New build locomotives at Beamish...

New build locomotives at Beamish…

Beamish has a long association with the railway preservation phenomenon of ‘new builds’ – the term used to describe replicas or recreations of locomotives that no longer exist in any material form. The description had broad connotations, and there are any number of ‘original’ locomotives at work today that have very few components, if any, that originate from the working life of that locomotive – the Talyllyn Railway’s No.1 and No.2 are good examples of this, both having been substantially reconstructed since 1951, when they became heritage artefacts.

There is, in my view, absolutely nothing wrong with this, and recent informal discussion around what makes a locomotive authentic was an interesting exercise in considering whether the actual material, or the spirit of the design and working guise, is the more important factor in determining authenticity (rather than originality, which is material based).

There are many reasons for creating a new build. Often it is to recreate a lost class, motivated by nostalgia. Others have been built to understand a lost technology (as in the case of the Beamish trio) or recreate something that has a modern purpose (as is the case for Samson). The revived Hunslet Engine Company at Statfold sought to establish whether there was a market for new Quarry Hunslets, and having erected two, they still have a considerable number of parts in stock ready for any further orders to be fulfilled.

Looking back through the visiting engines gallery of this blog, it soon becomes clear just how many new builds there are and how many of these are either based at Beamish or have visited. I therefore thought that a saunter through these would be an interesting exercise and a good topic for a blog post…

Early RailwaysThe Beamish replicas

The Stockton & Darlington 150th anniversary in 1975 provided the catalyst for the construction of a replica of Locomotion No.1, the locomotive recorded as operating on the opening day of the S&DR on the 27th September 1825. The build was driven and overseen by Mike Satow between 1973 and 1975, the completed locomotive making its famous appearance in the 1975 cavalcade at Shildon.
It was based on Locomotion’s latter guise (as the original appears at the Head of Steam Museum in Darlington), after rebuilding following the explosion of its original boiler in 1828 (as a result of the safety valve being tampered with).
Locomotion was always based at Beamish and initially operated between the Colliery and Rowley Station, until completion of the Pockerley Waggonway created a more suitable environment for it to operate in. Prior to this, the replica was heavily rebuilt and a rake of appropriate rolling stock created to operate with it.
Locomotion No.1 toured a number of heritage railways until arriving at Pockerley in 2001 to inaugurate the services at Beamish. A useful reminder that the waggonway celebrates its twentieth anniversary year next year…
Withdrawn from service requiring repairs to the firebox, the work was deemed to be uneconomic against the amount of dismantling required to complete it. It was therefore placed on display pending a complete overhaul – moving on loan to the National Railway Museum’s Locomotion site in Shildon for static display where it remains today.
Steam Elephant – the locomotive is perhaps best known for being a recreation of the subject of a contemporary oil painting, with the locomotive known to have dated to 1815, where it was working on the Wallsend Waggonway (and the product of John Buddle and William Chapman).
It was known of, but its existence became more defined when an oil painting featuring the locomotive was discovered. Eventually this would form the basis of a project to recreate the locomotive for the Pockerley Waggonway, entering service in 2002.
The locomotive is currently out of traffic and located in the engineering workshops at Beamish, awaiting a start on a comprehensive mechanical overhaul.
Brand new and factory fresh! Puffing Billy is seen in April 2006 following delivery from Alan Keef Ltd where the locomotive was assembled (with a myriad of sub-contractors supplying components such as castings, boiler, water tank, frames etc.).
Puffing Billy, our replica (for there is a much older replica, built in 1906 for the Deutsches Museum in Munich)
Puffing Billy’s replication enjoyed substantial funding from the Hedley Foundation, so in recognition of this, the lettering applied to the other (and similar) Wylam Dilly, was recreated on the boiler cladding of Puffing Billy – a nod to where the money had originated from, many years before. The project followed on from Steam Elephant fairly rapidly, and once again Alan Keef Ltd carried out the assembly of the locomotive.
The project draughtsman was (as with Steam Elephant) David Potter (who later surveyed and drew our chaldron waggons and Seaham Harbour No.18).
The aim was to provide a fleet of three locomotives, of which one could be available for hire or repair. As time has passed, we have seen Puffing Billy latterly operate trains on the Pockerley Waggonway almost single-handed. Locomotion No.1 managed this feat for a number of years, as did Steam Elephant whilst Puffing Billy was under repair or touring. These replicas, now bedded in and well understood, are very reliable and always popular with visitors to the museum.
Here is the German replica of Puffing Billy, built in 1906 and on display in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.
We visited the replica in November 2004 – I had only been working at Beamish for a matter of weeks at that time, so it was a very exciting time to join the project.
Testing the new locomotive was a wonderful experience, though the allotted time for running in and troubleshooting was greatly shortened as it ran so well straight away! Runs were carried out in the evenings, as we came to know the locomotive and its characteristics. Since then, of course, much more knowledge has been gained and the lovely pitch pine timberwork (recovered from a chapel) has somewhat darkened in use.
During one of the test runs Jim Rees (left – the man behind the project and who was by then working at the NRM) and myself enjoy a warm evening with the new locomotive.
To test the that the braking systems between two locomotives and the train were compatible, this double header was run as part of the running-in period. It went very well, and is something we might consider repeating in the fullness of time. One of the more unusual sights in the heritage railway sector!
The picture we couldn’t resist! The three replicas line up for the first time during Puffing Billy’s testing phases. Steam Elephant already looks mellow and well used, whilst Locomotion has changed colour altogether – originally looking the same as Puffing Billy when it was completed in 1975.
A further line up was carried out in 2011, with Hetton Lyon joining the scene. At this time Locomotion was having its upper chimney sections repaired. The gallery below includes numerous scenes of the waggonway and its locomotives, taken over the many years that these engines have now been at work (in most cases far longer than the originals operated!).

