The answer to Life, The Universe and Everything…..

….is, according to Douglas Adams, 42. It feels unlikely that he was thinking of a Motor Rail diesel loco as he wrote, but who knows? No. 42 is very much the Apedale loco of the moment; it is currently making a return trip to Leighton Buzzard, where it worked for much of its existence. Built in 1942 as Motor Rail No. 7710, it was actually new to a quarry in Derbyshire, before moving, in 1958, to Leighton Buzzard. It was one of the “main line” locos on the Leighton Buzzard system, being 40HP and fitted with a three speed gearbox which was to prove its ultimate undoing. It would work trains down from the quarries to the interchange with British Railways’ Dunstable branch. The large white diagonal cross painted on the cab allowed identification from a distance, and hence the loaded train could be directed to the correct destination, depending on whether it was an Arnolds or a Garside train it happened to be working. One sad day in the 1970s, the loco suffered a massive gearbox failure – said to be the result of a driver trying to reverse the loco at speed. A sliding dog gear essentially exploded and punched its way out of the gearbox. So, the loco languished at the Billington Road workshops, until rescued for preservation in 1979. The workshops manager was keen to see locos going to good homes, and needed some persuading that the new owner could repair the gearbox. The new owner reassured him that the resources of BREL Derby Locomotive Works would be brought to bear. Whether the management of Derby Loco Works knew about this arrangement is lost in time. The loco moved to the Cadeby Light Railway in May 1979. After a thorough restoration, it became the primary loco for working passenger trains when the steam loco “Pixie” was unavailable for any reason. It was popular because, being heavy, it had the braking power to stop a loaded train on the fearsome gradient at the end of the Cadeby main line.  It moved to Apedale in April 2006. It doesn’t see as much use these days, because it sits between the easy-to-start and drive small Motor Rails and Rustons, and the mega-grunt of the 60S Motor Rail and the Baguley-Drewry. Nonetheless, it has plenty of outings, and is a popular loco with the drivers. Its visit to Leighton Buzzard has been compared to the British Museum sending the Elgin Marbles back to Greece. Only time will tell if it ever returns back North……..