Bury Standard 4 Group - Restoring 80097 and 46428

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The Journey to Bury

Above: The Late Colin Wrangles presents a cheque to Dai Woodham for the purchase of 80097 – 22nd May 1985 – Copyright Phil Humphreys.

 

TANKIE TRAVELS – THE LAST WORD
by Colin Wrangles

This is a true story of the movement of B.R. Standard Tank Number 80097 from Woodhams Yard at Barry to Bury – not quite for the faint hearted, but please read on as all the names have been retained to incriminate the guilty. It all started at tea time on Friday 17th May 1985; the last of the chips were devoured as John Bolton drove his car onto my driveway. In went the overalls, cameras, jacks, tools and other necessary evils, closely followed by our intrepid recovery crew for what was to be a very arduous weekend. Slowly the car backed off the driveway then crunch! The combined weight of John, Dale, Graham and myself, five gallons of black paint, overalls, cameras, jacks, tools etc. in the already low slung vehicle meant that the exhaust pipe was fouled as we left the driveway. Everybody Out! We managed to coax the car onto the road and proceeded to attack the offending article with a hacksaw, whilst the wife supplied everyone with an unscheduled but welcome coffee.

 

We sounded vaguely like a class 24 as we finally set off, and once on the motorway, the passage of air past the windows, and the sounds of a stereo Jubilee climbing Shap (happy days!) drowned out the exhaust. We reached Barry town about midnight, and spent a further fifteen minutes trying find the Causeway to Barry Island. The wait was worth it because we were greeted by the site of three young ladies dressed for a very, very late Friday night out, which caused an alarming lurch in the car. At last we met up with John Greenhow and Keith Savory: they had set off earlier in the day to find a suitable site for the tent, and as usual it was in the customary field miles from anywhere. No doubt they had passed the time admiring the young ladies wandering across the Causeway from Butlin’s Camp. We all set off for the camp site, and, following another circular tour of Barry, made our way down a succession of ever narrowing lanes, finally turning into a site containing holiday chalets. The tent, pitched hurriedly in the darkness of ten o’clock, stood alone in the field. We rapidly unloaded all the necessary items, and on went the kettle for a brew. The valves on the kettle were feathering nicely when the first illuminating discovery was made – we had only two cups between the six of us! The tea had therefore to be consumed in relays and everybody finally bedded down at about twenty to two.

 

“Waaaaaaaaaaaarrrghhh!!…..Waaaaaaaaaarrrghhhh!…….We were woken by the gentle mating call of the local shipping foghorn at 3 o’clock in the morning! John Bolton turned over and snored out a reply, which was followed by the local ants and spiders beating a hasty retreat. At about 6 o’clock, with the foghorn still blaring we decided enough was enough and fought our way back to the conscious world. On went the kettle and the bacon, and soon a bacon barm cake each, together with the relays of tea were consumed. We attacked a further piece of John’s loose exhaust pipe, whilst noting the behaviour of three scruffy individuals who had arrived by car, wandered aimlessly around the camp site, and were now chasing sheep in the adjacent field. Strange! Not wishing to leave anything worth stealing in the tent, we loaded up all we required then closed the flaps leaving John Greenhow inside. Keith took Graham and Dale Down to the yard whilst John Bolton and myself went in search of a new exhaust.

 

We hadn’t quite decided whether in this neck of the woods whether exhaust pipes were trapped, short or merely raised in captivity , so as a police car was spotted on the way in to Barry, we decided to stop and seek their advice. After much discussion and directions we proceeded…to get lost! Further enquiries enabled a suitable establishment to be found, so we waited for the mechanic to arrive at 9.00am. Keith Savory passed us twice while we were waiting, the second time with John, having fastened the tent following the departure of the the three wallies. Now if you think steam engines are notorious for being non-standard then you haven’t met up with John’s Car! It is nine inches longer than normal which meant the lucky exhaust man had to make up a special exhaust.

 

Finally we set off for Woodhams Yard. We had asked young Dale earlier to organise some pies etc… and arrived to be welcomed with two cold and stale hot dogs, which even the travellers Fare would have been ashamed of. Deciding that discretion was the better part of whatnot, we tackled the steam engine first. The smoke box door which had been treated a month earlier with penetrating oil was freed, enabling the twenty year old char to be removed. Yours truly decided to start with the driving axles, and was greeted by the brick arch, accompanied by the contents of the ash pan descending on me! One jack was found to be totally useless, so the other jack was placed under the axle box, beginning a day-long job of jacking and packing to enable the axles to be thoroughly greased.

