The engine that started it all
January 1965 was a red-letter day for the emerging KWVR when the first engine to join the Railway arrived by road at Haworth. Numbered 51218 by BR, this diminutive saddle tank set the wheels in motion for what we have today.
Its size precludes use on passenger trains but nonetheless what it lacks in size and makes up for in charisma as being the forerunner of its larger sisters that operate the passenger trains from Keighley to Oxenhope.
Built for working the tight curves of docks and industrial complexes, 51218 has a reserved place in KWVR history and seeing it today, exhibited at Oxenhope, its size betrays the importance that this little 0-4-0ST has in the history of our Railway.
Built: 1901 Horwich
Boiler Pressure: 160 psi
Tractive Effort: 11,370 lbf
Weight 21.25 tons
Valve Gear: Stephenson
Cylinders: 13”x18″ Outside
Numbers carried during working career: L&Y 68, LMS 11218, BR 51218
Allocated to the North, South, East and West
Designed by J.A.F. Aspinall and built at Horwich, 57 of this class of engines were produced between 1891 and 1910. The loco was specifically designed for shunting tightly curved sidings on the L&YR’s system, including dock lines and goods yards, and this is reflected in the allocation of these engines to sheds such as Fleetwood, Goole, Liverpool and Salford. However, in later years, the allocation became much more diverse and included far-flung sheds such as Bristol, Bangor, Crewe, Derby, Widnes, York and Swansea.
As L&Y no. 68, the engine appeared from Horwich in 1901, was given the number 11218 at the grouping and gave 63 years’ service before being withdrawn in Neath, South Wales in 1964 by now numbered 51218.
A nomadic life before settling down in Yorkshire
Only two of these engines survive, both are owned by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Trust. No. 68 (51218) is based here on the Worth Valley with its sister, No. 19, being on a long term loan to Ribble Steam Railway at Preston Docks.
51218 was the first locomotive to arrive at Haworth in January 1965. It was soon restored to working order and became a favourite with early visitors to the Railway. Despite this popularity, the engine spent two and half years away from Haworth to haul enthusiast specials around Rochdale and Manchester and then, for two periods, to work for Messrs. Brown & Polson whilst their own locomotives were away for overhaul.
More notoriety came when the engine was one of those chosen to appear in the 1975 Shildon Cavalcade to celebrate 150 years of the passenger railway in Britain. On this grand occasion, this once lowly rated shunter rubbed shoulders with more glamorous engines like Flying Scotsman.
The mid-1990s saw the first major overhaul since 1963, taking place at Haworth and the East Lancashire Railway, with a return to steam in late 1997 as 51218 complete with a replacement saddletank. The boiler tubes lasted well beyond the expected 5 years and were eventually condemned in early 2006 and 51218 was retired to Oxenhope Exhibition shed to await its next overhaul which, hopefully, will not be too far into the future for this pioneering engine.