People at 26B

People at 26B

It’s never an easy task maintaining steam engines of this calibre, taking a great deal of time and financial commitment just keeping her moving.
But she does have a loyal band of people who care, show resourcefulness, and who are willing to commit time, energy and money to keep her maintained.
The background to many at 26B is varied, from personnel within engineering, financial services, the law profession, motor and transport industries together with Ex B.R firemen, etc.
All have in common the wellbeing of (4)5337, to many this is part of their life work, a vocation no less!

One of the team is no stranger to LMS Black Fives either, who as a youth started train spotting back in 1956 often visiting Leeds Holbeck depot as well as other depots around this area. His train spotting years later took him all over the UK travelling from Penzance to Inverness, with regular visits to the railway works & depots at Crewe.
Over this time, he spotted an enormous number of locos throughout the country, including the extraordinary number of 820 Black Fives with two of the missing ones being end of steam survivors 45206 & 45318 both of which tantalisingly continued to operate until 1968.
Of the remaining unseen fives, 10 where based in England with the remaining 12 being Scottish examples.
For a while, and no doubt adding to his “copped numbers”, he also worked for British Railways within a signal box near Leeds at the entrance to the (55A) Stourton shed depot.
When asked if he still possessed his Ian Allen Combined Volume, he quietly remarked “Yes, I purchased it on the 10th Feb 1961, I know this because, I wrote the date with my name and address on the back of the front cover.!

This brings us to an interesting question! During their spotting years, did anyone ever actually “COP” all the 842 Black Fives?
If so, then please let us know your story, you can reply through our developing contact page.

Two members of 26B also have previous history working on British Rail steam, one working as a fireman from (8F) Springs Branch at Wigan, with another also employed as a fireman, working out of the Manchester Loco depot at (26A) Newton Heath.
They both have many tall tales to tell.
One memorable day took place at the Wigan Springs Branch depot. Incidentally, during the same year England last won the World Cup in 1966. That day after booking on at the shed, while grabbing his shovel & tea caddy, his driver informed him they had been assigned with a light engine movement.
The Loco concerned was stabled in the shed and was a Stanier 5MT, which had only a light fire and virtually no steam pressure.
She was looking run down but still serviceable and in running order.

He was informed that the loco was to be moved into Wales, his driver had only the required route knowledge to Mold Junction. Therefore, the movement assigned to them was to take place from Springs Branch to Mold Junction, from there a different crew would replace them, taking the loco further south into wales.

From Mold Junction they would have be returning to Wigan on the “cushions” as passengers climbing aboard whatever service train they could find.
He prep’t the loco ready for the journey, ensuing enough coal was available and attended to the fire, which after cleaning was now being brought back to life. As this was a light engine movement, not much pressure was required to get her moving and maintain the brakes, but they were in no hurry.
When ready for the off – his driver informed him that this was to be her last trip out as she was being withdrawn from service, no longer required anymore at Springs Branch and was being set for scrap.

They waited for the starter signal and with a hoot from the whistle, they trundled over the points and crossings out of the sheds before setting off – joining the west coast main line, heading south.
He recalls – it was an uneventful trip – being an easy job for him to maintain pressure, not like some of the long freight services he was used to.
All too soon they arrived at Mold Junction with the replacement crew waiting to take her further south.
They climbed down, exchanged pleasantries & handed the loco over.
With the replacement crew on board preparing to leave, looking back one last time with a tinge of regret, he thought he would never see that one again.

For many years he thought nothing more about this loco or the journey, having almost forgotten about that day, just another day’s work on BR as a Fireman.

A none-too remarkable story – one might think.?

That is until the preservation of steam locos began to take place from Barry scrapyard.

That day was supposed to be the locos final journey travelling under her own steam, with the end destination turning out to be all the way through Wales, to none other than the Woodhams scrapyard at Barry Island!
The loco concerned on this journey was the now sole surviving 5 MT Stanier Mogul 2-6-0 42968.
This loco is of course now happily preserved on the Seven Valley railway, being the 45th loco to leave Barry in December 1973, which was some 11 years preceding 45337, and following this ex-fireman’s subsequent involvement with 26B.

Another memorable story being told from the ex-fireman from Newton Heath.

