HISTORY OF WAR DEPARTMENT DIESELS 825 AND 830

FROM NEW TO PURCHASE FOR PRESERVATION

Although nominally the same the machines now at Isfield are of two different makes and were built in different series to somewhat different designs.  Both have been rebuilt with later engines and conical chimneys but 825 has a much more complex history.

825

The earlier machine has a very complex history to the extent that there is some doubt about its identity. The most likely explanation is that it is Barclay no 354 built in 1941, heavily rebuilt by the Army at Bicester in either 1955 or 1957 after a serious accident. If this is the case it was WD39 (new to Longtown 7-7-41 and the first of the Barclay batch), renumbered WD70039 in 1944, later WD 825 and finally Army 221. It was one of a group of 11 that were shipped to France via Southampton Cherbourg for use by the Invasion Forces. It is not known if this loco worked outside France.  For a detailed allocation history see the site of the Dutch group restoring WD33 - one of the same series that did not return to the UK after VE day as well as my summary tables.

WD 39 somewhere (?) in 1942 (picture (C) NJvWJ) - from the WD33 site

Evidence discovered during restoration shows that it has been WD 825 since the cab was rebuilt but no fully reliable trace of an earlier identity was found. The Industrial Railway Society's book on the Army locos notes that the records do not agree and actually contradicts itself between the text and the photo captions.  A photo in 'The Bicester Military Railway (E. R. Lawton & Major M. W. Sackett)' p122 has a stripped frame in the background that is clearly one of the early series as it has raised rivets while the others were flush, it seems highly likely that this is the present 825 before rebuilding - the photo is not dated but is likely to have been after 1955 as the sleepers are concrete and these were not used until then. As rebuilt no 825 did not appear to carry a builders plate (none is visible in the 1964 photo below) and although there are bolt holes in the cab sides that may have held one they are too small and too close together for an original Barclay plate (the 1942 picture above suggests one was NEVER fitted). No certain evidence of identity was found when the frames were stripped for painting, the buffers are marked 'LMS 1941', the axle boxes 354 and the only clear numbers on the body (on the front lamp bracket) suggest it was made from components intended for several of the 1941 Barclay batch.  Since the engine, gearbox and final drive have all been replaced only these numbers (may) relate to the original construction although they are, of course, on removable components.  It is now realised (after further stripping for restoration) that the rebuild of 825 was even more comprehensive than previously thought. Very little above the frames appears to have survived (the bonnet doors are not original, the radiator frame and bonnet top probably are as there is a cut-out for the early type chimney).  The mechanics have been much mutilated - comparison with other surviving early locomotives shows that the gearbox mounting is home made as is all the brake gear and most of the body including the cab, the final drive is from one of the later series (or may have been replaced with new when the 50s rebuild was done) and the gearbox presently fitted came from 830.  

WD825 is certainly from the early series (it has round head frame rivets and the modifications to the chassis to accommodate the later final drive in an early frame are obvious).  There are four locomotives unaccounted for - WD35/6/8/9, WD34-38 all returned from use by middle east forces (MEF) in 1947 but WD35/6/8 are unaccounted for later - all the ex-MEF ones were put up for sale in poor condition on their return and only WD34 and WD37 have a known buyer.  WD39 is supposed to have been sold to Sentinals but there is no evidence of this and no reason why Sentinal (still building steam at the time) would have wanted it.  All the other candidates are EE/VF/DC products and examination of survivors suggests that the EE frames have a slightly different rivet layout to the Barclay ones while the present 825 has the Barclay type.  It seems most likely that the locomotive was built as WD39 in 1941, renumbered to WD70039 in 1944, damaged in an accident (or possibly used for spares) before the next renumbering in 1952 when it would have become WD823 but in fact was ignored so presumably was not considered to exist.  It is later (c1955/6) decided to rebuild the frame as a 'new' loco that is completed by 1957 and incorrectly numbered 825 (assuming those rebuilding it knew it was originally from WD33-WD39 it should have been 823).  Someone eventually (c1960) notices that there are now two 825s and has the wrong one (ex WD44) renumbered to 823 which of course meant there were now two 823s.  In 1961 this is noticed and the original 823 (which was probably thought to be WD39) is renumbered 859 being tagged on the end of the ex-ROF locos being taken into army stock at the time.  Obviously WD39 should have become 859 or whatever the next spare number was in 1957 but clearly this was too simple (or someone may have been hiding that an extra loco has been created).

In approximately 1972 WD825 was rebuilt again with a later engine (Gardner 8L3B instead of 8L3) - this engine was 196hp instead of 150 and it seems 825 and 859 were the only early series locos to be rebuilt as they had been fitted with the later design of final drive and were better able to absorb the power.  Unfortunately 825 retained the early gear box and this seems to have struggled with the power.


825 at Bicester in 1964 (photo Peter Excell) - note no chimney is fitted

The later history of 825 is similar to 830, its final Army allocation being Long Marston, Warwickshire from 1972 before sale to Queenborough Rolling Mills, where it became no 15, in 1985. This machine lasted much longer in Queenborough service than 830 largely due to the efforts of John Tucker (the senior locomotive driver and maintenance man) who adopted it as works locomotive thus avoiding much of the heavy work on the steel trains. Despite this motive power shortages led to it being used on this traffic and much wear occurred, leading to a rebuild of the gearbox using parts from both locos in the casing from 830 and very serious tyre and bearing wear. Our two machines also collided at some point leading to damage to 825ís cab. The locomotive remained in use until 1995 when it was replaced by more modern ex-Army machines, it having become the only working loco at one point. At the time of withdrawal this was the oldest standard gauge locomotive still in regular industrial use in Great Britain (Army 859 at Tarmac took this dubious honor later but this is also now out of use).

 

825 in use at Queenborough on an empty steel train in 1993

830

830 is a Drewry Car Company / Vulcan Foundry built machine (builders numbers DC 2176 / VF 5257) of 1945 and is the second Drewry example from the later batch. It originally carried number WD72221, later (1951) WD830 and lastly (1968) ARMY223. It worked at a number of depots including Wem (local to where its original co-owner and myself went to school), finishing its Army career in 1985 at Ashchurch, Gloucestershire where it had been for some 15 years. It was then purchased by Shipbreakers (Queenborough) Ltd., who among other things were both scrap merchants and locomotive dealers with an extensive internal railway system which also served other local industry. This company later became Queenborough Rolling Mills producing reinforcing bar often from scrap rail imported by sea using their own rail served wharf. This involved hauling very heavy trains over rough track with a very severe curve leading to serious and unbalanced tyre wear and eventual collapse of a rear wheel bearing. This led to the locomotive, numbered 16 in the Queenborough series, going out of use in about 1989/90 and later being cannibalised to keep no 15 running.

830 out of use at Queenborough in 1993 - note the remains of the gearbox from 825 on the running plate

The locomotives were deemed no longer required at Queenborough in 1995 and were purchased by myself and Nick Kelly after the Lavender line had expressed a need for a smaller shunter than the class 12 then being used.

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