The Statfold Barn Railway held a very successful Miniature Steam Weekend this summer, and David Reed was there to enjoy it.
The award-winning Statfold Barn Railway in Tamworth is a well-known attraction that holds a series of open days, where visitors can enjoy travelling on their narrow-gauge railway which stretches through the fields on a three-mile round trip. These open days are usually complemented by a variety of special events, with the biggest being the ‘Road, Rail and Ale’ festival that is held in September.
Also high on the list of events though is the Giant Miniature Weekend, which is described as being a celebration of all things miniature in steam, operating alongside the narrow-gauge steam trains of the SBR. The 2021 event had to be delayed due to Covid restrictions, however the railway decided to hold a ‘Not so Giant Miniature Weekend’ in late June, the name indicating that entries would be down on previous years.
As it was, there were around 40 miniatures on display that had the chance to run alongside Statfold’s trains during the day. There were also a couple of full-sized engines on site. These included Martin Shepherd’s 1931 Fowler Hercules 5hp DNB compound tractor No. 19456 Highland Lass. It was originally a roller for Banffshire County Council, then passing to the Earl of Seaforth Estates and finally ending its working life with McAlpine Construction in the 1960s. After a couple of further owners, it was converted into a steam tractor. Another highlight was TA 1973, Martin Pearson’s 1910 Burrell 5nhp Devonshire showman’s engine No. 3202. This fine engine started life as a road tractor and has now been converted into a showman’s engine after spending much of its life in Devon on timber work and later moved to Fareham in Hampshire on threshing duties.
But it was the miniatures that took centre stage at the event, and what a line-up there was. The only Foster on show was Tracey Jane, a four- inch miniature which was started in 1989 by Steve Lee and Ron Hobbs. When Ron died in 2000, Steve bought the engine and now uses it to raise money for The Fire Fighters charity. Another four-inch engine was Paul Bellison’s McLaren road locomotive Storm that was built by Peter Brookes in Cornwall between 2015 and 2017. Seen powering a half-size rack saw was Richard Kew’s 2002 Ruston Proctor six-inch gauge engine Mary G. “It was built in Newport, Shropshire,” Richard said, “I bought it in 2003, retubed it and gave it a repaint.”
It was the Burrell name that was most popular at Statfold, with a number of engines representing this famous manufacturer. Robin Slater had made the trip from Norfolk with his four-inch scale Burrell SCC road locomotive that was built in 2012 as a retirement project for a previous owner, “I bought it through John Rex of Pontefract and it had a major re-fit during 2019/20,” Robin said, “This is one of the first rallies that it has attended.” Roger Cull’s four-inch scale Burrell SCC road locomotive Betty was one of a number of engines that was constructed from the Steam Tractor World kit. This example was built in 2017 taking three years to complete, while Mark Adams’ four-inch agricultural was built around 2015, “It has got no lagging on as it has just had its boiler test,” he said.
From the same source was Simon Nuttall’s Burrell DCC engine Iron Duke. that was finished in 2015 after four years of work, while Chris Butler’s 2017 Burrell agricultural tractor Brutus was bought from Manchester a couple of months ago. Then came a 2002 Burrell SCC engine Smokie. “It was bought in 2019 from its original owner and it was stripped right down with the boiler tubes being replaced and clack valves adjusted,” I was told, while Peter Fairhurst’s four-inch scale gauge Burrell single-cylinder GP engine was completed in 2016 after four years of work.
The only roller in the show was Mark Steven’s 2020 four-inch scale Burrell Margaret, which took seven months to build from a kit. Mark had made the trip to Statfold from Edinburgh, so it was no surprise to see Edinburgh Corporation written on the canopy, “It runs beautifully,” he said.
There were a couple of showman’s engines bearing the Burrell name too. Kevin Cousins’ four-inch scale engine was started in 2003, being completed in 2013, “I bought it in 2017 and have done bit and pieces to it,” he said. Work has included changing the dynamo pulley and changing the boiler tubes, “There have been lots of little refinements done to it,” he added. Then came two six-inch scale Burrell showman’s engines, the first being Wizard, which was built from scratch by Peter Bowles of Dartford in Kent. “It took six years to complete,” he said, and was registered in 2014. Equally impressive was Mike Robinson’s General Gough which instigated by Nigel Myers who used to crew the full-sized version of the engine.
Dave Wilson’s four-inch scale Garrett agricultural engine started life in 1997 and came from Lancaster, “It was an abandoned project,” Dave said, “I have completed the construction of the engine and deliberately given it a working appearance.” Another Garrett was Niall Byrne’s six-inch showman’s engine Michael that was built by Adrian Nutting – it is based on the Garrett showman’s engine Medina. It was bought by Niall Byrne when it was only two months old. “It’s in the same condition as when I bought it,” Niall said, “We have only cleaned and polished it.”
In superb condition was Adrian Nutting’s six-inch scale Garrett 4CD tractor Pegasus, while four-inch scale Garrett agricultural engine Lady Lucy was built from scratch by Phil Scarborough of Retford. It took 15 years to complete between 1994 and 2011, “I had to build a workshop before I could start on the engine,” Phil said.