 

Lunch provided a welcome break with the local fish and chip shop being relieved of a large part of its contents, rapidly devoured by the starving team, and washed down with a bottle of pop. Those on top of the engine having finished the wire brushing before lunch, started the afternoons labour of removing the cladding sheets. A large sigh of relief followed when fibreglass was found, and not the dreaded blue asbestos. A short break was taken during axle box greasing to enable most of the fibreglass to be stripped. The cladding sheets were then eased back into position and painting commenced. The rain of rust and fibreglass having subsided, the axle box greasing was resumed. The last of the boogie axle boxes was greased, the tools rapidly tided away and the return trip to the camp-site just as the sun was setting. We were about to make another illuminating discovery.

 

The first job was to get washed and changed, which was certainly not assisted by the vandalised men’s showers, presumably the work of the three doubtful individuals seen earlier. A quick sex change was made and the ladies showers used. It was by now nearly 9.45pm so progress was uphill to the local hostelry was rapid. A round of ale was purchased, but enquiries with regard to pies etc. revealed that only crisps and snacks were available!

 

We staggered back to the tent in a manner not normally displayed after a mere four or five pints. Deciding that we should have a brew before retiring caused two and a half laps of the tent to find the kettle. We also found two large tins of Heinz “London Grill” lurking coyly in one corner. These were hastily opened and consumed , in the absence of plates, using some plastic beakers, bought earlier in the day. There was of course the inevitable argument as to had all the sausages, but have you ever tried “drinking” baked beans and sausages?

 

Thankfully we were disturbed by the foghorn that night, and even the wildlife gave us a wide berth. The following morning was definitely a struggle, a lone ant being given abuse for stamping its feet across the floor of the tent. Following a reply from a local sheep, around of Anadin helped the bacon butties to be consumed, and the whole lot was washed down with a more than welcome brew.

 

Once again we set off to attend the engine, chuckling amongst ourselves over the frustrations of the previous morning. We spent most of the morning slowly removing more rust and grime, then applying more black paint. We had some additional assistance from a local lad called Russell who lived in one of the few houses which overlooked the yard. He had met us the previous afternoon, and following tea reappeared later, accompanied by his girlfriend, with pictures of the Pannier Tank he and his friends were restoring. The sun had by now deserted us, and the weather took on a less Summer-like nature. Sunday lunch – yet even more fish and chips of a decidedly poorer quality, consumed to the accompaniment of the occasional giggling from Russell’s girlfriend.

 

The greasing of the pony truck axle boxes was completed, and with the final coat of red paint on the buffer beam now dry, the two vac bags were replaced. The arrival of Alan Schofield and Tony Clough stimulated the now flagging workforce. All the rubbish inside the cab was cleaned out and the unsafe items left by previous predators were removed and made secure. Just one last job remained. The engine was standing on a length of broken rail which was not fastened in any way. A quick search of the yard produced some keys which were knocked home with keying hammers brought for that very purpose.

 

The original parties, except myself, left to take the tent down and set off for home. Alan and Tony set up their tent in the same site, and the three of us returned to the yard, where we found Russell adding the route availability numbers and shed plate. We were now joined by Phil Humphreys (of Black Five Video fame) and his friend, and a rapid departure was made in the direction of Butlins Camp, arriving just in time to miss the evening meal. At least they knocked us a couple of quid off for that. Its changed a bit from the “Hi-De-Hi” days, and now possesses its own a la carte restaurant, in which we consumed a rather large, and inexpensive, mixed grill, as well as a free glass of wine.

 

It had been our intention to view some steam videos that night but the lack of a mains socket in the chalet put paid to that. We made our way to one of the camps bars, rather sparsely populated in this early part of the season. The barman explained that there were only about seven thousand people at the camp, approximately a quarter of the maximum capacity and ninety percent of those were senior citizens. At closing time the bar sported just the three of us and the barman. A short walk found the disco, which probably had just about everyone under sixty there, and that was barely enough to prop up the bar. We retired about 2am.

