Simplexes at Work

One of our correspondents has recently sent us some photographs of a narrow gauge diesel locomotive hard at work at a banana plantation in Brazil. Nilson Rodrigues reports that the locomotive is at use at Ararau banana farm near Santos. Simplex locomotives of this type were produced in Bedford, England in their thousands and exported worldwide for use in mines, quarries and plantations. Due to their simple and robust construction, they proved extremely reliable and easy to maintain and repair. This example is at least fifty years old and has been re-engined to keep it in service but the original 2-speed reversing gearbox is still present. There are 4 similar locomotives all working in the same industry in this region.


Building on the successful deployment of the first prototypes on tactical light railways in the First World War, the Simplex loco soon found a ready market serving industry throughout the UK. Although they are now virtually extinct in UK industry, many examples have been preserved and continue to earn their keep in different ways. At the Moseley Railway Trust’s site near Chesterton in Staffordshire, Simplex locomotives are helping the Moseley Railway Trust build a new narrow gauge railway and museum in the Apedale Country Park. The second photograph shows one of our collection that spent its working life in the sand quarries of Leighton Buzzard.


Part of our mission is to explain how the little-known industrial narrow gauge railways served the needs of industrial Britain. The ubiquitous Simplex locomotive is a part of that story. To learn more you can read the Simplex story here. If you would like to help us preserve these machines for future generations, we would be delighted to hear from you. Contact us here.


Top photograph courtesy Nilson Rodrigues