The NVR Small Loco Group was set up in 2012 to look after and give much needed attention to the Nene Valleys small locomotives. The group has taken Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST No.1539 ‘Derek Crouch’, Hunslet 0-6-0ST No.1953 ‘Jacks Green’, and Danish F Class 0-6-0T No.656 ‘Tinkerbell’.
With ‘Tinkerbell’ currently progressing through overhaul and with ‘Jacks Green’ on display as the footplate accessible loco, so far the attention has been on the cosmetic restoration of ‘Derek Crouch’. Once this is completed, ‘Derek Crouch’ will replace ‘Jacks Green’ as the footplate accessible loco, and ‘Jacks Green’ will go into the shed and receive a cosmetic restoration itself. The group will also be helping to reassemble ‘Tinkerbell’, pushing it forward to an eagerly awaited completion of its overhaul.
The locomotive was ordered by Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons on the 18th April 1924 for a cost of £1,800 and was then despatched new to Bushey and Oxhey Station, near Watford. It was used here on McAlpines contract to construct the Watford bypass which was constructed between 1924-1926 for the Hertfordshire County Council. It carried a livery of dark blue with white lining and carried large plates lettered ‘SIR ROBERT McALPINE & SONS No. 46.’
No. 46 worked on several of the McAlpines contracts, including Tilbury Docks (1926-1929), the Southampton Docks extension (1929-1933), the Cheddar Reservoir contract for the Bristol and Minehead corporations in 1933, and the reconstruction of two steel works in the south of Wales, these being the Cardiff (East Moors Plant) of British Iron and Steel Co. Ltd (1933-1935) and the Ebbw Vale works of Richard Thomas & Co. Ltd (1936-1938). From there it returned to the McAlpine Depot at Hayes in Middlesex by the 2nd October 1938.
McAlpine then sold No.46 to John Mowlem & Co by January 1940, who renamed the locomotive ‘Hayle’. ‘Hayle’ was used in the construction of Swynnerton Royal Ordnance Factory, near Stone in Staffordshire. By 1943 however, ‘Hayle’ was stood in store along with six other locomotives at Mowlem’s yard in Hatfield.
The Wissington Light Railway was a network of lines which connected the BSC factory at Downham Market with the LNER Stoke Ferry branch line, and many of the farms across the neighbouring fens.
The Ministry of Agriculture purchased ‘Hayle’ from Mowlem’s yard, and was delivered by road by Pickfords Road Transport to the Methwold end of the Wissington Railway. Here its livery was changed to green, lined with black and yellow edging, and ‘HAYLE’ painted on its tanks in yellow with red shading. Here it was used across the fen lines carrying freight from the farms and factories to the mainline sidings where the wagons could be taken across the country.
Around May 1947, ‘Hayle’ was sent to Doncaster works, where it received a complete overhaul, and was outshopped in unlined black livery with ‘HAYLE’ and ‘WISSINGTON LOCO’ painted on the tank sides. It was used as a works shunter at Doncaster works for a short period of time before returning to the Wissington Railway. ‘HAYLE’ was popularly known on the Wissington Railway as ‘Haile Selassie’ after the Emperor of Ethiopia. In July 1957, ‘HAYLE’ was sold to Thos. W. Ward Ltd, together with the track and fitments of the Wissington Railway after the lines closure.
‘HAYLE’ was purchased by Derek Crouch (Contractors) Ltd, for use at an open cast coal working in Widderington, Northumberland. During this period 1539 was named ‘Derek Crouch’. It remained at the works until 1970, when it was moved and placed in storage in Eye, on the outskirts of Peterborough.
In 1972 ‘Derek Crouch’ was placed on permanent loan to the then Peterborough Railway Society (PRS – now the Nene Valley Railway) where it was restored to Derek Crouch house colours, and then was returned to steam the following year.
In April 1974, under the auspices of the PRS, ‘Derek Crouch’ pulled the first train on the railway, and subsequently appeared at society steam days. ‘Derek Crouch’ was then employed on light shunting duties around Wansford, but in 1982 the locomotive was taken out of traffic, not due to any issues with the locomotive, just the reason of its lack of power meant it had little use to be steamed. The locomotive was then placed on static display at the main entrance to the Wansford site.
