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Haydock Foundry 0-6-0 well tank built 1874, number C "Bellerophon"
Above: "Bellerophon" in the line-up of locos outside Caverswall Road shed
"Bellerophon" is one of the oldest steam locomotives to be seen in action anywhere in the world and offers one of the best surviving insights into the development of early purpose-built powerful industrial engines, rather than simply ex-mainline stock that had been pensioned off. "Bellerophon" was built in 1874 by the Haydock Foundry, to the design of Josiah Evans, son of Richard Evans who owned the Haydock Collieries which were to become Lancashire's largest privately owned mining and related engineering concern. It was one of the first six similar locomotives turned out from the Foundry from 1868, and it was an unusual practice there to give locos letters rather than numbers, "C" indicating that "Bellerophon" was the third to be built. The valve gear is a modified Gooch-type Stephenson link motion working off the rear axle, and makes an interesting contrast with simpler modern designs. It originally had just a spectacle plate, and was first fitted with a cab in the 1880s.
Working duties included twice daily runs between Haydock and Northwich in Cheshire and, alternately, twice daily runs between Golborne and Edge Green collieries and the shunting yards at Haydock. These duties all involved runs over the mainline railways, as private owners often exercised their rights to run their own locomotives as well as wagons at that time. Most unusually, in the 1880s, "Bellerophon" and similar locomotives ran annual passenger excursions to Blackpool for the Haydock employees and their families. Four trains, each double-headed, made the journey over the line of the LNWR and LYR hauling loose-coupled four and six wheeled carriages.
When the coal mining industry was nationalised in 1947, the Haydock Foundry became the Central Works for the NCB St Helens area and the Evans locomotives became dispersed among the various collieries. "Bellerophon" bears evidence of many repairs throughout its life, and received its last overhaul at Haydock in 1957. It then worked with little or no maintenance until 1964, by which time it attracted considerable attention from railway enthusiasts as it had been at work for 90 years. The five other similar Haydock locomotives were cut up for scrap in the early 1960s leaving only "Bellerophon", which was offered for display at the City of Liverpool Museum. As the Museum was unable to accomodate it, the NCB donated "Bellerophon" to the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, which received it in November 1966. It was of little prospective use on the developing steam railway and so became a static exhibit at Haworth.
The enthusiasm of a member of the K&WVR, Terry Sykes, and the Vintage Carriages Trust, led to an ambitious plan to restore "Bellerophon" to working order. The Vintage Carriages Trust purchased the locomotive from the K&WVR for a nominal sum and successfully applied for a 50% grant from the Science Museum towards the costs of restoration. "Bellerophon" steamed for the first time in preservation on 1 May 1985 and hauled its first passenger train for about 100 years that October. In 1986 it won the National Coal Board's "Steam Heritage Award", and in 1987 began a tour of many preservation sites around the north of England, including Steamtown, Carnforth, Crewe Heritage Centre and the Embsay Steam Railway. It also saw frequent off-peak use on the Worth Valley line. In 1989 the restoration won the Institution of Mechanical Engineers "Heritage Hallmark Award".
To enable "Bellerophon" to be seen in an authentic industrial railway environment, the Vintage Carriages Trust kindly loaned the locomotive to the Foxfield Railway. The sight of such an ancient machine hauling trains of coal wagons up the bank from Foxfield Colliery has proved addictive and the period of loan has gradually been extended for several years. While at "Bellerophon" has been repainted in green, lined in red, with "NCB" lettering. It is now being overhauled again at Caverswall Road, and in November 2004 the boiler was lifted from the frames. It is hoped that "Bellerophon" can remain a fascinating and active part of the Foxfield Railway for many years to come.
Above: "Bellerophon" in NCB service
Above: Boiler from "Bellerophon" under repair at Caverswall Road, 3 April 2005
Below: The plain and functional worksplate records where and when "Bellerophon" was built
|For more information on the Foxfield Steam Railway, its passenger services and special events please see the official website at http://www.foxfieldrailway.co.uk.|