Fantastic news has come out of the Small Loco Group at the Nene Valley Railway, with the announcement of a new locomotive to join their growing fleet of locomotives. A sister locomotive to Jacks Green, and the North Norfolk Railway’s Ring Haw, a Hunslet 16 inch saddle tank called ‘Newstead’, thought to have disappeared off the face of the earth in the 1980s, and by the early 1990s, she was declared scrapped.
However she hadn’t been scrapped, but purchased by a gentleman who collected vintage vehicles, and had a passion for steam locomotives. He purchased the loco from the colliery it was based at, and had the locomotive fully overhauled at ‘Suffolk Steam’ which has unfortunately shut down since then.
‘Newstead’ was steamed a couple of times after her overhaul, but was then removed to a secret location close to where the owner lived. A short stretch of track was placed down, the loco unloaded onto it, and then a custom shed was built around it. She was drained down, cleaned up, and sealed away, not to see sunlight for almost 30 years.
If you are thinking this is very similar to the Rev. W Awdry, story about a narrow gauge steam railway in Wales, where there were three small engines on this line, one of which was called ‘Duke’, then you are correct! The line eventually was closed, the track was torn up and the two younger locos were sold on, leaving ‘Duke’ on the line, where he was carefully and lovingly placed in his shed, cleaned, and left to go to sleep.
Similarity to how the story ends in the book, in early 2015, the owner unfortunately passed away, and his widow was left with the unenviable task of finding new homes for his collection. Through a family friend, several railways were contacted with regards to the locomotive, and delegations from the North Norfolk Railway and the Mid Suffolk actually went to view her. This led to the Small Loco Group being aware of ‘Newstead’, soon arranging a visit to check her out. What they saw was a near immaculate steam loco, lovingly cared for, thought to have vanished without trace.
Very similar to ‘Duke’, when after many years passing, enthusiast tried to find ‘Duke’ the lost engine, looking high and low, but to no avail. That is, until, one day, a group of people looking for ‘Duke’ were following the old track bed, and one climbed on a hill to look round, when suddenly, the ground beneath him gave way, and he fell down, into an engine shed, and there was ‘Duke’! They cleared away all the overgrown bushes, and cleared away around the shed doors, where they were able to pull him out for the first time in many years, where they cleaned him down, and successfully took him to the new railway, where he was reunited with his old friends.
Since the initial visit, the group have returned to carry out tests to check the mechanical condition of the locomotive, which have come out positive. The locomotive has been cleaned and washed, the joints have been oiled, and tentatively pinch barred the loco out into the English sunlight for the first time in over 30 years!
And very soon, the locomotive will be arriving at the Nene Valley Railway in the next couple of months, after a positive meeting with the NVR Board. The group have been getting quotes for transport and preparing its current location ready for its big move, including removing the overgrowth which would make it difficult to get the low-loader to the shed.
This has been labelled as one of the biggest preservation stories of the 21st Century, with Steam Railway magazine, covering it in their latest issue.
All photos courtesy of the Small Loco Yard.
Thank for reading.