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Avonside 0-4-0 saddle tank built 1908, number 1563 "Millom"

Above: the frames of Avonside 1563 "Millom" seen under restoration, 24 June 2004 
 

A product of Avonside's works in Bristol, works number 1563 was delivered new to Partridge, Jones and John Paton Ltd, at the Pontypool Tinplate Works in South Wales. It is a very small design typical of the period, and featured dumb buffers. After 24 years work there it was sent to a dealer called Adams in Newport in 1932. Adams gave the locomotive an overhaul before selling it to the Hodbarrow Haematite Mines near Millom in Cumbria in 1934. Hodbarrow was a very windswept location on the edge of the Irish Sea and so wooden weatherboards were fitted to enclose one side of the cab. So windy was it that on a violent stormy night in 1930 the entire locomotive shed had blown away, and was never replaced. So by the time 1563 arrived, locos had to stand in the open air, and one night the locomotive's chimney disappeared in a gale! This obviously had to be replaced ... by a crude stovepipe.
When the Hodbarrow Mining Company went into liquidation in 1968 a local preservation group was formed to preserve the mine, but they were only ultimately successful in securing loco 1563 and a couple of wagons. The locomotive then moved between several locations and ended up displayed at the Astley Green Colliery Museum, Tyldesley in 1983. It was partly dismantled for restoration which never really commenced and the components gradually became scattered around the museum site. Crucially several were lost or stolen, including the connecting and coupling rods. Eventually the locomotive was offered a more secure future at Foxfield when purchased for a very nominal sum by two active members. Now known as "Millom" after its last workplace, number 1563 arrived at Foxfield on 14 June 1997 and has been dismantled for restoration to working order on an isolated stretch of track alongside the running shed at Caverswall Road. Work has concentrated first on a total rebuild of the frames, wheels and cylinders, including substantial damage to the latter caused by frost. New rods and many other new components will need to be manufactured to complete the job.

Below: Avonside 0-4-0ST 1563 in 1950 [late HB Holland collection]


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.