One day as a young fireman, while preparing and disposing of engines, to his complete surprise he encountered none other than A4 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley arriving for servicing at his ex LMS depot of Newton Heath.
To this young fireman, when compared to the usual locos he worked on probably was looking much like the Concorde of its day,

In his own words –

“60007 came down from 61B (Aberdeen Ferryhill) on a Thursday, to work a Special to Paddington via Chester & Shrewsbury. My driver was Harry Ward who was ex Gorton he had seen A4’s there after the War and had also worked on A3’s too before 1954.
We had the A4 as our 5th loco on the day’s quota, so by late morning she was low in steam with not much life left in the fire.
We had to “gas it up” to move it to the coal hopper and then onto an ash pit.
I think it was vacuum brake only on the engine, so with low-ish steam pressure we had to use the hand brake to stop her in the right spot. Harry knew about its “drop gate” and how to get at the inside smokebox door.
We built it up and remade a fire, this was sufficient to work the vacuum operated turntable at the north end of the shed, after turning her and as a young lad, I was given the honor of driving her to the entrance of the shed, which was only about 450 yards away so not much of a run, but much more memorable than our usual mix of ex-LMS/BR types! By the time Harry and I had got ready to book off, to our surprise another set of men had brought the loco back to the ash pits where we had previously been, and dropped the whole fire, as it was then realised that she wasn’t needed until the weekend!
60007 was the regular loco of Kings Cross driver Bill Hoole in the 1950’s and I fired for him twice, but as they say, That’s another story”.

Sir Nigel Gresley was a very unusual visitor indeed for an ex LMS depot around Manchester, being a little different from his usual steed of run down LMS and Standard types.

On another day he and his driver had been assigned Brittana Pacific 70015 “Apollo” which at the time was allocated to head a rail tour special around the North West.

In his own words – The Apollo 15 Mission

“The Apollo trip was on the 19 March 1967. I phoned my brother who lived in Manchester to ask if he would like to accompany me in the cab for the day.
The special was run by RCTS and was starting from Manchester Victoria. This was an interesting rail tour taking in many secondary routes around Lancashire, resulting in many run-rounds and changes in direction.
My driver was Ken Royal (ex-Gorton). From the off at 10.00 am at M/C Victoria we had four bodies on the footplate including my brother and an ex Gorton works fitter.
During the day at the various stops and run-rounds we accumulated two or three more enthusiasts in the cab, one being an official being involved with the RTCS, at one point we may even have had eight on board, but I can’t be certain, certainly six seemed to be the norm for the day.
Apollo was spruced up for this special, being turned out well by Stockport (9B) which was in complete contrast to almost everything else in traffic at the time, with freshly painted buffer beams, still drying out, resulting in me picking up red paint all over my cap during the many times we coupled and uncoupled during the day.
With only had 7 bogies on, it was looking like an easy trip for us, we set off towards Bolton to the Burnden Park Junction and took the fork right taking us past the old Bolton Wanderers football ground (Burnden Park).
The line took us through Bury Knowsley Street Station and over some of the current East Lancashire Railway to Heywood/Castleton joining the main line there, taking us on to Rochdale and Todmorden, from there it was to the summit climb over Copy Pitt and onto Rose Grove. We topped up with coal and water at the Rose Grove sheds (I remember the coal there being domestic size and was falling out all over the cab), we then worked through Blackburn over to Cherry Tree and up the remains of the Chorley line to Feniscowles – retracing our route back to Blackburn, we then ran around the stock once again (for the umpteenth time that day), now setting off in the opposite direction for Bolton, but taking the avoiding curve under the Johnson Street footbridge. (as per the Bolton Trinity Painting). This took us via Westhoughton and to De Trafford Junction at Hindley.
Going north we joined the WCML at Standish junction for a fast run with over 85 mph being achieved around Euxton junction before slowing for the Farrington Curve up to Lostock Hall sheds where we got relieved. It was rather congested in the cab that day, particularly at high speed and trying to avoid bodies during the shovelling.
Ken and myself returned home on the cushions from Preston, but later heard that Apollo was turned via the Todd Lane triangle and worked on to Burscough Bridge, over the Southport avoiding line to Bootle, returning across chat moss, and finally arriving at the end of the mission tour, not with an splash but at Manchester Piccadilly instead, around 17.50pm”.

You can just imagine that “Apollo mission” must have been quite an experience, these days, who wouldn’t like to travel with (or on) a Britannia loco, on a similar special like that one?

Also, in view of the number of people on the main line “enjoying a cab ride” it must be said, health and safety was perhaps regarded a little differently in those days!
If you are reading this and was a participant of that RTCS special back in March 67, and would like to share your experience with us, then please feel free to let us know on our “contact us” page.

Another individual within 26B and being one of the founding members, seemed enjoy the continued extraction of steam locos from the Barry scrapyard, as he just kept returning there.

His story – “My first encounter with Barry Island was back in that hot, dry summer of 1976. I took my then girlfriend (Sally) on a short summer break to South Wales. One day and while in the area, surreptitiously knowing about the Woodham Bros scrapyard, I remarked we could perhaps take in a visit to this place, as it may be interesting.
Instead of visiting all those nice coastal resorts and beaches this area has to offer, with some reluctance she agreed to walk round a scrapyard instead!
Walking with her around the yard that day, note book and camera to hand, taking stock of these giants of steam from my boyhood of the 1950’s/60’s (copping one or two previously unseen locos), I made a casual remark to Sally, “one day” I will get involved in a restoration or indeed the ownership of one of these rusty wrecks!
Sally of course, dismissed this remark out of hand, with a laugh and a sarcastic “oh yeh – well dream on”!

