When we visited the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, where this photograph was taken, we stayed in a cottage, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, and very nice it was too. However, on our first evening we discovered the farm buildings, a few hundred yards down the lane, housed the kennels of the local hunt, a proximity which gave the whole place an air of the Hound of the Baskervilles – ‘grab your Bradshaws Watson, the game’s afoot’, I could have cried, but didn’t. There was enough barking madness without my intervention. I know Sherlock Holmes’ Hound of the Baskervilles was largely set on Dartmoor, and we were on Bodmin Moor, but it was still baying hounds, moon light and moor!!
The former London & South Western Railway 2-4-0WT 0298 class, more commonly known as ‘Beattie’s well tanks’ would have been familiar to Holmes’ Victorian Londoners, in the 1870s and 1880s, scurrying about the capital with the suburban services of the day. When bigger and faster engines displaced them from these duties some went to work the Sidmouth and Exmouth branches and three went to the Bodmin & Wenford Railway, in 1895, to haul china clay. These three engines continued to do this from 1895 until 1962, when they were withdrawn from service. This was not to be the end, however, and two of them survived into preservation, No.30585, pictured, is owned by the Quainton Railway Society and No.30587 is owned by the National Railway Museum as part of the national collection.
Most of the original engines were built by Beyer Peacock, they had no cabs, a large and ornate firebox dome and safety valve, stove pipe chimneys and rectangular splashers. They looked, by comparison with the engine in the picture, nothing like them. The modifications by Adams, Urie and Maunsell made them the handsome little engines we see today, as Holmes might have said, ‘the differences, Watson, are elementary’!!
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