The Moseley Railway Trust is delighted to announce a preservation first at the Tracks to the Trenches Gala. For the first time, a re-union of each of the four different types of War Department Light Railway “Motor Rail” locomotives will take place.
These pioneering little locomotives made a huge contribution to the Allied war effort during World War One. They were used to move supplies and men from marshalling yards right up to the front line.
The smallest of these was the 20HP tractor – on which the driver was fully exposed to both the elements and the effects of enemy fire. Surviving accounts tell of hair-raising exploits including trains disappearing into newly-created shell holes. There will be at least three, maybe more, 20HP tractors in operation at Tracks to the Trenches – one of these will be visiting Apedale from the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.
The other three types were all 40HP, powered by a Dorman four-cylinder petrol engine. The three types were:-
The Open version. This had steel ends, and a simple roof supported on four poles. The Open version will be represented by loco No.1381, which will visit Tracks to the Trenches courtesy of the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre in West Sussex.
The Protected version, which added steel doors and a much more substantial roof to the design. Apedale resident No.1369 will fly the flag for the Protected. This loco was restored a few years ago on the “Salvage Squad” TV programme, and recently spend a period on display in the Dutch railway museum in Utrecht.
Finally, the Armoured locos, which were intended for the most hazardous duties, and afforded the driver a reasonable degree of protection from small arms fire and the like. Loco 461 is a unique survivor of this design, which resembles a small tank on rails. This locomotive visits the event courtesy of the Greensand Railway Museum Trust and the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway.
Phil Robinson, MRT Chairman, said “This meeting of the Motor Rails will be a preservation first, and something which the event organising team and the various locomotive owners have worked very hard to arrange. This is yet another reason why Tracks To The Trenches should be firmly written into every railway enthusiast’s diary!”
On-line ticketing is now available for the event – tickets bought on-line avoid the gate queues and qualify for a free copy of the event guide. Tickets can also be bought for a night-time photoshoot on Friday 12th September, and for the very limited number of “Access All Areas” passes, giving unparalleled out-of-hours and behind the scenes access, ideal for the keen photographer.
We are delighted to announce two more visiting locomotives for the Tracks To The Trenches event. Both are historic internal-combustion machines, and they are being displayed courtesy of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway (WHHR).
Motor Rail 264 was built in 1916. It is a 20hp “Simplex” locomotive, and is the oldest surviving Simplex in Great Britain. These locomotives, known as Petrol Tractors, formed the backbone of the War Department Light Railway effort during the First World War. These Tractors were vital in moving supplies from railheads up to the front lines. They could be used in areas where steam locomotives were too vulnerable to enemy fire. Hundreds were built in Bedford by the Motor Rail & Tramcar Company. This particular locomotive is still fitted with a Dorman petrol engine ““ many others were converted to diesel engines after the war. Although precise records of its wartime service are unavailable, it seems highly likely that this locomotive served on the Western Front in France. The history of the locomotive after the War is unclear, although it is said that the locomotive worked at the notorious Porton Down camp in Wiltshire. In the 1950s, the locomotive was working at a peat works in Somerset until preserved in the 1970s.
The locomotive was restored to its current original condition at the WHHR facility at Gelert’s Farm, Porthmadog.
Joining Motor Rail 264 on the journey to Apedale from Porthmadog will be Baguley 760. These small, 15hp, locomotives were originally intended to operate close to the front lines. However, they suffered from glowing exhausts when working hard ““ which made them ideal targets for enemy snipers! Therefore, they were re-allocated to less onerous tasks. This particular locomotive was ordered in Board of Trade’s Timber Supplies Department in 1918. The Timber Supplies Department had the vital task of obtaining the vast supply of timber needed to provide shoring and other materials for the vast networks of trenches so characteristic of the First World War. Canadian troops, with extensive experience of tree-felling, developed a strong association with this type of work.
Again, the war record of this locomotive is unknown, but it later worked for a cement works in Bedfordshire. It was bought for preservation in 1965, making narrow gauge history by being the first locomotive to pass through the hands of Alan Keef, the well-known dealer and manufacturer. After many years, it was restored by Peter Lowe at his Abbey Light Railway in Leeds. Following Peter’s untimely death in 2012, the locomotive passed into the care of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway.
Phil Robinson, MRT Chairman, said “We very much look forward to hosting these two locomotives in September. Tracks To The Trenches is fast becoming the Must Do narrow gauge event of 2014. The locomotives from the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway will further add to the attractions at the event, and they represent important elements in the story of how narrow gauge railways supported the troops during the First World War. We are very grateful to our friends at the WHHR for their assistance with this”.
As the publicity machine grinds into action, we were pleasantly surprised to find reference to our event on a Scandinavian railway forum!
In addition to details about the event, one of the users had managed to find a YouTube video of the Salvage Squad (UK TV Programme) restoration of the Moseley Railway Trust’s First World War 40hp “Protected” Simplex – it’s difficult to believe that this was ~10 years ago now!!
As it is a related subject and we hope that this locomotive will take a starring roll, we thought it appropriate to paste the link here, for others to appreciate a thorough restoration of a historic locomotive.
Over the last 12 months we have been steadily working behind the scenes to raise the profile of First World War light railways and our own Tracks to the Trenches – 2014 event.
We were privileged to be invited to be part of the First World War Living History section at the 5 day War & Peace Revival show in Folkestone last weekend – by providing a 20hp Bent-Frame Simplex and Class D open wagon. Through the good offices of the Royal Logistics Corps museum and the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent’s Living history group we were able to provide a truly realistic combination of Trench and Trench tramway.
The public seemed to have appreciated the efforts of the West Kent’s – as their display was awarded best in show!
The photos below give a further taster of what should be happening at Apedale next September!