The Museum Buurtspoorweg (MBS) Foundation operates a heritage railway between Haaksbergent and Boekelo in the municipality of Enschede in the Netherlands. In May 2007 it celebrated its 40th anniversary, and we were invited to take Puffing Billy to operate passenger rides over the weekend. This also included a chance to truly exhaust the locomotive on a 14 mile round trip on the Saturday evening!
As we needed our passenger train at Beamish, we borrowed one of the National Railway Museum’s Liverpool & Manchester coaches for the trip. Rocket was, as I recall, under overhaul at the time and as the braking systems were incompatible, we secured a grant to enable Alan Keef Ltd to replace and upgrade the system on the coach, so that it would be compatible with Puffing Billy. As this twin-line air system has become one of the UK standard braking systems for some narrow gauge and most replica standard gauge passenger stock, it was also planned that Rocket would also be modified, so as to be compatible with the modified coaching stock. This all worked very well – and also had a spin-off benefit a few years later as we shall see. Meanwhile, here is Puffing Billy making its first turntable trip! It has subsequently rotated at Barrow Hill and Tyseley. The photos below also show the trip to MBS, including the pasenger shuttles and full line run.

I’ve included the wooden Waggonway at Pockerley here, as it ties in with the motivations for building replicas or recreations very nicely. The photo above has been often used in material both of our own origin and other publishers – I think the interest from the horses on the right rather adds to the charm! I also thought a sequence of view regarding the construction of the waggonway, one of my first projects here, would be of interest as the blog did not exist at the time of construction.

