Foxfield foray

A visit to Cheshire and Staffordshire on Friday allowed me a quick visit to the Foxfield Railway at Blythe Bridge – somewhere I’d not been for 11 years; too long! I have a few friends at Foxfield, most of whom have a share in this loco, Avonside 1563, which is undergoing a very extensive restoration alongside the loco shed. It latterly worked for Hodbarrow Mines near Barrow, where haematite was extracted and the whole railway and works was a steam powered museum piece by the time it all closed.

During my visit, I was given a ride in the cab of a Bagnall 0-6-0 diesel shunter, essentially an industrial version of the class 03, even down to the Gardner 8 cylinder diesel engine. This is the station and yard throat at Caverswall Road, the headquarters of the railway.

During the shunt, 1874 built Haydock Foundry 0-6-0WT “Bellerophon” was pulled out of the shed to check some repairs to its springs.

Whilst stabled in the sidings was this unusual Motor Rail (Simplex), known as”Helen”. Nice to see something a bit different – as time goes by, more of the odd internal combustion shunters on heritage lines get scrapped, hopefully Foxfield with its industrial theme to its collection will prove more enlightened to the heritage of assets such as this.

Just before I left, the shunt finished and the loco for the following day’s service was positioned for preparation and steam raising – this being “Florence”, a locally built Bagnall 0-6-0ST new to the National Coal Board in Staffordshire and fitted in the 1960s with the distinctive Giesl ejector chimney. I’ll have to go back sometime to see how it performs – the last loco I saw in steam using a Giesl was Bulleid pacific “City of Wells” 20+ years ago. Foxfield is a gem of a railway, with no BR locos in sight, allowing the industrial heritage to shine – and their cafe and bar are excellent too – not that I sampled the latter in works time!

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About Anthony Coulls

Anthony is Senior Curator of Rail Vehicles at the NRM and has been an active heritage railway volunteer since 1988
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