The Railway’s ‘Green Dragon’
As 52044 this engine became subject to one of the earliest private locomotive purchase schemes established in the country and was one of the earliest arrivals on the nascent KWVR.
Affectionately known as ‘The Green Dragon’ in ‘The Railway Children’ film, 957 is being restored to working order at Haworth with the target of it being ready to take its place in the 50th-anniversary celebrations of The Railway Children in 2020.
A humble unsung hero to world fame and celebrity status
Withdrawn by BR as long ago as 1959, 52044 was purchased by Tony Cox directly from British Railways. Arriving on the KWVR, the engine found fame in 1970 as no. 957, labelled the ‘Green Dragon’, in cinema adaption of The Railway Children.
Built: 1887 Beyer Peacock
Boiler Pressure: 140 psi
Tractive Effort: 17,590 lbf
Weight 39.05 tons engine; 28.5 tons tender
Valve Gear: Joy
Cylinders: l7½” x26″ Inside
Numbers carried during working career: L&Y 957, LMS 12044, BR 52044
A 72 year career on the national network
Designed by W Barton Wright as the standard goods locomotive for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway in 1876. Officially Class 25 but nicknamed ‘Ironclads’, after the battleships that were being built when the class was introduced, the class eventually numbered 280 examples, these being produced over an 11-year period by several private manufacturers. Upon completion of the Horwich Locomotive Works, and the succession of Barton-Wright by J.A.F. Aspinall, no more of this class were produced. Instead, Aspinall introduced his celebrated ‘A’ Class. With this introduction, many of the L&Y Class 25 locomotives were rebuilt into 0-6-0 saddle tanks, the tenders of which were used with Aspinall’s new design.
No. 957 was one of the last 50 of the class being built by Beyer Peacock of Manchester in 1887. The locomotive spent its life at Goole shed for the passenger and goods services on the Axholme Joint Railway and latterly at Wakefield for the coal traffic to and from the Yorkshire and Lancashire pits to Goole and Hull.
In 1923 at the grouping, 957 became a member of the LMS fleet as their 12044. After 72 years of service, and now numbered 52044 under British Railways, 957 were withdrawn from Wakefield in August 1959. And that would have been the end but for the intervention of Mr Tony Cox.
From obscurity to the big screen
Following withdrawal, the engine became the subject of one of the earliest private locomotive purchase schemes established in the UK. It was bought outright initially by Mr Tony Cox and kept at Retford, Nottinghamshire. When Mr Cox became secretary of the nascent Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in the West Riding of Yorkshire, he brought the engine to the Worth Valley, arriving in March 1965, three years before opening.
The engine has a long list of film and television credits and is probably best known for its appearance in the 1970 feature film ‘The Railway Children’ when, in green livery, gained the unofficial name of the ‘Green Dragon’. The engine has also featured in BBC’s ‘Born and Bred’ and the remake of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.
Having been the star of the show in 1970, it wasn’t long before its age took its toll and was taken out of traffic in 1975. It remained sidelined until a bequest came to the locomotive’s rescue. Now owned by the Bowers Trust, the locomotive returned to full working order in 2001 following an overhaul costing £150,000. On withdrawal at the expiration of its boiler certificate, 957 was put aside at Oxenhope in 2012. In 2016, with a view to a return to active service, the locomotive was moved to Haworth and is currently in the process of restoration by a small dedicated team, intentionally in time for the 50th anniversary of The Railway Children in 2020.