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South Devon workshop in full swing

5786 separated from its boiler

A casual visit to the workshops of the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh this week shows what a success story their engineering facility is. Specialising in wheel tyre turning and fitting for locomotives, 10 people are employed full time, and the floor area has wheelsets from a wide variety of locomotives from all over the country waiting for work to be completed.

I was given a very warm welcome by the supervisor and was able to walk round and see what was happening.  In additon to 5542 (see separate blog), which is having auto train control rodding fitted in addition to general winter maintenance work, Dennis Howell’s 94xx No 9466 – now in BR black – was there having new platework for the bunker fitted while outside, 5786 has been separated from its boiler and 6412 also seems to be waiting patiently in the queue for winter work.  Other staff were fiddling with the under side of auto trailers.  On the downside, Collett auto tank No 1420 seems no further advanced than last year and looks nowhere near a return to service.

BR Black small prairie 5526 was complete and seems ready for work as is Collett 0-6-0 3205.  It was a wet and miserable Devon day but it was great to see all this work going on and providing local employment in Devon.  The SDR has developed a lomg way since its origins in the late 1960s.  It is a far cry from my first experience of volunteering on a steam railway there in 1969 when that horrible A38 by-pass was still in the future, you could still steam down to Ashburton and you could become a guard as a 16 year old with 10 minutes training!

Happy days but the SDR is still a lovely recreation of a Devon GWR branch and I shall be back in the summer when, hopefully the sun will be out and you can hear the clang of the autotrailer’s bell  and the gentle, unmistakeable beat of a GWR tank engine in the distance while the River Dart bubbles its way down to the sea.  Lovely!

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