Motor Rail 2197

This week, we’ll have a look at the life and times of one of the locos which lurks within the shed at Apedale. The loco in question is Motor Rail 2197 .
This loco is the “bent frame” type Motor Rail, and its currently unprepossessing appearance belies a lot of history. It was built for the War Department Light Railways, WDLR, as a petrol loco. It was bought back from the French Disposals Board by Motor Rail on 1/4/22 for the princely sum of 360 pounds. The loco was reconstructed back at MR’s works; depending on the degree of usage, this could have been anything from a total rebuild through to simply cleaning the dust from an unused locomotive still in its original packing crate. It was at this point that the loco was allocated its current number – MR2197. This has always raised the intriguing question of what was the original number? The records state this is not known, but the fact that this is not known suggest the loco may have had a fairly hard previous existence.
MR2197, still fitted with its original Dorman 2JO petrol engine, was purchased by Sir William McAlpine & Co, and dispatched to the Cambrian Railway station at Portmadoc. McAlpines then used it to assist in the construction of the Welsh Highland Railway.
McAlpine eventually sold the loco to Cleveland Bridge & Engineering; it may have returned to MR for reconditioning between the two. In 1930, Cleveland Bridge deployed the loco to their contract to widen the GWR Olton-Lapworth section. The loco was then sold on to Birmingham Tame & Rea District Drainage Board (BTRDDB) and employed on the very extensive railways which operated at the Minworth works, near Birmingham. BTRDDB re-engined the loco with its current Dorman 2DWD engine. In December 1965, the loco was sold into preservation at the Cadeby Light Railway in Leicestershire. It stayed at the CLR until that railway closed in 2006, and moved to the MRT site at Apedale that year.
When the loco arrived at Cadeby, it was believed to be no.3874 – and some books, such as the IRS West Midlands book, still show this. However, there was some doubt. A chance conversation between the owner and an “old hand” at Motor Rail’s Bedford works revealed that locos “where we didn’t know it’s old number” had the new number stamped on the engine bearers; hot footing it back to Cadeby, 20 minutes with a scraper showed the loco to be stamped “Reb 2197”.
All the years stood outside at Cadeby took its toll on MR2197, and it’s quite sad looking at the moment. However, restoration has started, and the top left picture shows the loco (yesterday!) after the owner had removed the radiator for overhaul. The loco is stood on track which was laid the previous weekend, and now extends even further! The second picture shows the loco after its previous repaint, taken at Cadeby along with cousin MR4572.
All of which is a good example of how quickly locos and other exhibits can degrade if they live outside – which is why the MRT is currently working towards building a large storage shed at Apedale. We really need your help to get this project completed – either financial, sponsorship or physical assistance is very welcome. Get in touch via the homepage!