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Barry – getting to the end?

The sad remains of 2861 rust away outside Barry shed in July 2012

I paid a visit to Barry at the weekend as part of the group that has almost closed the deal that will bring the last Black 5 there to the GWSR at Toddington for what we hope will be a fairly fast restoration.  Yes, I know it’s not a GWR engine but I can, at least, attempt a spurious justification by mentioning Stanier’s GWR origins and the fact that Black 5′s used to run along the Honeybourne line in the last days of steam at Wolverhampton’s Oxley shed.  In the dark days of 1965, run down and dirty as they were, they did a valiant job on those last GWR summer specials from the Midlands to the South West.

If you have never been to Barry shed, you should, because it is a gem.  A pre grouping shed built for the Barry Railway, it is, I am sure, bigger than Didcot and must have been fabulous when steam in the Cardiff area still ruled.  Even now, quite a lot remains: the shed roof has been replaced but it still looks the part and there are original pits outside and the locomen’s bothy.  Inside are the carriages (ex Gatwick Express Mk 2s!) and a DMU of the rather sad-looking Barry Island Railway preservation scheme.  South Wales valleys 0-6-2T No. 6686, somewhat cosmetically restored but otherwise still in ex Woodham Bros condition lurks in the back ground awaiting funds for restoration.

Outside, it is all misery, particularly depressing in the relentless rain that is marking 2012 down in history:  the last 9F, No 92245, withdrawn with little more than 5 years service since it left Swindon works as a new engine,  looks like a no hoper, with no pony truck and stripped of all and any useful parts for all the other 9Fs that have been rescued.  Alongside the shed is the most depressing sight of all: 2861, the last of the 28xx class and still to find a home.  My experience tells me that 28s are great on preserved railways. They steam well with that brilliant No 1 boiler, they chug along at 25 mph, can pull decent loads and have a nice bit of acceleration. Great engines but there are rather a lot of them, with several still to steam in preservation, and 2861 seems to be an engine too far.  It does indeed look too far gone even for the most die-hard preservationist. Someone said it would probably cost £40,000 even to complete a cosmetic restoration!

But, on the bright side, what a wonderful achievement to have saved so many of Mr Woodham’s locos and there are still so many opportunities to help restore many of them to steam!  I am excited by the idea of working on the Black 5 over the next few years. Perhaps not, ideally, the Brunswick green engine I would have chosen but they are fine looking machines and in 8 years or so from now, I will watch the steam coming from the drain cocks for the first time as it moves off shed at Toddington and I will have the immense satisfaction of knowing that I played a part in making it happen.

And then we can have a lot of fun arguing about whether a late Ivatt built Black 5 is as good as a Modified Hall. Cant wait!

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