 

The tannoy system was still in evidence but, thank goodness no longer used. I don’t think we could have stood “good morning campers” at 6 am. Breakfast was at nine so we made an early start on the trudge uphill to join the growing queue for breakfast. We muttered quietly to ourselves on Mr. Butlins lacking in camp design having placed the breakfast hall at the top of the hill, but at least it was dry and warm. We made our way to the appointed table and soon the fruit juice was gurgling its way down, rapidly followed by bacon and eggs, finally being seen off with a couple of cups of tea. It was now about half past nine. We still had to collect our things and meet up with Dai Woodham, and the lorry was due at eleven. We consoled the chalet maid who was disappointed that we were only staying for one night, returned the key, and headed for Dai’s office.

 

It was about 10.15a.m. When we arrived, and young Mr. Woodham was certainly in his usual talkative mood. He took great delight in showing us a book “Steam for Scrap”, which shows that he was in fact the first private company to purchase engines from B.R. For the purpose of their demise. How appropriate that these engines survived over twenty years later. By the time we got round to the official “handing over” ceremony, complete with photographs, it was well past 11.00a.m. We thanked Dai once again and rapidly drove around to the other end of the yard. A quick sigh of relief was breathed as we sat down on a convenient rail end and waited for Leicester Heavy Haulage to arrive. Just before mid-day, a large blue vehicle was spotted approaching and soon greetings were being exchanged.

 

There then followed another in the illuminating discovery series. The low loader was equipped with tapered rail ends to load off inset track, but we were loading from rail ends some 12 inches above the ground level. The vehicle was brought to approximately thirty feet from the rail ends, the tractor unit hooked off and whilst one small group unloaded the trailer, the other even smaller group went in search of two lengths of rail about ten feet long. We built the ramp hoping we would have enough packing to cope with the height difference. The ready gauged twenty foot length of rail brought by the lorry was laid in position on the ramp and the distance left was measured. Whilst packing continued to ensure the ramp was solid (it needs to be when 60tons of engine is perched on it!), the small gang went once more in search of two shorter lengths of rail (7’7 and 7’5 long respectively). We certainly weren’t enthusiastic about carrying two more rails some three hundred yards or so, especially when we found the two suitable lengths were both at the bottom of separate stacks.

 

At least the ramp was complete, the only problem being that there were no bolt holes in the odd pieces of rail on which to fasten fish-plates, so the rails were only affixed at the wagon end and we hoped for the best. With the wire rope extended from the tractor units winch fastened to the rear coupling, the locomotive was slowly tugged towards the ramp. We had almost got the bogie on the ramp when woahhh!!! A chair under the right hand bogie wheel had slipped sideways, so the locomotive was eased back to allow the chair and rail to be hammered back into position and wedged firmly. Once more the engine was on the move, but what would happen when the driving wheels put the full weight of the locomotive on the unsecured rails? Well if the weather had smiled on us so far, then so too did someone else – the lengths of rail were almost exactly the same as the driving wheel centres.

 

From this point on if you blinked you missed it. 80097 simply sailed up the ramp without a creak or a groan being heard. Feeling rather proud we began to dismantle the ramp and chain the engine to the trailer, the packings and rails being loaded afterwards. It was now well past four o’clock, and following some struggling the tractor unit was once more at the front of the trailer, which was then jacked up. It was at this time that a not unreasonably dressed gentlemen appeared, and the following a wander around the engine, proudly standing on the trailer, remarked, “is there another one coming in then?”

 

Our problems were not over yet. The tractor unit would not mate with the trailer unit as 80097s coupling hook was in the way. With a sleeper wedged in between the tractor and the buffer beam, and yours truly on top holding it in place, the engine was pushed another 6inches further back. The rear bogie wheels, now on two blocks of wood, were overhanging the rear of the trailer. The slackened chains were now re-tightened, and the tractor and trailer finally coupled up, again not with considerable effort. The couplings and safety pins were locked in place, and the combination slowly reversed through the customary gap in the fence, finally coming to rest in the car park just after 7.00pm. At last 80097 was out of Woodham’s yard.

 

Now you might be excused for thinking this is the end of the story, well no such luck. A few photographs were taken in the faded light followed by a quick phone call home. We said a temporary cheerio to engine and “crew”, a large thank you to Russell and girlfriend, then off came the overalls as we stumbled into the Phil’s car. Russell followed us out of Barry as far as the motorway where we met up with the rain. Mr Leicester Heavy Haulage was keeping true to his word when he said he had never moved an engine “dry”. Home was finally reached at about 1.00am, following an uneventful journey punctuated by viewings of the loading until the videos power pack finally died.

