What really Happened to steam...

Railway Magazine Article May 2013

A previously unknown scrapyard – Brunswick Junction, Poplar. Two former Stratford residents

A Railway Magazine Exclusive 7th October 2009

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In 2009, The Railway Magazine broke the exclusive news from the HSBT Project that the storage and scrapping details of many BR steam locos were not as had been published widely in books and magazines. Following an appeal for help, our readers have responded magnificently to requests for information and Roger Butcher now brings us up to date with the latest developments.

LAUNCHED in 2009, the aim of the HSBT Project is to leave for future generations an authentic record of the fate of the 17,000 steam locomotives that existed in the last 12 years of the British Railways steam era.

Named after the four men who established it (Terry Hayward, Richard Strange, myself and Peter Trushell), the project was launched when it was realised that the reference work on the subject – the What Happened to Steam (WHTS) series of booklets, published in the 1980s –contained serious inaccuracies.Great Western Railway ‘Manor’

Since my exclusive articles in the November 2009 and October 2010 issues of The Railway Magazine a great deal of additional information, particularly regarding storage of withdrawn steam locos, has been received. Much of this information is completely new to the project and I am very grateful to all those RM readers who are helping to fill in this huge jigsaw puzzle.

We have discovered the existence of at least one (possibly three) further scrapping locations! Brunswick Junction, in Poplar, plus almost certainly Scunthorpe Normanby Park steelworks and Port Talbot, south Wales.

In the first part of this update, I will explain why so much storage information differs from the WHTS booklets and I will then answer –in Q&A form – as many as possible of the queries I have received since the previous article.

This undated photograph of Shrewsbury Sutton Bridge is (somewhat astonishingly) the only known published picture of a Locomotive Disposal Concentration Point. ALLAN SOMMERFIELD

How accurate is the information...?

The October 2010 RM posed the question: “How accurate is the information on the storage of locomotives in the WHTS books?” and the answer at the time was “We are only in the early stages of comparing the storage data with what has been published. The early signs are not encouraging though.”

For each of the 17,000 locomotives under review, there are four key facts (storage location and date, disposal location and date), so that’s 68,000 separate facts. The Railway Observer (RO), journal of the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society (RCTS) was strong on scrapping locations but not on scrapping dates, whilst the amount of detail it published on storage locations and dates was relatively small.

So, where did all the storage information contained in the WHTS books come from? In the first RM article in 2009, Richard Strange of the Steam Railway Research Society (SRRS) – which has an extensive library of official BR records – stated that the books contained “a significant amount of information that appeared simply to have been guessed at”. It was Richard’s belief that many of the storage locations in the WHTS booklets were simply the last allocated depot, whilst many of the dates merely filled in the gap between withdrawal and scrapping dates.

This BR document shows the large number of locos at Sutton Bridge as at week ending March 9, 1968

The BR document below shows the large number of locos at Sutton Bridge as at week ending March 9, 1968. DERBY INDUSTRIAL MUSEUM
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Although Peter Hands, the compiler of the booklets, refutes that suggestion, I had made a similar point to Terry Hayward in 2008 when we had been discussing our personal observations of WR 2-8-0 No. 3862 stored at Didcot shed on March 28, 1965. That loco had been withdrawn on February 6, 1965 and its final allocation was Croes Newydd, in North Wales – which is where the WHTS book showed it as stored from February to June 1965.

However, before going public with our belief, we needed further evidence. Using the Western Region as an example, it is fair to say that the storage data we have since gathered bears little resemblance to that contained in the WHTS books.

There are 12 reasons why a BR locomotive might not have been stored at the depot of its withdrawal, or why the WHTS books include incorrect information:

1: When a shed, because of restricted space available, did not normally store withdrawn engines. e.g. Bromsgrove, Goodwick, Merthyr and Yeovil.

2: When a locomotive failed away from its home depot and was stored at the shed at which it was condemned. There were many, many examples of this on the WR.

3: When there was a ‘paper’ transfer shortly before a loco’s withdrawal but the reallocation did not take place, e.g. 5744, 8728 and 9707.

The October 2010 issue of The Railway Magazine posed the question of where ‘Merchant Navy’ Pacific No. 35021 New Zealand Line ended its days – either Bird’s of Bridgend, Bird’s of Morriston, or Eastleigh Works? Above : The October 2010 issue of The Railway Magazine posed the question of where ‘Merchant Navy’ Pacific No. 35021 New Zealand Line ended its days – either Bird’s of Bridgend, Bird’s of Morriston, or Eastleigh Works? No reports or observations of this loco in South Wales had been received until then, but, soon after publication, RM reader Bob Masterman sent paperwork showing its consignment on October 11, 1965, from Bournemouth, via Eastleigh and Gloucester, to the Bridgend yard of Bird’s (Swansea) Ltd (formerly R S Hayes). It was probably cut up soon after arrival at Bridgend, which would explain the lack of sightings in South Wales. An extract from the movement notice is shown here.
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4: When locos were stored on sub-sheds which were rarely reported in the RO in the latter years of WR steam, e.g. Lydney, Whitland Pantyffynnon and Cheltenham Malvern Road.

5:When a home depot that usually stored its own withdrawn locomotives did not do so for a temporary period, e.g. Old Oak Common locos being stored at Southall when Old Oak was being rebuilt as a diesel depot.

6: When a shed that had closed to steam stored locally-based withdrawn locos, e.g. Cardiff East Dock (when it was a diesel depot), Danygraig and Stratford-upon-Avon. Such storage details were virtually never recorded in the RO.

7: When a locomotive was sent straight to works on withdrawal (or was already there) but its presence at Swindon was not recorded in the RO. Often it would then be shown in the WHTS booklets as stored at its home depot.

8: Conversely, there were examples of condemned locos shown as stored at Swindon Works even though they were ‘sold from site’ and therefore never actually went there after withdrawal.

9: Failure to recognise the difference between a works and a shed when both were located in the same town. Many examples at Swindon show engines stored at works when it should have been shed, and vice-versa.

Western Region 0-6-0ST No. 1365 at Cashmore’s of Newport on April 14, 1965

Above: Western Region 0-6-0ST No. 1365 at Cashmore’s of Newport on April 14, 1965. Although recorded by WHTS as scrapped in September 1963, it actually survived until as late as spring 1965, its role being to deputise, when necessary, for the steam crane that shunted the yard. Its continued existence went virtually unnoticed because at weekends it was normally stabled on or near the river wharf jetty and, therefore, out of view from enthusiasts taking photos or notes from Octopus Bridge. The first the author of this article knew about this locomotive still being at Cashmore’s was on January 3, 1965 when the yard foreman asked him “why is no-one ever interested in our GWR engine around the back?” No. 1365 was replaced by Hunslet 0-6-0ST No. 1660, which arrived from MoD Caerwent in May 1965. R N PRITCHARD


How errors came about

10: When confusion arose as a result of BR constantly changing shed codes in the 1950s and early ’60s.

11: The fact that so many scrap dates have been shown to be incorrect means, self-evidently, that the dates for storage have to be wrong as well because the scrap date quoted in the WHTS booklets is always one month after the end of the storage period given. In this category, a 2-3 month dating error is very common and 4-6 months not unusual.

12: Last but not least, there were many cases in which a final transfer was not notified to the enthusiast/commercial press by BR at the time. This final reason is probably the most interesting of all. The records of the SRRS, to which we at HSBT have full access, are based on official internal BR Regional advice sheets, whereas those published by society journals or commercial magazines in the 1950s and ’60s had varying interpretations of such information issued by the various Regional public relations offices.
63884 labelled “for Lysaght’s Works”.

Among a very useful list from Brian Swinn of sightings at breakers’ yards in the North East was a reference to a sighting on November 1, 1964, at Frodingham shed of O4 No. 63884 labelled “for Lysaght’s Works”. This was one of a number of Frodingham locos whose published disposal was to Ward’s, of Beighton. There are some well-known examples of steam locos being scrapped at steelworks, but this report of Lysaght’s was a first. The company’s site in Scunthorpe was Normanby Park steelworks and it was located on the freight-only line from Frodingham to Flixborough and not, therefore, visible from passing trains. Did any RM reader, perhaps an Industrial Railway Society member, visit Lysaght’s in 1964-65 and, if so, were any BR steam locomotives present? The loco in question is depicted at New England shed in April 1964. CHARLES GORDON-STUART/COLOUR-RAIL BRE1894

The WHTS Booklets

WRHTS BookletAs the editor responsible for the Western Region edition of the books that HSBT intends to publish once our research is complete, I have been stunned by the number of reallocations that never made it into the railway press.

It is rather sobering to think that the many books published since the end of BR steam purporting to deal comprehensively with locomotive allocations contain exactly the same omissions and errors – in other words they all originate from the same secondary sources.

In those cases where a final transfer was not notified in the railway press, the last allocated depot shown in the WHTS books does not reflect that final change. So, for example, nine such locos from the Western Region are shown in the table above.

Almost all the ‘actual storage locations’ for the withdrawn locomotives listed above were not only already on the SRRS database but were personally seen at those same locations by myself on shed visits in the 1960s.

While the principles detailed above apply to the other BR Regions as well, space restrictions preclude specific detail. Special mention does, however, need to be made of the London While the principles detailed above apply to the other BR Regions as well, space restrictions preclude specific detail. Special mention does, however, need to be made of the London.

The existence in 1968 of three major steam Locomotive Disposal Concentration Points (LDCPs) located away from operational depots on the LM Region –Shrewsbury Sutton Bridge, Wednesbury and Kingmoor (the former locoshed) passed largely unrecorded at the time,despite official documentation showing that no fewer than 290 steam locos went to LDCPs, some of them spending at least six months in such places!

The disposal of ex-LMS 0-6-0T No. 47681

Above: The disposal of ex-LMS 0-6-0T No. 47681 was somewhat unusual. Withdrawn from Newton Heath during the week ending August 7, 1965, it was sold to Bird’s Commercial Motors of Long Marston. It was despatched south on January 13, 1966, but was stopped at Oxley sidings on April 27 and then moved to Worcester shed, where it is pictured soon after arrival on June 17, on one of the ‘dead lines’ between the two steam shed buildings. The loco, seen with Brush Type 4 No. D1931, was later reversed into its final resting place and cut up in front of the ‘washout’ shed. R N PRITCHARD

Consequently, the WHTS data often shows locos as having already been broken up in a scrapyard when in reality they were still stored at an LDCP, in some cases as far as 80 miles away! Although there is official documentation at Derby Industrial Museum for movements in and out of the LDCPs, there is no supporting rationale behind the reason for their existence.

It has, however, been suggested that the locos’ non-ferrous parts were safer from the threat of theft than they would have been in sidings adjacent to the scrapyards waiting to receive them. Also, the sheer volume of locos being withdrawn from the surviving LMR sheds meant there was simply not enough space on the depots to store them.

As regards photographs, the only picture of an LDCP the HSBT Project has been able to obtain so far is an undated picture of the one at Shrewsbury. More photos, details or observations would be most welcome. Since my last article, a number of queries have been received concerning the revelations, so it is thought the best way to answer them is in question & answer form:

Questions and Anwsers

Did you get the reader response you hoped for from your previous articles in The Railway Magazine?Very much so! It resulted in a dialogue with all the major railway publishers who write or report on the storage and disposal of the steam locomotive fleet. In turn, that led to an almost universal acceptance of our work and active co-operation with our aims.

The second RM article in 2010 contained a table comparing official BR sales document-ation with an extract – in his own hand-writing from 2,500 fabricated entries supplied to Peter Hands by a man known by the pseudonym of ‘Zulu’. Was it this that brought other publishers and authors on board?Absolutely! In fact, one well-respected author who had previously taken information from the WHTS booklets, believing them to be a reliable reference source, said to me: “When I saw that table in The Railway Magazine, I thought Oh s--t!”

Can you give some examples of how publishers are co-operating?Some have ceased giving storage and disposal information and instead guide their readers to the HSBT Project. For example, in the book ‘British Railways Steam Locomotive Allocations’ (IanAllan/OPC), author Hugh Longworth states: “You will notice I have chosen not to give any scrapping details in this book. This area is currently the subject of a major research project being undertaken by the HSBT Project.” Details of the HSBT website are then given.

Book Law: Author John Hooper has pledged his support and has kindly made available to the project some very useful information on Scottish-based steam locomotives.

Irwell Press: The first concrete example of co-operation is the second edition of ‘The Book of the Merchant Navy Pacifics’, by Richard Derry, in which Keith Gunner (HSBT member with special responsibility for Southern locomotives) is suitably acknowledged, along with details of our website.

Lightmoor Press: Both of ‘The Norman Lockett Archive’ books on Western Region steam contain generous acknowledgements of the work the HSBT team is undertaking.

Railwayana sale catalogues: We have also been delighted by the response of the major railwayana auction houses (see example below).

All the major railwayana auction houses now either use HSBT storage and disposal information in their catalogues or have simply stopped using the information they previously extracted from websites. Above is the relevant statement from the October 13, 2012 Great Central Railwayana auction catalogue.

All the major railwayana auction houses now either use HSBT storage and disposal information in their catalogues or have simply stopped using the information they previously extracted from websites. Above is the relevant statement from the October 13, 2012 Great Central Railwayana auction catalogue.

Is there a major publishing house that is still ‘holding out’? Yes, and I did not imagine for one moment that it would be the RCTS, the society I belonged to for nearly four decades, particularly when the majority of the HSBT team are members.

Even though the compiler of the WHTS booklets, Peter Hands, has accepted that he was misled by false information from the “rogue correspondent” known as ‘Zulu’ on many of the entries, the RCTS seems reluctant to help us bring an end to the re-cycling of errors.

What do you think is the RCTS’s justification for this position? The editor of the society’s recent books on BR Standard steam locomotives, John Walford, said of the table published in The RM: “A block statement of this kind should always arouse scepticism in the mind of the historian.”

In e-mails to me, he has attempted to explain his reasons by mentioning that the latter days of BR steam were characterised by re-sales, sub-contracts, poor paperwork and mysterious deals etc, rather than accepting that those books include information we know originated from ‘Zulu’. For example, Volume 4 of the RCTS’s British Railways Standard Steam Locomotives series states that 9F No. 92127 was sold from Birkenhead shed to Buttigieg, Newport, in December 1967 and scrapped in the same month.

However, we know that what really happened was that it was sold on November 7, 1967, was subsequently moved to Shrewsbury LDCP, and didn’t leave there for Buttigieg’s until March 5, 1968 (see BR despatch document see above). There are other examples.

I am a huge admirer of RCTS books generally and proud of the fact that I made a minor contribution to Volume 14 of its Great Western Railway Locomotives series. The reputation for accuracy of such books is beyond reproach and I very much want to see that level of quality continue, but the society’s failure to help the HSBT Project break the circle of a perpetuation of errors means I have now resigned from the society No. 47250 was sold from Burton shed to Machema Ltd, Port Talbot, on October 21, 1965.

For the time being, the other members of the project have retained their memberships in the hope that the society’s management committee and/or the editor of the Standards books might change their position.

I had hoped that each of the RCTS’s 30 branches would nominate a co-ordinator for the collection of data on the storage and disposal of steam during the 1957-68 period, yet only nine responded and one of those pointed out that it “was all a long time ago and no-one in their branch was interested”.

Quite apart from the fact that ALL historians have no option but to research matters that occurred ‘a long time ago’, it seems to me that the RCTS’s desire to be a ‘modern’ society is the justification for not wanting to get involved with the HSBT Project, despite us having received personal support from the then RCTS chairman John Redgate (who has since stood down from office).

The society does not seem to understand that a mixture of the historical and modern has proved a successful formula for The RM and other periodicals.

Fortunately, its South Wales branch not only responded but provided a significant amount of useful information. My thanks also to the Croydon & South London, North-East, Northampton, Scottish, Solent and West Riding branches.

Is there a society whose involvement you would particularly like to mention? The group that has proved far and away the most productive source of information and encouragement has been the Engine Shed Society. Issue 104 of its journal, Link, contains an article from the project entitled ‘What really happened to the 9Fs’. Similar updates on other classes, as well as general updates on the HSBT Project, will be a regular feature of future issues. Further information on the ESS can be obtained from its membership secretary, Major John Jarvis, on 01395 513258 or [email protected]

Your last article highlighted concerns about the quality of disposal information on websites. What is the latest situation?

In the November 2009 RM article, readers were asked if they knew where ‘Jubilee’ No. 45556 Nova Scotia was scrapped. Thanks to Rowland Pittard, we now know it arrived at the Welsh scrapyard of Bird’s of Morriston, on January 20, 1965. This picture shows it in happier times at Nuneaton shed. KEN FAIREY/COLOUR-RAIL BRM 570We asked each of the key websites whether they were aware of the HSBT Project and whether any of the disposal information on their sites had been derived from primary sources and, if so, which ones? The sources turned out to be secondary and two of the sites, Rail UK (www.railuk.co.uk) and BRDatabase ( www.brdatabase.info ), have subsequently included disclaimers with regard to steam disposals and referred visitors to the HSBT Project.

Sadly, we know of no website that contains primary information on this subject. Ideally, we would prefer the erroneous information not to be there at all, as obviously it will still deceive the unwary visitor, but at least we can now point to the disclaimers when, as still happens, we are told (groan) “there’s a lot of information on the net!”

When can we expect the HSBT Project to make the results of its researches available?I am hopeful that the first volume will be published next year. We anticipate publishing regional disposal books, but will not do so until we are satisfied that all available sources of information have been examined. I still have to visit a number of retired BR officials who have indicated that they have Special Traffic Notices, which will clearly be of use to the project.The year 2011 was a difficult one for me personally, but in my absence, the HSBT team has continued to beaver away. I must thank them all and, in particular, Keith Gunner for his support and incredible eye for detail, which have kept the project moving forward.

I would also like to record my appreciation to everyone who has got in touch and to thank The Railway Magazine for its help in launching this project, as our initial credibility was established by having the support of the best-selling railway title. Even after four years, RM readers are still coming forward with new information. One, Rowland Pittard, has just located in his loft extensive personal notes of scrapyard visits in South Wales during the 1960s.

Does YOUR loft or garage contain those elusive pieces of information we still need? If you are not on the internet, you can write to us at HSBT Project, 26 Priory Gardens, Langstone, Newport NP18 2JG.

Are you in a position to publish a list of locos whose fate you have yet to establish? Not yet, but when we do, it will appear exlusively in The RM… so watch this space!


Full e-mail contact details for the HSBT Project team can be found on the contact page of our website
Postal contact: HSBT Project, 26 Priory Gardens, Langstone, Newport, NP18 2JG.

The author has generously donated his fee for this feature to the Naomi House Children’s Hospice, Winchester.