Burry Port & Gwendraeath Valley
Brian Janes has been trawling the Colonel Stephens Archive and discovered that many previously published accounts of EKR locomotive history have been misleading. His re-examination of the early years is set out in the first of a three-part description of this fascinating line’s locomotives.
Part 1: Early Years
This tale, like that of Hesperus (published in the Tenterden Terrier 86), starts in the South West Corner of Wales. The ending of the 7 foot gauge in Wales opened the way for light railway development and not a couple of miles from Hesperus’ first home railway another little line received its second locomotive. In 1875 a nice little Fox, Walker and Co saddletank (works No 271) arrived from its Bristol makers to help work the Whitland and Taf Vale (later the Whitland and Cardigan) railway that had opened in 1873. Here again the consolidation of Great Western Railway interests centring on its need to improve the Irish connection swept this railway and its 3 locomotives into the GWR net in 1886. Our Fox Walker was renumbered 1386, westernised in 1896, and like Hesperus went to St Blazey and later worked on the Weymouth Harbour tramway from May 1909 till March 1911. The GWR’s standardisation drive then led to its sale to the Bute Works Supply Co.
At that time hugely ambitious plans for exploiting the Kent Coalfield were in hand and H F Stephens had secured the potentially lucrative, but ultimately frustrating, engineering and managing contracts for new railways in the area. These railways were to serve a deeply rural area that was expected to become industrialised in the very near future. To make a start a temporary railway was constructed from the main SECR line at Shepherdswell to the site of Tilmanstone colliery and in September 1911 Stephens secured the little Fox Walker from Bute Works Supply. Technically she probably belonged to the associated East Kent Contract Company building the line but she went on formally to become East Kent Railway No 1 and she was given the then characteristic Stephen’s oval logo and number on her tank. Weighing only 24 tons she could go anywhere and was useful for construction. She hauled a special to Tilmanstone colliery and over the temporary contractor's track in 1912 when the directors went for a spin. She also was involved in a potentially nasty collision when the crew propelled a single 4-wheeled carriage back from Eastry one evening only to destroy it on the front of an oncoming goods train. The single passenger was not hurt but the working practices of the EKR were obviously pretty lax during this construction phase.
Although she may have worked passenger trains when public services started in 1916, much of No 1’s time was probably spent at Tilmanstone Colliery as the EKR was contracted to provide shunting there. Her use on construction work however may well have carried on till the late twenties as the system intermittently extended. It changed its appearance to some extent over the years. A wooden cab roof and back were added very soon after arrival to protect the crew from the winds and snow common in this part of the Kent Downs. The roof and sides were made permanent in steel in the next year or so but the wooden cab back was retained and the round rear spectacle plate windows remained. These were replaced in about 1930 when square rear openings appeared. Some time in the early twenties the loco lost the smaller of the two whistles fitted by the GWR .The engine also had a remarkable propensity to change chimneys. On arrival it had a tall slim copper capped one but, at an early date, certainly before 1919, this was replaced with a shorter one very possibly one of the original chimneys off one of the K&ESR 2-4-0Ts.The original chimney reappeared by July 1923 only to be replaced in December 1932 by a new fatter chimney of distinctly GWR appearance. Her time was however virtually run and she remained in service only a little longer, latterly possibly in a stationary boiler capacity. Last seen in steam on 22 September 1934 , she was in official returns till 1934 and R W Kidner in the Southern Railway Magazine for September 1935 reported 'Old No 1.has been broken up'.
One always gets the feeling that Stephens was never as fond of the East Kent as he was of his other lines. It always had an unfinished feel and he never named the engines or repainted them in his favourite blue livery. Engines seem to have kept the livery they arrived in until the opportunity arose to paint them black. It was not until the late twenties that a green livery with broad black line was introduced for two engines to be more in keeping with Stephens’ normal pride in his lines and working locomotives. Austen later introduced his smart dark green livery with a broad black border edged white with yellow lettering.
Walton Park No 2
The next acquisition however was already distinguished with the name Walton Park and may have kept its original Midland red livery for a time. It had been bought in 1908 by the Weston Clevedon and Portishead Railway from Hudswell Clarke (Works No 823). However, it was always too heavy for the line and did little work after the first year. After Stephens became manager in August 1911, he bought a replacement locomotive from Bute Works Supply Co (later becoming another Hesperus). At some unspecified date Walton Park was loaned to the Shropshire and Montgomeryshire. This may have been in 1911 as in the autumn of that year Stephens was desperately seeking motive power for that line, probably as a result of problems with the new Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-2Ts. Whatever the arrival date the engine definitely left that railway on 28 April 1913 to go to the East Kent* and it was delivered as their No 2 engine. Production at Tilmanstone Colliery had started one month earlier and a larger engine was probably needed to shift the coal. The engine was loaned to the PD&SWJR for 10 weeks in April and May 1917. Perhaps she was temporarily spare in one of the many interruptions in the coal production or in the wake of the KESR’s Hecate’s arrival on the line. Thereafter she seems to have been supplanted on coal traffic by larger engines and she frequently worked the passenger and mixed trains. The only visual change was the removal of her builder’s plate from cabside to bunker at some time prior to July 1927 to make way for the initials EKR. She was also repainted green edged with a broad black line.
