The story behind the bent-frame in the shell hole…..

20hp "LR 2638" and 40hp "LR 3102" Motor Rails seen together. Credit: Ruediger FachPerhaps one of the most photographed locomotives at “Tracks to the trenches 2014” was an out-of-use, little 20hp Bent-Frame tractor that was located in a shell hole near the main field area. This certainly attracted much comment and was a surprice (previously unadvertised) feature.

Forward area light railways and tramways were often operated under the cover of darkness. Being so close to the front, they were always easy targets for the enemy, and were often damaged through shelling. According to contemporary reports, although the tracks were regularly inspected, it was not uncommon for locomotives and trains to often become de-railed through recent enemy action. When this happened, the priority was to remove any ammunition and get the railway operating again. Locomotives could be left for days/weeks until there was an opportunity for recovery (again – mainly at night!).20hp Motor Rail "Wizz-Bang" LR2638 freshly driven into a shell hole! Credit: Simon Merritt-Webb

These little 20hp tractors were sometimes known as “Wizz-Bangs” (also the name for in-bound enemy shells) – due to their high speed/acceleration and their regular tendancy to back-fire. They were a particular favourite with the railway/tramway operating companies.

Our cameo scene represented a locomotive that had been driven into a previously unseen shell hole at night. Whilst awaiting recovery, the railway had been diverted around it and the wagons long since removed.

The aim of this little scene was to provide a poignant reminder of the risks that the Light Railway and Tramway companies were taking every day, in their continual battle to keep the men in the trenches and the guns supplied.

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