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Robert Heath 0-4-0 saddle tank built 1885, rebuilt 1934, "No 6"
Above: A deliberately grimy Robert Heath "No6" runs light to collect wagons with "Bellerophon"
One of the real unique gems of the steam collection at Foxfield, this is a thoroughly local engine and a very remarkable survival.
Robert Heath & Sons were well known local ironmasters, at one time reputed to be the largest producers of bar iron in the world. Furnaces, forges and mills were operated at Black Bull, Biddulph and Ford Green, together with collieries and a network of private railway lines. From the late 1880s the company even had running rights over parts of the North Staffordshire Railway to Congleton. To work these lines, Heaths not only bought locomotives, they also made their own. The original source of the design of Heath's four-wheeled locomotives appears to be one bought new from Falcon of Loughborough in 1885, and numbered 8, though little is known about the loco fleet at that time. Very quickly Heaths set to work to copy it, which was no mean achievement even for an established engineering workshop. It seems that every component, even the boiler, was constructed at Black Bull. The first copy was number 6, although it is not known what the Falcon company thought about its latest product being so blatantly copied by a customer within a year of delivery! Heath's went on to build a further eleven four-wheeled locomotives up to the First World War, and they were gradually modified and rebuilt over the years. In addition two six-wheeled locomotives were built in 1915 and 1924 based on a much rebuilt loco originally delivered by Black Hawthorn in 1888.
Number 6 spent its working life at Black Bull and Norton collieries, as did most of the other four-wheeled locos. After the First World War Heaths amalgamated with the Low Moor Company, ironmakers of Bradford, and by the late 1920s the iron side of the business was in financial trouble. The collieries survived the depression, and many of the older Heath locos received major repairs around this time. Number 6 was sent to the workshops of Cowlishaw Walker at Black Bull in 1934 for a rebuild but this did not modernise its antiquated appearance.
Above: Robert Heath "No6" in 1951, very well kept at NCB Norton Colliery [late HB Holland collection]
When the National Coal Board was formed in 1947 number 6 remained at work at Norton colliery, and the other Heath-built locomotives still in service began to be laid aside. Remarkably a couple of the four-wheelers received brand new boilers supplied by Bagnalls of Stafford, number 6 receiving its during an overhaul in 1954. Even at this stage, the original design of smokebox door hinged at the top was retained, and the loco put back to work. It spent a few months on brief loan to Deep Pit, Hanley in 1961-2 but was found to be too small for duties there.
Above: Robert Heath "No6" looking all of its 83 years, seen at NCB Norton Colliery in 1968
1965 its sister number 10 was scrapped and it became apparent that number
6 was the last survivor of the Heaths locomotives; not only that, it was
the first Heaths had built.Although
in poor external condition, the Staffordshire County Council Museum became
interested in acquiring number 6 in 1967 as part of a collection of railway
relics for a proposed museum at Shugborough Hall. The NCB donated number
6 and it was moved there for preservation on 19 February 1969. While at
Shugborough it was in the company of "Moss Bay"
and the two surviving North Staffordshire Railway locomotives but the plans
to display them were never fully realised. In the early 1980s the static
exhibits were dispersed, and number 6 moved to the Chatterley Whitfield
Mining Museum on 16 November 1983.
|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.|