Today’s photo shows a forlorn looking locomotive lying upside down in a swamp in 1996. The photograph was taken by Colin Laidler, who was instrumental in recovering the loco, a painstaking operation which ensured that all surviving parts were located. How it came to be there in the first place is a fascinating story in itself, one which we are piecing together with help from Colin.
The locomotive in question is, of course, our own Hudswell Clarke H class locomotive No 1238 of 1916, originally delivered to the Obuassi Gold mine in Ghana, where it was used to haul timber from the nearby forests to the mine for use as part of the gold ore roasting process. Colin knew of the locomotive and had been looking for it by following the track beds of the different lines, some up to 25 miles in length away from the mine.
After being accidentally rediscovered by a local, the loco was duly recovered using a bulldozer and taken back to the mine at Obuassi where it was “stripped down from the bottom upwards”. They found that the axles were in apparently good condition and some minor cleaning work on the bearings was all that was needed prior to reassembly for display. A number “9” was painted on the side of the loco based on the rust marks visible from where the original brass number had been mounted, the size and shape being taken from this information. A careful search of the swampy area had found the chimney cap piece, and it was later discovered that the rear coupler, a bar of some 4 feet in length with a hook, was now being used to hold cooking pots over a fire in one of the villages. This was “re-acquired” in exchange for a bottle schnapps.
The loco was put on display as part of a small museum which was maintained by some of the Europeans working at Obuassi. In 2006, the mine directors felt that they cold no longer keep the locomotive and, through contacts in the UK, eventually donated it to the Moseley Railway Trust in 2007. Shipped from Accra in February 2008, the locomotive arrived in the UK in May 2008.
Then came the difficult job of assembling a restoration team and the financing necessary to finally bring this engine back from the dead after 64 years. A sympathetic restoration started in 2010 and rapid progress has been made in the intervening time. The current status is shown in the second photograph.
None of the progress to date could have been achieved without a large number of supporting organisations and individuals to whom we express our grateful thanks for their continued support. There’s still a long way to go, and if you would like to help us progress towards a proposed steaming of the loco in 2013, contact us here.
(First photo courtesy Colin Laidler)