Obviously, my remark that day did not seem to put her off me too much, as Sally and I were married, remaining so to this day.
Seven years after that summer break in 76, I learned about a formation of a small group of steam enthusiasts in my local area who were intending to rescue a Black Five from Barry.
During my spotting years this was one of my favorites classes to be seen around Manchester, therefore I was interested in learning more.

I later established that the recently formed group, was calling themselves 26B, (the Agecroft shed code) and as a young lad,
I had personal memories of visiting this shed, so I wanted to know more. I went on to learn that 26B had already visited Barry before, and were setting their sights on 45337.
Being an ex-North West Black Five which I had previously spotted and being happy with this choice I agreed to join 26B, parting with my first cheque for £100.
This was to help towards the initial funding, but nobody ever mentioned what a monumental task lay ahead, little did I know this £100 would be a drop in the ocean to what would follow.

For restoration and the running of such machines is most certainly an expensive business, but none the less we all persevered to help ensure, the newly formed 26B Railway Company Ltd, eventually purchased the loco.
Following the purchase, we all arrived at Barry in May 1984, preparing 45337 for the departure to the East Lancashire Railway.

In those early days I was fortunate to own one of the first domestic video cameras managing to record the preparation of the move, which included the sideways shunt!
I also took more still photos while I was there, assuming I would never return.
However, within a year and seemingly after not having enough of loco extraction procedures, I was asked to form a new company for another set of enthusiasts, calling themselves the Bury Standard 4 group.
I went on to form this company which is now called the
“Bury Steam Locomotive Co Ltd”, who at that time were in the process of purchasing BR Standard 4 No – 80097.
This was also to be restored and based at the East Lancashire Railway.
After forming this company, I returned to Barry to help and assist with the extraction and repatriation back to Bury.
With good fortune, this loco has recently been returned to full working order and can be seen (in normal times) happily running on the ELR.

In October 1986 I again found myself on the way back to Barry Island, this time in order to prepare for the departure of another Standard, but this time a class 5 being No – 73156.
Again, the loco was to be moved to the East Lancashire Railway for restoration.
The restoration began at the ELR but a few years later departed for the Great Central Railway (Loughborough) where it was finally restored to working order, and it too
(in normal times) is steaming well, happily pulling passenger trains as part of the timetable services on this railway.

Not much time after leaving Barry, I had to pack my bags again for further visits and over-night stays, this was to help in the preparation and departure of another BR Standard, but this time one a little larger (and more challenging) than the others, being 9F No – 92207.
(the purchaser being Keith Bottomley).
The loco was named “Morning Star” and is still owned by Keith, I believe this is still in a restoration phase, but now at Poole in Dorset awaiting completion.

After Keith’s 9F, I assumed I would never again return to the infamous scrapyard.
However (never say never) for in 2015, 26B heard of a few LMS spare parts (cross heads/pistons/valves etc.) which had become available for sale, from a source at Barry Island.
After establishing these would come in useful, a further visit was arranged, but with the number and weight of these items, this would mean two more visits would be required.
I settled for just one more visit, preferring to leave the last trip for someone else to do, as by now I think I had enough of the traveling.
My last and now seventh visit there became a strange surreal experience, for having had one holiday, one tender and four locomotive extractions, now travelling for the spares along the embankment towards the island, I was surprised to see no trace of anything I could remember, for there is now a large housing estate constructed on the site of the old Woodhams scrapyard.

Looking back at all my old photos and videos etc., and being over 44 years since Sally and I walked around all those silent rusty engines in that summer of 76, together with the changing scene I have just witnessed, I find it a little hard to contemplate – Did I really do all that ?”

He obviously has been part of many loco extractions from there (a glutton for punishment, or an unseen hero?), also being instrumental in assisting and filming all those Barry wreck departures.
One matter we all agree on, it seems unlikely that he will be returning there any time soon. (never say never)!

One last word, (he likes to remind people) one day within his own occupation, he met someone who at one time could be described as “being out of this world”, and was involved with a very different kind of technology to LMS Steam Locomotives.
When asked, just who was this person – tell us more?

In a quiet unassuming way, his reply would be
“Oh that would be, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon ! Did I ever tell you about that”?

A very different kind of Apollo mission to the 70015 Britannia experience, described earlier – we suspect!

The 26B group/team have been quietly running (4)5337 for a good number of years without seeking headlines, being mainly interested in maintaining the locos welfare and keeping her running.
For there is a good skillset of people associated with 26B who over a long period of time have built up strong connections with engineering concerns and many different railways, placing the interests of 45337 first.
26B, were the first to restore and steam any ex Barry Black Five, also being virtually unique in undertaking a third boiler restoration of any ex Barry Loco as well.

26B, still has the will to continue this association, with the view being “while we can-why not.”?