Monday, 21 June 2010

Y6 Tram Engine Replica

One of the more obscure projects at Wansford, although in my opinion one of the most interesting, is the project to rebuild a Belgian Cockerill 0-4-0 tram engine into a replica of a GER Class G15/LNER Y6. The original versions of these, as well as their larger GER C53/LNER J70 0-6-0 cousins, plied along the much-missed Wisbech and Upwell Tramway, which was located approximately 25 miles to the east of Peterborough. Most people would recognise the Y6 and visibly similar J70 as the inspiration for Toby the Tram from the Thomas the Tank Engine stories (even without a face!)

The steam tram engine, No.1626, is one of several discovered at Vilvoorde, Brussels in 1987. It was brought to Wansford specifically to be rebuilt as a replica of a GER G15/LNER Y6. Sadly the two members who brought it to Wansford passed away before they could see the project completed.

One of the distinctive cowcatchers completed.

According to Nene Steam Issue 83 (Autumn 2006) the mechanical parts are all overhauled. It also appears to have had larger frames fitted, a start made on the bodywork structure, and one of the tell-tale front cowcatchers installed. The last update I have seen was in Nene Steam Issue 94 (Summer 2009) which states that the tram is now a rolling chassis, with a four figure sum required for work on the body and boiler (boiler work estimated at around £4,000 - £5,000, according to 2007 edition of NVR stock book). Unfortunately the project has stalled for the want of this money.

A list stuck to the engine in the shed outlines the outstanding 'major' work:

Make superstructure
Fit air brakes
Repair and certify the boiler (at specialist works)
Fit pipework and controls
Water tank
Rear cowcatcher.

Understandably, being a small locomotive unable to haul long passenger trains the full length of the NVR, it is a low priority. However if funding and volunteers could be found to progress it, I'm sure it could find a use - perhaps on shuttles through the tunnel to Yarwell, for special events - including 'Thomas' weekends, and for photographers charters. If you are lucky enough to have a few thousand pounds burning a hole in your pocket and would like to see a unique East Anglian replica take to the rails, then I'm sure the railway would be delighted to hear from you! An original Wisbech and Upwell tramway coach, number 7, survives and has been recently restored at the North Norfolk Railway so an authentic pairing would be possible. With the help of a generous benefactor, this really could be the next new build/replica locomotive project to be completed...

State of play, June 2010 when the TASC machine was temporarily moved from the shed opening up a better view of the Y6.