Whilst readers will not have failed to notice the blog has been a little quite lately, this does not mean that a great deal hasn’t been going on… I’ll post a news report this week, but thought that a look ahead to the Great North Steam Fair might brighten up the presently dark winter days…
We’ve already confirmed River Mite and the recreation of its delivery trip 50 years ago in an earlier post, so, sticking with the narrower gauge theme, I am very pleased to confirm that Phil Mason’s delightful Kerr Stuart 0-4-0T ‘Diana’ will be attending the Great North Steam Fair. This ties in very nicely with the proposed theme for the narrow gauge line, which is basically ‘The Kerry Tramway’. Allow me to explain…
The Kerry Tramway, in Mid-Wales, was built to enable timber extraction from the Brynllywarch estate, a role which it fulfilled until closure in 1895. It had been operated by one steam locomotive – a Bagnall 0-4-0IST (Inverted Saddle Tank) named ‘Excelsior’, and which later found a degree of fame, in rebuilt form as an 0-4-2IST, on the construction of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. This was not the end of the tramway however, as the insatiable appetite for timber during WW1 saw numerous timber extraction tramways being opened across the country. This included the Brynllywarch estate and the defunct Kerry Tramway. In 1917 the tramway was re-laid and commenced five years of operation to remove timber on behalf of the government. The first locomotive supplied was Diana, later to be joined by a Baguley petrol locomotive and another Kerr Stuart steam locomotive. A brick engine shed remains on the estate today. Diana survived, as is related further along this post, and will form an integral part of our timber cutting display on the narrow gauge railway during the Great North Steam Fair.
Below: Diana is seen here at its September 2015 debut at the Vale of Rheidol Railway ‘Forgotten Engines’ gala.
Phil Mason, Diana’s owner, has prepared this history of the locomotive:
A brief history of Kerr Stuart 1158 Sirdar Class 0-4-0
She was built in 1909 / 10 as part of a stock order or 6 Sirdar 0-4-0 locomotives. She was supplied new to The Home Grown Timber Committee in 1917 to operate on the reopened Kerry Tramway near Newtown in Central Wales hauling timber to the sawmills for use as pit props and for the war effort. She was crewed mainly at this time by German prisoners of war.
Following the rundown of operations at Kerry she was sold by E.Longhurst and Sons at Kerry Sawmills to Oakeley Quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog and was on site by December 1925. Whilst here she gained the name DIANA which was painted on the tank sides.
Following the introduction of a Ruston diesel she was sold in 1942 to a dealer in Harlech called W. O. Williams. It is unclear if the locomotive stayed at Oakeley or was moved to Harlech. However, the locomotive was purchased by The Pen-yr-Orsedd Quarry in late 1943 or very early 1944.
The boiler was declared unsafe by 1950 and she was shunted away into a shed where she remained until 1963 when she was purchased by Graham J Mullis and moved to his railway near Droitwich, Worcs with Una and Eigiau.
When that railway was closed and the assets sold off most of the rolling stock including Diana was bought by Hills and Bailey at Llanberis and she moved there in 1970. She was stored at times in the tunnel and outside the Fire Queen shed. Diana then moved with Tony Hills to his new base at the Brecon Mountain Railway in 1976.
She was purchased by the Davies Brothers in 1978 and was moved to their home in Clydach near Swansea in 1981. Much work was undertaken here by the brothers, other works were carried out by Alan Keefes, Bartletts and the Talyllyn Railway. By 2005 work on the loco was proceeding well when sadly following the death of one of the brothers Dennis the remaining brother was in ill health. He continued to carry out work on Diana as and when he could, making steady progress, but sadly with the locomotive initially in a polytunnel, which disappeared one windy night, and subsequently in the open, the condition of the locomotive slowly deteriorated until his death. A lot is owed to the brothers and is very sad that they never got to see it steam.
In February 2014, the locomotive was purchased by its current owner, Phil Mason a long time narrow gauge enthusiast and volunteer at the Talyllyn Railway and Statfold Barn. The locomotive was recovered from Clydach in difficult weather conditions and moved to a private location in Hampshire. Following assessment of the locomotive the decision was made to strip the locomotive back to bare metal and repaint and reassemble. The locomotive moved to the Vale of Rheidol workshops in Aberystwyth in July 2014 for return to, as near original as supplied condition, as possible.
Completed and launched in September 2015 at the V of R gala, 65 years since she last steamed, she then moved to her current base at The Bala Lake Railway where she entered service in May 2016 and can be seen regularly working passenger trains. Diana is one of only two Sirdar Class locomotives still know to survive, the other being a much modified 2-4-2 version saved as a national monument and preserved in Namibia South Africa.
There will be periodic announcements as further exhibits are confirmed for the GNSF, which is already shaping up to be every bit as impressive as the 2016 event.