A set of posts reflecting on my journey in becoming a steam enthusiast would not be complete without Thomas the Tank engine! As a child, I adored Thomas the Tank engine and it is without doubt one of the reasons that I love steam engines today. My Hornby model (above) is the longest-serving member of locoyard, although it is currently out of service, pending DCC chipping. This was my first 00 scale model that I ever owned and have never had the heart to sell it on.
It is widely recognised that Reverend Wilbert Awdry’s creation was based on the LBSCR E2 tank and the books, tv programs, films and models reflect this. So us Southern enthusiasts can claim that arguably the world’s most famous steam engine, is actually a Southern machine! No LBSCR E2 tanks survived into preservation and it is probably no surprise that the locomotive that is regarded as the official Thomas the Tank engine is actually a different type altogether. The “official Thomas the Tank engine is based at the Nene Valley Railway.
As a child, I fondly remember flicking through a guide to preserved railways and often going straight to a page on the Nene Valley Railway; for there was a picture of the real Thomas the tank engine! The locomotive is a Hudswell Clarke locomotive built in 1947, which was around the same time that the first time that Thomas the Tank engine appeared in the Rev W Awdry series of books. Numbered 1800 it was an industrial locomotive that worked at the British sugar corporations’ Peterborough factory that was purchased in 1973 by the Peterborough Railway society and moved to the Nene Valley Railway.
Although I’m sure some of you will be saying that this locomotive has (amongst other details); outside cylinders and no overhanging water tank; how can this be the “real” Thomas?! The answer is simple – it was named by Rev W Awdry in 1971. For this simple reason it claims the title that can never be claimed by any of the other “Thomas the Tank engines” that are out there. So, Thomas the Tank engine fans, a trip to Wansford to Peterborough Nene Valley railway is very much an important rite of passage!
I have seen Thomas in steam on two occasions, firstly in 1995 (above) and secondly in 1997 (below.)
I remember both occasions I saw Thomas well and thoroughly enjoyed both! On the first occasion in 1995, the beautiful apple green LNER K4 class 3442 the Great Marquess was running services – see pictures below.
On the second visit to the line in 1997, BR standard class 7MT 70000 Britannia was in steam (see pictures below.)
The Nene Valley Railway is also famous for its collection of locomotives, some of them European, but you’ll have to read the following chapter to see more!