The Foden name was well-represented at Statfold, with Dave Allen’s four-inch engine being bought in 2018 from Berrybrook Steam. Although classed as a newbuild the boiler was actually 30 years old, “It looks as if the construction of the engine was halted for a long while,” Dave said.
Foden steam lorries were also popular, Neil Smith’s four-inch J Type was built in Scotland between 2010 and 2017. “I bought it and finished it off in 2020,” he said. Seen at its first rally was Steve Bingham’s 4½ inch Steam Tractor World kit, while John Barnfather’s 4½ inch kit was built by John Rex of Pontefract. “We are enjoying using it,” John said. Bigger still were a series of six-inch Foden C Type steam wagons, with Hugh and Michelle Stannard’s example being a Steam Tractor World kit, while John Calder’s C Type Janie O was bought from Legacy Vehicles Ltd of Suffolk only four months ago.
Bill Kiddell’s 1974 C Type was built by Chris Lord of Dorset. “I bought it two days before lockdown, in 2020,” he said. Moving away from the Foden name, Chris and Rachael Booth’s six-inch Sentinel Standard waggon was built by Barry Johnson of Kegworth, “We bought the waggon in 2010 and have completely rebuilt it,” Chris said. And completing the set was Alan Jones’ Atkinson four-inch steam lorry that was built by Dave Bennion of Edgmond.
Back with the engines, Stuart Duncumb’s 2018 four-inch gauge Savage ‘Little Samson’ five-ton steam tractor Bootie was built by Mike Plum, passing to Stuart in January 2020, “I have done some bits and pieces to it,” Stuart said, “Including work on the whistle, blower and water lifter.” Somewhat bigger was Thomas Buckle’s nine-inch gauge Dream Machines Ltd Tasker ‘Little Giant’ Olbea, which was attending its first rally. Adam Wilson was with his six-inch scale gauge 2009 Tasker A2 ‘Little Giant’ Bertie which was also making its rally debut with Adam.
There were some Fowlers at Statfold too. Dave Wilson’s three-inch gauge Fowler A7 road locomotive was built somewhere in Germany around 1994, passing to Dave Wilson of East Grinstead in 2017, while Vince Williams’ 1986 Fowler A9 agricultural singe cylinder engine was based on a 1922 engine and was built by Phil Filby. Edward George’s 1992 Fowler B6 road locomotive was built from scratch in a garage including all of the pattern making, “It took ten years to complete, the only thing that I didn’t do was the boiler,” he said.
Bearing the Clayton & Shuttleworth name was Peter Cook’s 2002 four-inch gauge agricultural tractor that he bought in 2018. “It was in a poor state after having an accident,” Peter said, “Although we are attending shows, restoration is still underway.” Rory Foster bought his four-inch McLaren road loco in 2019 after it had been standing in a Scottish shed for almost 20 years. “It has been converted to look like a showman’s engine with the addition of a canopy,” he said.
Smaller still was Richard Prime’s 1995 three-inch gauge Allchin. “The boiler was changed in 2013,” Richard said, while David and Lynne Bickerton’s LC Masons doubled-up mini freelance agricultural engine has been turned into a five-ton steam tractor by David, “It is loosely based on a Burrell,” he said.
Away from the miniatures, it is always worth looking at what is running on the Statfold Railway itself. Here 1912 Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 No 11 Fiji was in operation after being overhauled in 2020. It has an interesting history after leaving Hudswell’s works in Leeds on February 20 1912 bound for Fiji where it worked at the Lautoka Sugar Mill. Despite many other steam locomotives being converted to diesel in the 1950s or scrapped during the 1960s, it survived and was returned to working order and used to pull a special train during Lautoka Mill’s 75th anniversary in 1978. In 1995 it was converted to diesel power and used on the Coral Coast Railway’s tourist line before being shipped back to the UK in 2011, arriving at Statfold in 2012. It was restored back to its original steam form in 2014 and given the name Fiji. It looked superb as it made its way around the three-mile circuit, as did the 1953 Bagnall 0-4-2T locomotive Isaac that arrived at the railway earlier in the year. It was built for the Rustenberg Platinum Mines in South Africa at a cost of £5,540, but its working life was cut short when the line was converted to 3’ 6” gauge, leaving Isaac and the other Bagnall locos on site redundant. Imported back into the UK in the early 1980s, it arrived at Gelert’s Farm Works on the Welsh Highland Railway in April 1982. Here, Isaac was dismantled, with some work taking place, but was then moved to workshops in Wakefield during 2008 for restoration to continue. In 2012, it moved again, this time to Ffestiniog’s Boston Lodge works where restoration was completed, and in 2013 it was delivered to the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway before arriving at Statfold.
But on this occasion, it was the miniature steamers that took centre stage, and with the number and quality of machines in attendance, it just goes to show that a Statfold Barn Railway gathering is an event that cannot be missed.
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