Visiting new builds – standard gauge

April 2013: For the Great North Steam Fair we booked two visitors for the standard gauge passenger railways. At Rowley, Planet, from what was then the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester (and is now part of the Science Museum Group) operated, along with its two passenger carriages based on Liverpool & Manchester Railway examples.
The replica of Planet was commenced in 1986, being completed in 1992. This class of locomotives succeeded Rocket and also mark a move towards what we might recognise as a more ‘conventional’ arrangement of locomotive design.
The second visitor in 2013 was Rocket, from the National Railway Museum (making its second visit to Beamish – see next caption). It operated at the Waggonway using our own passenger train. When Puffing Billy visited the Netherlands in 2007, the coach was modified to include a compatible braking system to what was becoming a UK early railway ‘standard’. Rocket was rebuilt with the same system too, which meant that it could operate at Beamish with our own passenger train. The leading chaldron waggon was modified to include buffing gear compatible with Rocket’s tender however.
This replica was also built by Mike Satow’s Locomotion Enterprises, commencing in 1975 and being completed in 1979, in time for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway 150th anniversary celebration sin 1980. Rocket has been rebuilt during its forty-year life and is probably the best travelled and most well known of the working replicas today.
It is not widely known that Beamish has also hosted two further working replicas of early railway locomotives. In connection with filming work (about the Rainhill trials) for a documentary called ‘The Grand British Experimental Railway of 1830’, Novelty, Rocket and Sans Pareil were operated at Rowley Station. Novelty was built by Locomotion Enterprises at Springwell (the workshops of the Bowes Railway) though as-built it never performed very satisfactorily. It was sold in 1982 to a museum in Sweden, though returned to the UK to participate in a recreation of the Rainhill Trials for a documentary made by the BBC’s Timewatch team. It has been modified to improve its performance and in 2005 made an appearance at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester.
Sans Pareil was constructed by staff and apprentices at the British Rail Shildon wagon workshops in 1979, again for the Liverpool & Manchester 150th anniversary celebrations and noting the original’s local origins under the creation Timothy Hackworth.
Below – the documentary ‘The Grand British Experimental Railway of 1830’ on YouTube.

New builds – Narrow Gauge Railway

It is perhaps not suprising that there have been a good number of narrow gauge locomotive new build projects completed, given the smaller nature of the project and the ability to hide such projects in garages and workshops across the land! Two of those listed here are arguably not new build, rather a continuation of their original builders range, albeit with something of a gap in production (in the case of Statfold and Jack Lane).

It is also harder to define new build in some narrow gauge contexts, for instance the Ffestiniog Railway’s continued production of locomotives needed for traffic – including the latter Earl of Merioneth (‘The Square’), Taliesin, Lyd and now James Spooner. They are new, but arguably again they are better defined as being constructed within the heritage era. We have also seen another Lynton & Barnstaple locomotive, Lyn, replicated (to an improved and enhanced design) and there are several other projects underway including two more L&B prairies, the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railway’s Gowrie single Fairlie and the Southwold Railway Trust’s ‘Southwold’, being built in Darlington for them.

These are a few of the projects underway or planned. Others include a new build recreation of the 1863 locomotive Mountaineer (the original was used on the Ffestiniog Railway), one of the Crewe Works Tramway 18″ gauge locomotives (Nipper – some of the parts are on display in Bury Transport Museum I believe).

Issin Sid is one of the more unusual locomotives to visit Beamish, and certainly an unusual member of the heritage locomotive cannon nationally. It was built by Roy Etherington to replicate the Lishman & Young compressed air locomotive built by the Grange Iron Company in Durham, c1880 and used in Lambton D Pit until at least 1887. They were photographed in 1890/91, apparently dismantled in the Lambton Engine Works. Their range was limited, but as collieries made extensive use of compressed air, recharging would have been less of a challenge – we hired a road compressor to provide Sid’s lungs with air at Beamish.
Interestingly, I believe that the cylinders for the replica were originally at Beamish, having been recovered from a steam winch on the Kennet & Avon canal! Issin Sid visited Beamish for the September 2010 Great North Steam Fair. After hours we ran Sid into the first section of the Mahogany Drift here at Beamish, as the gallery below shows.
For more information see: The Industrial Railways & locomotives of County Durham Part 1, by Colin Mountford and Dave Holroyde and published by the Industrial Railway Society in 2006.
The Gully family visited with their Kerr Stuart Wren ‘Jennie‘ in 2014. The locomotive is based on the Amerton Railway, and was built in 2008. The locomotive operated alongside the visiting steam navvy (from Statfold Barn), recreating scenes of work that this class of locomotive was built for – temporary railways alongside new construction works such as roads and railway lines, water pipelines and infrastructure improvements.
From the Amerton Railway website: Jennie is a Wren class locomotive as originally built by Kerr Stuart, but she was actually made by Hunslet Steam at their works at Statfold near Tamworth and was completed in 2008. She is an almost exact copy of the original design, the last one of which was built in 1941, again by Hunslet who had taken over the goodwill of Kerr Stuart in 1930. Photo Dave Hewitt
The construction of Samson has been well documented on this blog, but in essence it arose from the desire to create something noteworthy in our new Regional Heritage Engineering Centre, and continue the working partnerships that had seen Coffee Pot No.1, Seaham Harbour Dock Company No.18, the Steam Mule and various other items brought back into working condition for use at the museum. Dave Young was a key person within all of these projects and he and I were keen to see if Samson, a locomotive that we had both admired, would be something we could recreate (the original having been scrapped by 1904). Samson was completed in 2016 and as well as operating at Beamish, it has visited the Ffestiniog Railway in Wales and the Richmond Light Railway in Kent. In 2019 some modifications were carried out to make it a much more capable locomotive, and at the time of writing it is stored in the engineering workshop, being caught there by the COVID-19 crisis.
Related blog posts here:

Between 1988 and 1999 the Ffestiniog Railway constructed a new locomotive, based on an original (named Taliesin). Their new build incorporated the reverser from the original (though makes no claim to be the original – we have seen ‘restorations’ start from a not dissimilar point elsewhere in the heritage sector! Not that there is anything wrong with that) and was made slightly larger, when compared to the original locomotive. So then, is this a new build, another build, a replica or something in between?! Here is Samson alongside Taliesin at the Quirks & Curiosities Gala in May 2017.
In 2017, North Bay Engineering completed a brand new Decauville Type 1 3.5 ton 0-4-0T locomotive, a type equivalent in use to the Kerr Stuart Wren. Light in weight and portable, these locomotives were supplied in conjunction with the Decauville company’s portable railways. A number survive around the world, though Edgar is brand new. The locomotive undertook some test running at Beamish following its completion at NBE’s workshop in Darlington. It subsequently moved to the Apedale Valley Railway in Staffordshire where it is now resident.
Mention was made earlier to the revival of the Hunslet Engineering Company, based at Statfold Barn in Staffordshire. In 2005 they completed two brand new Quarry Hunlset locomotives, the example with a cab being named Statfold (where it was built) and the open cabbed example being named Jack Lane (where the original Hunslet works was located in Leeds). These are both well travelled locomotives, and Jack Lane is a particular favourite of mine. Here the two area seen double heading at Beamish, following the Great North Steam Fair in 2018. Photo Dave Hewitt
Statfold is seen shunting at stock in 2018. This scene has greened-up somewhat since this event and the museum’s closure for four months from March 2020 – the pit heap and colliery landscape is going to need some recovery from the profusion of weeds and saplings that have sprung up in a very short timescale! Photo Dave Hewitt

Final thoughts…

We might, at this point, also consider what new builds we might see at Beamish in the future. There is a long-standing invitation to bring the replica of Catch Me Who Can (the original was built by Richard Trevithick in 1808) and which is nearing the end of its construction at the Severn Valley Railway, where its owning group, the Trevithick 200 Charity, are based. I would hope that we will see any future early railway new build projects operate at Beamish in the future – the Waggonway being the perfect setting for them. Certainly the project proposed by the Friends of Darlington Railway Museum to build a 21st Century version of Royal George is an interesting one.

There will probably always be a steady stream of new build narrow gauge locomotives. I would love to see the new Mountaineer project visit Beamish, this being a recreation of the Festiniog Railway (one F in the 1860s) 0-4-0T+T (the original was built in 1863 and was not rebuilt at the FR as the other George England-built locomotives were, but was withdrawn in 1879, some of its components being reused on the other locomotives).

We also have our own aspirations to recreate one of the two foot gauge Crewe Tractors (based on a Model T Ford) used in the First World War, for which the road vehicle element has already been created (and is in regular use, as blog readers will know). This will certainly be Beamish’s next new build, and probably the last for some time to come.

That makes quite a list – 13 in total to date. This must be something of a record for one location?!

NB: Apologies for the misalignment of the galleries – they look fine when I create them, then move to the right when I publish the post. Straightening them out is beyond my IT ability!

Some links to other websites may be of interest: