|Our November 2009 issue exclusively revealed that the standard reference books on BR steam loco disposals contain many errors. Since then there have been several interesting developments, as ROGER BUTCHER reports.|
THE aim of the HSBT Project is to leave for future generations a totally correct record of the fate of all the 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 in 2009 after it was realised that the definitive reference work on the subject – the ‘What Happened to Steam’ series, published in the 1980s – contained serious errors.
Since my original article, a number of queries have been received concerning the revelations, so it is thought that the best way to answer these is in question & answer form:
What has been the response to the project?
Fantastic! Many enthusiasts, who simply could not understand why their own observations were at variance with published material, have thanked us for bringing the matter to public notice. There has, however, been a degree of embarrassment from certain writers and publishers, who for many years have been relying on the What Happened to Steam (WHTS) books and find it hard to accept that their own books now also contain inaccurate information.
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I have seen it suggested that more than 2,500 entries in the WHTS books were wrong and may even have been deliberately
falsified. Is that correct?
The centre panel above shows just one column – in his own handwriting – from the 2,500 fabricated entries ‘Zulu’ supplied to Peter Hands. Fortunately,
the official BR documents shown either side
illustrate the quality of the information the HSBT Project has been able to obtain.
In this article we
feature three locos photographically (63346, 65833
and 65892 at Clayton & Davie, circled in green) and
three by official documentation (75040, 75042 and
92016 sold to Motherwell Machinery & Scrap, circled in red) that show ‘Zulu’s information for what it is -
We have yet to find any evidence to substantiate any of the other entries in the above
sample list. We are indebted to the Derby Industrial
Museum for making the official documents available.
2,500 entries in the WHTS books were wrong and may even have been deliberately
falsified. Is that correct?
Unfortunately yes, but that was not the fault of the compiler, Peter Hands. Our
investigations have revealed that he was supplied with false information from a
correspondent, which he accepted in good
faith. One can sympathise with Peter that his
trust was betrayed.
Have you been able to identify the correspondent responsible and, if so, have you
been able to trace him?
Yes, he lives in Northamptonshire.
How can you be so sure he was the culprit?
Because the HSBT Project has obtained a file
containing the fabricated information sent by him to Peter Hands in the 1970s
Have you contacted this person and can you
Yes, I have managed to track him down and
have spoken with him at length. He is an
articulate man but a fantasist. The HSBT
Project has nicknamed him ‘Zulu’, but why is a story for another day.
Considering the damage he has done to
railway history, surely some action should
be taken against him?
It is our belief that there is little point in pursuing him any further.
It is Peter Hands who is the real injured party. We simply need people to appreciate that so much information in the books was fabricated and why it is essential that we go back to square one.
‘Jubilee’ No. 45573 Newfoundland. This ex-LMS 4-6-0 was shown in the WHTS books as scrapped at Cashmore, Great Bridge, but in fact met its end at Clayton & Davie’s yard at Dunston. COLOUR-RAIL.COM
Not a fabrication by ‘Zulu’, but a genuine query. There are three suggested disposals for ‘Merchant Navy’ Pacific No. 35021 New
Zealand Line – Bird, Bridgend or Bird, Morriston (but we are not
aware of any observations of it en route to, or in, South Wales) and
Eastleigh Works. So where did this Bulleid end its days? If you have
any information, please let us know. Here it is seen on Pullman duty
in the 1960s. (The chalked words on the smokebox state ‘Eddison
Plant’, the name of a long-established machinery manufacturer, so
maybe the loco had previously been used for a works outing).
Which BR Regions contain the most fabricated
The Eastern and London Midland Regions.
Are the BR Standard locomotives affected by
this fabricated material?
Yes, for example, a total of 21 Class 9F
disposals has been falsified.
What is the situation with the Western Region?
There are errors but, fortunately, an amazing amount of primary information has been made
available to the Project by The National
Archives at Kew and we have also obtained
a copy of a register detailing the scrapping
dates for Swindon Works.
Do you have information for other BR works?
So far we have obtained cutting-up books/records/data for all the Southern and
Western Region workshops. Similar records
have been made available to the project
for Crewe, Gorton and Horwich whilst
data for Darlington and Doncaster has just arrived and will be examined shortly.
How about the Scottish workshops?
Scotland is, so far, the HSBT Project’s ‘black
hole’. The majority of information obtained so
far has come from English-based enthusiasts.
Our intention is now to start approaching
Scottish railway societies direct.
How does the WHTS information compare to
the workshop data you have received?
There are many discrepancies – a significant
number of which originate directly from the
falsified information supplied by ‘Zulu’.
You mentioned in your first article that the
dating of locomotives being scrapped was a
major problem. Can you expand on this?
Almost every author and website likes to
specify the month of scrapping. All very neat
and tidy, but if you look specifically at the
foreword of each of the WHTS books, it
clearly states “With reference to the column ‘where scrapped’ the works dates are actual
cut-up dates, but where the locomotives were
sold to private contractors it is often the case
that these were the dates the locomotives were
purchased’. So, they are not actual scrapping
dates and do not claim to be, although
obviously if you do not read the foreword then
you are left with the impression that they were.
So, where have all the websites got their
disposal information from?
We have yet to find a website that contains
primary information that can be relied upon.
Every site we have examined appears to be
based on the WHTS books and, therefore,
perpetuates the original errors. If there is a website out there where this is not the case,
please get in contact with us and we will
mention it in The Railway Magazine.
We accept that, after three decades, it is
going to be extremely difficult to break the
cycle of misinformation out there. For
example, we recently checked for another
magazine a list of locos known to have been scrapped by Cohen’s of Kettering and, within
days of the magazine being published, we
began to receive letters asking why a number
of locos had been ‘omitted’ from our list.
Those, of course, were the locos ‘Zulu’ had
made up – but the letter-writers were still not
aware of that and had been treating the WHTS booklets as ‘gospel’. We have a very tough job ahead of us.
A glimpse through the scrapyard gates of Clayton & Davie, Dunston, as 9F No. 92167 prepares to meet its maker on
October 5, 1968. ‘Zulu’ had claimed this 2-10-0 met its demise over 100 miles away at Campbell, Airdrie. KEVIN HUDSPITH
Apart from The Railway Magazine, has any
publication sought the HSBT team’s advice?
The Norman Lockett Archive Great Western Steam 1934-1949 (published earlier this year) is the first publication to which the team
has contributed advice
What progress has been made in breaking the
circle of a continual perpetuation of errors?
Discussions with the major railwayana auction
houses have resulted in Great Central
Railwayana Auctions being the first to use
HSBT storage and disposal information in
their catalogues and my thanks go to David
Jones and Mike Soden for their support.
You obviously are very critical of how few
authors go to the trouble of accessing primary
sources and instead rely on re-hashing or
copying material already published. Which
primary sources is the HSBT Project relying on?
Depending on the classes and operating areas:
- Engine History Cards (held at York and
- Engine Record Cards (at York and Kew).
- Engine History Sheets (at Kew).
- Engine shopping records for ER-owned
locomotives (at York).
- BR Special Traffic Notices, containing dates
and other details of locomotive movements
- Sales and movement correspondence
deriving from Rolling Stock Control/Sales
- Private breaker records (e.g. Cashmore).
- Cutting records compiled privately from
breaker records and subsequently published
- Receipt and disposal information in letters
from breakers (e.g, Hughes Bolckow).
- Documents in The National Archives at
Kew numbered in the Rail 254/512 series
- Various other Rail 254 sub-categories at
Kew, which advise works disposals and dates
for WR and SR locomotives.
- Crewe Works cut books.
- Horwich Works cut book, compiled from
- Official records compiled at other works.
- Various shopping records, which also offer
dates of taking into workshops for cutting
- Contemporary notes made by observers at
the time, along with dated photographs or
cine film taken on sheds, works, storage
sidings and breakers’ premises.
‘Grange’ 4-6-0 No. 6844 Penhydd Grange (one of only three to be paired with a Hawksworth tender) at Stourbridge Junction shed in October 1962. This loco made the short journey from Llanelly to Bird, Morriston, via Swansea East Dock, arriving there on September 11, 1964 – another loco that never went anywhere near Cohen of Kettering. D. KERRISON / COLOUR-RAIL.COM
|The remains of the cab of V2 No. 60886 stand alone in Clayton & Davie’s yard on March 4, 1967 – a far cry from
Cashmore, Great Bridge. TREVOR ERMEL
|Another once-proud V2, No. 60876, languishes in the
Dunston yard of Clayton & Davie on January 30, 1966, not at Cashmore, Great Bridge. TREVOR ERMEL
Your first article mentioned a list of railway societies that had pledged assistance. Have
any other railway societies got involved?
Yes, the list is growing and I would like, in
particular, to mention the RCTS. An initiative
has recently been launched in which member
John Aitchison is aiming to co-ordinate
responses from each of the society’s 30
branches, the idea being for each branch to
nominate a co-ordinator for the collection of
data on the storage and disposal of steam
locomotives during the 1957-1968 period.
Have you considered accessing information
from some of the smaller railway societies
that existed in the 1950s and 1960s?
Yes, John Redgate, the RCTS chairman, and
Andrew Lait, from Canada, have both
mentioned the potential usefulness of the lists
of stored locomotives published by the British
Locomotive Society between March 1963 and
These lists were made available for an
additional subscription and detailed stored and
withdrawn locomotives at sheds, scrapyards
and other locations. John is very kindly
providing copies for the HSBT Project but
does not possess numbers 2 and 3 (April and
May 1963). Can anyone make these available
to us please, even if only on loan?
How accurate is the information on the storage of locomotives in the WHTS books?
We are only in the early stages of comparing
the storage data with what has been published.
The early signs are not encouraging though.
A recently-published book states that “either
BR was not really clear about who it was
selling its hulks to, or (more likely it seems)
scrapyards tended to sell on their locos.”
What do you think when you see a statement
The reality, of course, is that there were
contractual documents for all asset sales.
The myth that locomotives were “often” resold is simply an excuse to try to explain
the fabricated entries.
When can we expect the HSBT Project to make
the results of its researches available?
As emphasised in last year’s article, whilst we
anticipate publishing regional disposal books,
we will not do so until we are satisfied that all
available sources of information have been
examined. In the meantime, the team will
consider assisting publishers and other
providers of information with specific data
to ensure its accuracy.
When can we anticipate seeing the next
update on the HSBT Project in The Railway
Early next year. That update will be extra
special, for it will include the first published list
of the locomotives whose fate we have still
been unable to establish – and for which we
will need the help of readers. In addition, we
will announce the anticipated publication date
of the first of our planned books on the
withdrawal, storage and disposal of the steam
locomotives that existed in the last 12 years of
the BR steam era.
Are there any other points you’d like to make?
I would like to record my appreciation to
everyone who has got in touch with us. There
are too many to mention but I would, in
particular, like to thank railway scrapyard
experts Ashley Butlin, David Dunn and Tony
Wakefield for pledging their support. I would
also like to welcome John Aitchison (notebook
research) and Richard Morton (Sheffield area
scrapyards) to the HSBT Project team.
Thanks also to Railway Magazine editor
Nick Pigott and deputy Chris Milner for their
invaluable help and support in launching the
project. Thanks are also due to my colleagues
on the team, who are working hard and whose
contact details can be found below.
Full e-mail contact details for the HSBT Project team can be found on the contact page of our website: www.whatreallyhappenedtosteam.co.uk and: www.wrhts.co.uk
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.