Ribble Steam Railway-based Bagnall 0-6-0ST No. 2680 Courageous made its first ‘light engine’ test runs in the yard at Preston Riverside on 29th Jan, becoming the first locomotive to return to steam in 2014. The locomotive is now in regular service on our line.The locomotive has undergone a lengthy restoration by its current owner from near-derelict condition.
The locomotive was built by W G Bagnall at its works in Stafford, emerging in 1942 as the first member of the Company’s standard 16” class of 0-6-0STs, it was immediately shipped to the Birchenwood Gas and Coke Co works near Stoke-on-Trent and put to work, being named Birchenwood No. 4 upon its arrival. In fact, such was the speed of its despatch from the Bagnall site that there was no time for official works photographs of the locomotive to be taken. Works photographs in fact show locomotive No. 2682 ‘Princess’ helping to perpetuate the myth that the latter was the class prototype.
No. 2680 worked at Birchenwood until its closure in May 1973, becoming the last locomotive to work at the site. It was initially purchased for preservation by Sir William McAlpine and moved to Market Overton, but little work was done and it was sold once more, moving to the North Norfolk Railway, where it was dismantled for an overhaul that never took place. Several more changes of ownership took place and the locomotive’s condition gradually deteriorated, with many parts being lost in the intervening years.
When the current owner acquired the locomotive in February 2009, most of the cab fittings were missing, together with almost all the external pipework and a myriad of other components. Many of these have had to be manufactured from scratch or acquired from other sources, adding significantly to the workload. Nevertheless a small but dedicated team, led by No. 2680’s owner has rebuilt the locomotive from a condition akin to that of an ex-Barry wreck to a pristine working machine within five years.
Seven examples of the Bagnall standard 16” class were based on the Preston Corporation system at the Albert Edward Dock, which at the height of operations in the 1950s comprised some 26 miles of track. The locomotives include the aforementioned No. 2682 Princess, delivered in 1942, along with Nos. 2838 Energy, 2839 Perseverance, 2840 Enterprise, 2891 Progress, 2892 Courageous and 2893 Conqueror, all of which arrived on the system between 1946 and 1948. Steam ended on the dock in 1968, and three new Rolls Royce powered Sentinel 4wDM shunters, Nos. 10281, 10282 and 10283, arrived to replace the seven Bagnalls. The Sentinels were given the names of some of the withdrawn steam locomotives, becoming Energy, Enterprise and Progress respectively. One of the Bagnalls, No. 2682 Princess, was preserved and now resides at the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.
With No. 2680 now having a long-term home at the Ribble Steam Railway, which operates on the last surviving part of the former Preston Dock system, a decision was taken to finish the locomotive in the guise of one of the six lost Preston Bagnalls, and when it emerged from the workshops it bore a pair of newly-cast Courageous nameplates, together with a pair of tank-side ladders identical to those fitted to its namesake. Soon to follow is the chimney-top ‘halo’ type spark arrestor, while the correct pattern of steam-heat equipment has also been fitted. A boon to heritage passenger operation, steam heating apparatus was originally employed on the locomotives to heat Geest banana vans to assist with the ripening process after the crop had been unloaded at the dock.