It stayed here until August 1994 when it was moved to make way for the construction of the new station building.
It was then repainted from the Derek Crouch house colours of maroon to light green. Since then it has spent its time sitting in various locations around Wansford yard, until early 2011, where it was moved to its current position inside the centre shed.
After all the repairs and repaint have been carried out and the locos cosmetic overhaul is finished, it will be positioned as a cab accessible locomotive outside the station building, where ‘Jacks Green’ has been positioned for the past few years, allowing that loco a chance to spend some time out of the elements and give the visitors something different to look at. The forming of the ‘NVR Small Loco Group’ gives the opportunity to raise money to help fund any further work, and potentially carry out a full mechanical overhaul of Derek Crouch to return it to steam.
0-6-0ST No.1953 was built by the Hunslet locomotive company of Leeds in 1939. ‘Jacks Green’ was purchased for use at the Nassington Ironstone Quarries, which were situated just three miles to the west of Wansford. The locomotive was used for hauling iron ore tipplers out of the quarries, usually three to four at a time to the dispatch sidings to make up longer trains ready to be picked up to be taken away on the mainline. Jacks Green and its sister engine ‘Ring Haw’ (based on the North Norfolk Railway) were the last two remaining steam locomotives in Ironstone quarry use in England when the quarries were closed in 1970.
‘Jacks Green’ was delivered to the Peterborough Sugar beet Factory, the base of the Peterborough Railway Society in steam on the 1st January 1971. Here the loco was used at the PRS open days, and later after the move from the factory to Wansford.
During 1976-1977 ‘Jacks Green’ was completely overhauled by the apprentices of Peter Brotherhood ltd, and was then repainted by PRS members into LNER apple green livery. It then travelled down the east coast mainline to Peterborough station, where it then travelled down the Fletton loop and up the NVR line to Wansford. During 1980 the locomotive was fitted with an air pump and air breaking equipment.
‘Jacks Green’ was taken out of service in 1987 in need of a complete overhaul, which can only take place once the funds are in place for it.
‘Jacks Green’ is currently situated in platform 1 at Wansford and is used as a footplate accessible locomotive, so members of the public can access the cab of a steam locomotive safely, and experience what it is like to operate a steam locomotive.
No. 656 was built by Frichs, Aarhus in 1949, following the Second World War, after the devastating attacks left the Danish railways in short supply for shunting locomotives. The post war ‘F’ class locomotives were built on the original drawings by Otto Busse, but with slight modifications, such as stronger buffers and bufferbeams, and a larger capacity coal bunker.
Of the 120 F class locomotives built, 13 remain in existence, the oldest originating from 1899, and 6 are operational, 656 being one of these 6 when the overhaul is complete.
During its life working for DSB (Danske Statsbaner – Danish State Railways) 656 would have carried out shunting, light goods trains and small passenger workings, and the remaining railway ferry duties that remained in place. 656 was withdrawn from service and placed into store at the Aarhus Depot.
In 1975, 656 was purchased from Aarhus and was transported to Peterborough. It was steamed for the first time on the railway in 1976, before entering regular service after the formal opening of the line in 1977 on the lighter off peak trains. As 656 is fitted with a bell, it was given the nickname of ‘Tinkerbell’.
656 carries the colour of the Danish flag (red and white) around its chimney. It has also starred in the TV series Secret Army, in which one sequence the locomotive and train were ‘shot up’ by a Mosquito aircraft.
‘Tinkerbell’ was taken out of traffic in 1986 with a failed firebox, and spent the next 16 yards in store in Wansford shed awaiting overhaul. In 2004, John Snasdell, the owner of 656, generously donated the locomotive to the railway.
Systematic dismantling of 656 began during the winter of 2003/04, and by 2005, the boiler had been removed and the extent of the work needed to repair it was established. The rest of the locomotive was then completely dismantled, and work to repair the rest of the loco was underway.
The current state of 656 is now that it has been classed as a ‘giant airfix kit’, virtually all components have been repaired, and the last work is now being carried out on repairing the wheels and axle boxes so that the frames can be re-wheeled, and then the rest of the loco can be re-assembled as much as possible ready for it to receive the repaired boiler. Once the boiler is completed and back on the frames, the last remaining jobs and steam tests can be carried out.