This rather odd looking locomotive is a vertical boilered, chain driven, former engineers yard shunting engine and it is about to tackle one of the most arduous climbs on any of Britain’s preserved lines. The line from Grosmont, where No.54 is pictured here, to Goathland has sections at 1/49 and bigger and more powerful engines than No.54, sometimes, struggle to keep moving.
Carrying the headboard ‘Middleton Railway’ and ‘express lamps’ this, surely, qualifies as one of the more eccentric ‘Express’ services ever to be run – No.54 has an all out top speed of just 21mph and in practice even that modest speed was seldom, if ever, achieved. In all probability, on a fair day and with the wind behind her, No.54 would hurtle along at a majestic 15mph. On the steepest sections of the climb to Goathland she would probably have been moving at walking pace, or less.
Formerly BR No.68153, Departmental No. 54 spent her entire working life in the engineers yard in Darlington. Built, in 1933, to a Sentinel Wagon Works design, she has a boiler pressure of 275lbsq” 2cylinders of 6 3/4″ X 9″ and 2’6″ driving wheels. No.54 was ‘sold as seen’ to the fledgling Middleton Railway in 1961, straight out of the yard at Darlington.
Before I moved to Scotland I lived in Leeds, a stone’s throw from the Middleton Railway, where, for several years, I was member. This proximity to the railway, and my contacts within it, allowed me to enjoy a couple of trips up and down the line at Middleton, on No.54s footplate, which is cramped, hot, and very noisy. The Middleton Railway’s line is a great deal shorter than the journey from Grosmont to Goathland and I can scarcely imagine what it must have been like on her footplate as she tackled the 1/49 sections.
The photograph, a scan of one of my old slides, is taken from the top of the tunnel at Grosmont – a shot which is no longer possible due to new health and safety restrictions on and around the tunnel.