By 1936 she was worn out and she was overhauled with a patched up and somewhat different chimney and smart repaint but without her name. Emerging from overhaul in autumn 1937 she seems to have worked intermittently from early in the Second World War filling in when No 4 was unavailable. Early in 1943 she pottered about for 12 days and then on 23 August 1943 made a heroic last effort working 44 miles when No 100 seems to have failed and nothing else was available. She never worked on the EKR again. Disappearing from the Locomotive Mileage Ledger in early 1944 she is reported to have been sold to T W Ward & Co as scrap in 1943.
In wartime however Ward could still turn a profit and by December 1945 Walton Park had turned up at Purfleet Deep Water Wharf, Essex. In 1952 she underwent a strange transformation acquiring the characteristic boiler saddle tanks and somewhat spindly chimney and dome from an ex -brewery 0-4-0ST. The donor locomotive had been built for Bass, Radcliff &Gretton, brewers, of Burton on Trent by a local builder Thornewill & Warham in 1876. Requisitioned by the Government in 1917 she was sent to Purfleet and remained there until her upperworks were perched on the Hudswell Clarke’s frame and cab. This odd hybrid acquired the name 'Churchill' and ambled around the wharf for a further 5 years until she ended her days in July 1957.
The Ilfracombe Goods
No 3 on passenger service
Two new Hawthorn Leslie O-6-0T tanks (see Terrier 83 Page 28) would have supplemented in style the two original engines during 1913 but finance was not available. Engine No 3, when it came, was not new but a mid-Victorian relic. The only remaining unrebuilt example of the “Ilfracombe Goods” that Stephens was so very fond of, it had been withdrawn by the LSWR in December 1913. After the EKR opened for passenger traffic to Wingham on 16 October 1916, a good passenger engine was needed. The LSWR offered this ancient relic to Stephens for the outrageously large sum of £1000, although this price may have included an overhaul. It was subject to a hire purchase agreement the payments for which were usually in default and the terminal sum was finally paid off as part of an overall settlement of the railways debts with the Southern in 1926. No 0394 was delivered in November 1918 and proved a fair investment. Her worn cylinders were bushed down by one and half inches in 1921 and thereafter she must have been a fairly feeble puller, but she ran most of the passenger trains and in late 1925 she was overhauled. The only external change thereafter was a new chimney riveted on to the old base. But age was not on her side and she was stored, probably in late 1927. In the wake of the withdrawal of workmen’s trains in 1929 and the closure of the Richborough branch in 1928 she was never again needed. Withdrawn at the end of 1930 she rapidly disintegrated outside Shepherdswell Shed and was reported on 24 April 1934 as sold for scrap, yielding £45.
The early days of the EKR were characterised by gross shortage of capital and Stephens was always short of locomotives for the traffic on offer, so engines were hired from the K&ESR. The little Hawthorn Leslie 2-4-0T Northiam worked on construction trains from September 1912 till at least 1914 and came again for an extended spell starting on 10 September 1921, initially probably working turn about with No 1. Oddly no hire charges are shown in the EKR accounts for 1924-28 although surviving tax returns show the annual payment of £312. Hire charges are shown for 1929 and 1930. Salford Terrace’s accounting practices were obviously flexible. Repair work was undertaken on the engine at Shepherdswell with a new leading axle fitted in November 1922 and a new tubeplate and tubes in March 1925 and photographs exist from these years so there is no doubt of her continuous use on the railway. Nothiam finally left in 1931.
To shift the coal, the K&ESR’s white elephant, Hecate, came on 25 November 1916 and stayed, at an apparent cost of 30 guineas a month. A heavy overhaul was undertaken at Shepherdswell which was completed in January 1921 but the job was poorly done and after one week’s trial she was set aside eventually to be returned to Rolvenden on August 5 1921. She never returned.
*There is a fascinating letter in the Archive written on a sheet of lined foolscap that reads
In train ex Shrewsbury to Euston
Sat April 26th 1913
H F Stephens Esq.
Managing Director & Engineer
Loco Walton Park “Salop to Shepherdswell”
It is being arranged for the above to be transferred at Meole Brace junction on Monday next the 28th inst. at 10.30 am en route to Shepherdswell, providing the above loco runs cool after the trial trip this afternoon, the result of which I was unable to get at the time of leaving our Salop Station this afternoon at 4.30 p.m. although I tried to get Kinnerley several times before leaving. Mr Stanton has promised to wire me result at Euston Station which I shall get on arrival and will enclose herewith. I have seen the correspondence which has passed with reference to the transit of this loco and should like to make a suggestion.
I certainly think that one of our men should travel with the loco to see it has every attention, I suggest you let Driver King travel with it. I am sure he will give every attention to it. This can be arranged if you agree to the following. Let Driver Taylor work main line trains with Fitter Leakes as relief, Night Cleaner-Fireman Jones do the Branch driving, this man is quite capable of doing this having been loco driving several years for Mr Rigby before he came with us and myself should not hesitate to put him in charge of a loco.
I have arranged this course in the event of you agreeing. If you do will you wire to Mr White or Stanton first thing tomorrow morning (Sunday) so that wire reaches Salop before office closes at 10.0 am subject to following “ Driver King accompany Walton Park Salop to Shepherdswell, Taylor drive main line, Jones branch line, Leakes arrange”
This matter can then be arranged in time for Monday morning providing you agree.
W H Austen
General report re S&M to follow
This letter gives great insight into working practices of the time as well as confirming Walton Park ‘s movements. What a shame the Report on the S & M hasn’t survived
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