 

Half past seven on the Tuesday morning saw me once again heading in the direction of Barry. At least it was dry. A quick phone call to Russell established that the engine left Barry at about 7.30am, in pouring rain, so by instant mental calculations I reckoned on meeting it about the M5/M50 Junction. I parked up on the northbound side in a position with a good clear view and set about waiting about the hour or so wait by munching a butty. After about about three hours, getting somewhat cold in the damp atmosphere I decided to go off in search. Barely had I passed the A38 exit near the bottom of the Lickey, when trundling along in the other direction was 80097. Well I had found it , but was now heading in the wrong direction and its a long way from Bromsgrove to Droitwich, especially when the P-way are busily at work. Eventually I got back to Frankley, and rang Graham Vevers. Who had agreed to relay messages. “passed me at about 1.50pm” I said expecting it to be half way past Birmingham by now, so you can imagine my surprise when I found it parked up not 50yards away. A short chat was concluded and off I went heading North. I called in to update Graham, and then carried on as no useful vantage point existed there. There was little to be gained by rushing as I was well ahead of the engine, but at least the rain had stopped by the time I arrived at Keele. Another long wait was finally concluded with a photograph as 80097 trundled sedately by. I soon overtook the engine again, and there is no suitable vantage point before Sandbach Services I decided to try a shot framed from the connecting over bridge.

 

I had been standing there for three quarters of an hour wondering where 80097 had gone this time, as it was only twelve miles from Keele to Sandbach, when a lucky glance through a tinted windows of the service station gave the answer. A rapidly repositioned photograph was taken , I set off again in hot pursuit. The first over bridge is too close to use so onto the next, where the passage of 80097 was duly recorded. They were intending on spending the night in Knutsford, so I now positioned myself in some wet and soggy grass so I could get a great shot as 80097 came in for the night.

 

Now I said we hadn’t finished yet, didn’t I? You can imagine the expression of disbelief as the loco sailed past, with crew gesturing me to follow. The time was about 7.10pm I soon passed the engine again just short of the M56 junction, the last time we were to see it that night. Following another three quarter of an hours wait on the M62, I sped off in the direction of Bury, just in case the engine had gone the other way, where I was greeted with “Where’s this ere engine then?” We all retired to the Napier for some refreshment. John Bolton was invited to participate in a new fund raising activity involving a map and a box of pins : Find the engine – 10p a pin. After much muttering we left the pub for home. We were to find out the following day that the engine spent the night outside the “Seven Stars” in Heywood.

 

The following morning found 80097 parked at the bus stop opposite the M66 end of Wash Lane. Another photograph or two were taken before making our way to the museum yard. Yet things again were not plain sailing, as the trailer burst two tyres on Angouleme Way, right in front of the market on market day. All the way from Barry bar the last half mile, but we couldn’t of got better publicity if we had tried. The smell of of breakfast emanating from a nearby café was all together too inviting to resist. A barm cake well filled with bacon was washed down with a large mug of tea. Some two hours later finally arrived outside the “Napier” on Bolton Street. Amid cries of “Put the bag in”, it was eased slowly back towards the museum entrance, where it was necessary to move back and forth so it would leave Castlecroft Road at the right angle, and what a sickening angle it was too! Slowly 80097 was reversed down the side of the shed, since there was no room in the yard to turn around.

 

The trailer was lined up with the rails without undue bother, and the ramp building was in progress once more. Soon the track was in position and the Sentinel driven up to 80097 to tow it off. Slowly 80097 made its way down the ramp. Just as the pony truck was about to come off the ramp the rails slipped. Hold It! Some time now elapsed but despite many attempts the rail would not stay in position. The final solution was to fasten an eye bolt into the rail and using a chain, the tractor unit held it in position. The movement of 80097 resumed and at long last it was firmly on East Lancs Metals.

 

The ramp was rapidly dismantled, the trailer loaded, and yet with another cheery wave the lorry was on its way back home. 80097 stood proudly in the yard, safe at last in its new home. The date was 22nd May 1985. Subsequently 80097 was moved to the quarter mile just beyond the Peel Way Flyover. To say we were weary was putting it mildly. Would we honestly ever want to do it again? Yes please! Any time!

 

……And we did for 46428….now at Bury.