Association, on November 7th of that year. The 2nd Division USAAF flew bombers from 14 airfields in the area during World War II. No.3 was in Aylsham station yard when we arrived on the 30th August.

   'Friends of the BVR' rebuilt, No.4 Peugeot engined 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic stands outside Aylsham works 30th August 2011   Norman Hill
No. 4 is a useful little 0-4-0 Peugeot powered diesel-hydraulic shunter. Originally built by Hudson-Hunslett to 2' gauge with an Ailsa Crag 21h.p. engine in 1954, 'Rusty', as the loco is unofficially known, was eventually acquired by the 'Friends of the BVR' in 1993 in 'kit form' and, completely rebuilt, entered BVR service in October 2004. No.4 is usually confined to Aylsham yard where we saw her on the 30th of August, but occasionally ventures forth on permanent way trains, assisting No.3.

   Ex Fisons, Somerset, Lister 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic is BVR No.5 but still shows signs of being No.7 - Rev. Awdry's 'Toby' tram 30th August 2011   Norman Hill
No. 5 is the smallest loco on the BVR roster, a Lister 0-4-0 diesel mechanical of 1960, originally just a motorised chassis and used with many others to move peat on Fison's railway on the Somerset Levels. The loco was equipped with a canvas drop-down cover during the 1970s and came to the BVR in 2005 where it was converted into its present tram loco. configuration. In this guise it has successfully depicted the Rev. Awdry's Fodor Island Railway No.7, 'Toby'. Unnumbered at the moment, the tram engine (No.5) is now used as Aylsham station pilot. She stood rather forlornly outside the station during our visit.

Numbers 6 to 9 are, with No.1, the BVR's mainline engines. Winsons chose to base the chassis of each of these locomotives on the ZB class of 2'6" gauge 2-6-2 locomotives designed by Bagnalls and built by various British manufacturers for Indian Railways between 1926 and 1955; about 100 ZB locomotives were built for India. BVR numbers 6, 'Blickling Hall' and 7, 'Spitfire' were virtually identical when new in 1994 but rebuilding in 2004 and 2005/6 has created detail but noticeable differences between the two sisters. 'Spitfire' (named in June 1997 in honour of World War II 'Spitfire' fighter bases, RAF Coltishall, which is passed by the line, and RAF Neatishead) has just completed a further overhaul and waited, immaculate in 'Brunswick Green', in Aylsham works, ready to return to service on the day of our visit.

   Sister of 'Spitfire', ZB outline 2-6-2 No.6 'Blickling Hall' comes through Hautbois passing loop with a BVR 'Boat Train' 30th August 2011   Norman Hill
   In the compact and well equipped Aylsham works 2-6-2 No.7 'Spitfire' has just completed a major overhaul and is ready to return to work   Norman Hill

Numbers 8, 'Thunder', and 9, 'Mark Timothy' are tank engine variations of the ZB type, built by Winsons in 1996/7 and 1999 respectively as oil burners, and No.9 (initially numbered 10) as a 2-6-4T. No.8's outline body is based on the Vale of Rheidol locomotives while No.9 originally resembled a class 5a County Donegal 2-6-4T.

However, No.9 demonstrated immediate serious operating difficulties on delivery to Aylsham, the least of which was the fact that the class 5a outline cab could not comfortably accommodate even the smallest of enginemen, the worst of which concerned the front end; cylinders, motion and valve gear, hence unsatisfactory steaming and performance in general. Winsons ceased trading in the early 2000s but engineer and BVR volunteer Ian Gaylor designed a new front-end for No.9 which was completely rebuilt by Alan Keef Ltd. of Ross-on-Wye in 2002/3. The rebuild produced an efficient and powerful locomotive reminiscent in outline of a tank of the Leek and Manifold Railway; No.9 is accordingly painted in North Staffordshire red. 'Mark Timothy' is privately owned by Alan Richardson and is named in memory of his son. Now, since their arrival it had been necessary to thrash numbers 6 and 7 in order to tackle the gradients and time the trains, while coal consumption was prodigious - hence the oil burning numbers 8 and 9. However, the successful rebuild of No.9 led to the immediate rebuilding in turn of numbers 6 and 7 with marked improvement in performance and efficiency; number 8 was also rebuilt and converted to coal burning in 2008. During our visit No.8 stood outside the shed, but No.9 was at Alan Keef's undergoing routine overhaul.

Ian Gaylor's full story of the BVR loco 'reincarnation' can be read at steam-loco-design.co.uk and makes fascinating reading - especially when you have experienced the power of these splendid little steam locomotives.

Bure Valley Railway Souvenir Guide by Ted Cubitt ; 6th edition May 2008.
Bure Valley Railway website ; Trains ; Engines, Carriages and Wagons.
Steam Loco Design - Power and Economy - Developing the ZBs; website including Power and Economy - Developing the ZBs by consultant design engineer Ian Gaylor.

Norman Hill
12th October 2011

last updated: 19/10/11