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The Baldwin has landed

Restoration of the locomotive unashamedly referred to as an icon of British narrow gauge history by its owners, the Greensand Railway Museum Trust, has been completed. Trustees, together with three major sponsors of the restoration, gathered at the Ross-on-Wye works of Alan Keef Ltd to view Baldwin 4-6-0T WDLR No. 778 perform on the works demonstration line on April 25. An hour earlier, the locomotive had passed its official boiler examination. Now it was time to spend a couple of hours enjoying watching the results of a restoration which has taken effectively seven years if one counts back to the exploratory meeting that led to the Trust being formed. That evening No. 778 was loaded on to Graham Morris’ vintage Atkinson transporter ready to depart for its Leighton Buzzard Railway base early next morning. Following arrival in the early afternoon of April 26 the locomotive was unloaded at Stonehenge Works and a fire was lit. The initial plan had ‘simply’ been to drive the Baldwin to Page’s Park under its own steam, but things went so well that it was decided to take the opportunity to drive the locomotive over practically every inch of the line, including every turnout in both directions – thus effectively completing clearance trials within hours of arriving back on its home line! No. 778 was back out on the line the following day, this time with three coaches and the small Hunslet 4wDM Creepy coupled on. These tests also went well and on the Saturday a further coach was hooked on. The Baldwin proved it was well capable of hauling a Leighton Buzzard train to passenger timings. The locomotive was in the yard at Page’s Park on static display during the May 6-7 Indian Weekend (see page 32). It has yet to be approved to haul public passenger services by the Railway Inspectorate but will head its first passenger train during a private event for donors and sponsors this summer. A date for its public entry to service has yet to be decided, although it will certainly be expected to take a starring role during the September 8-9 weekend

Steam Up. An appearance for the October 6 Steam Glow night photography event is also anticipated. Numerous writers have in the past commonly referred to this type of locomotive as having very rough riding qualities. No surprise then that the crew during the initial trials were urgently being asked how it rode. The answer? Beautifully! Admittedly this is early days, with a newly restored locomotive where work has been performed to the highest standards and running over good quality track, but the Leighton Buzzard crew have experienced no evidence of this reputed rough riding.

The initial feeling is that this reputation actually had a lot more to do with the quality of track over which they worked in the past than it had to do with the locomotives’ design. Patrick Keef, managing director of Alan Keef Ltd, has sponsored various components and undertaken work in addition to that contracted to his company. After an exhausting few days, Patrick sat back on a platform seat at Page’s Park as the Baldwin simmered in the loop and declared, “It is everything I ever hoped it would be.” The Trust, of which I have the honour to be chairman, totally echoes his sentiment!

(Top) Baldwin 4-6-0T No. 778 steams across the yard at Alan Keef Ltd’s works on April 25 shortly after passing its official boiler test. (Lower)No. 778 pulls away from Page’s Park station with a set of coaches as part of its post-delivery trials on April 27. This view almost replicates the Jonathan Clay painting, prints from which formed part of the original fundraising scheme several years ago!

(Text and photographs by Cliff Thomas)


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