From the Welsh Valleys to the Worth Valley

Having originally been built for the Taff Vale Railway, 85 was sold by the Great Western Railway into colliery service in the North East before entering preservation by the KWVR in 1970.

A working life 69 years

Built for service in the Welsh Valleys north of Cardiff, no. 85 was deemed surplus to requirements at the time of the grouping in 1923 and was withdrawn by the Great Western Railway in 1927. In 1929, now numbered 426, it made the long journey north to the Durham coalfields where it remained in service, as NCB no. 52, until 1968.

Salvation came in 1970 when 85 was bought by the KWVR and brought to Haworth for a new life on passenger services.

Data File

Built: 1899 Glasgow
Boiler Pressure: 160 psi
Tractive Effort: 19,870 lbf
Weight: 61.5 tons
Valve Gear: Stephenson Link Motion
Cylinders: 17½” x 26″ Inside
Numbers carried during working career: Taff Vale Railway 85, GWR 426, NCB 52

28 years’ service in Wales

No. 85 was built by Neilson Reid for the Taff Vale Railway, which connected the Cardiff area with the coal mining industry located a few miles to the north. This engine was ideal motive power for a company with short and steeply graded lines (not dissimilar to the Worth Valley). Designated Class O2, 85 was the first of the class to be built.

The Taff Vale Railway was taken over by the GWR in 1922 and renumbered 426 in the GWR fleet. As the GWR had a policy of standardisation, the engine soon became surplus to requirements with the use of Swindon designs preventing many still useful machines having a long-term future. Although some engines were rebuilt with GWR standard boilers and fittings, none of the Class 02 tanks were so treated. In 1927 the engine was withdrawn by the GWR and offered for sale, although it was not until 1929 that a buyer came forward. In April of that year the engine was sold to the Lambton, Hetton & Joicey Colliery Co. in County Durham. And so came to an end 28 years of service in the Valleys of South Wales.

Service in the Durham Coalfields

In April 1929, along with 2 of its classmates, the engine was sold to the Lambton, Hetton & Joicey Colliery Co. in County Durham, moving to that systems Philadelphia depot at Houghton-le-Spring. The three ex Taff Vale locomotives joined the ranks of their 0-6-2 tank engines for work on long-haul coal trains between the inland collieries and the coast. Now numbered 52, it worked alongside no’s 5 and 29, (lifetime residents of that system) now both on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

When the coal industry was nationalised in 1947, as NCB no. 52 of the Durham Area based at Philadelphia, it remained in service there until 1968 when, along with its shed-mates, it was displaced by diesel power.

From toil in the coalfields to the rolling hills of West Yorkshire

Initially the engine was bought for preservation by the Midland & Great Northern Railway Preservation Society who then re-sold the engine to the KWVR before having had the chance to remove it from Philadelphia. It arrived on the Worth Valley Railway in December 1970.

While at the Lambton, Hetton & Joicey Colliery it received modifications to its cab and bunker in order to fit the restricted loading gauge of the colliery lines. It was re-built to its original outline by a group of Worth Valley volunteers in the 1990’s. Having waited 30 years since being saved, no. 52 entered service in 2000 restored to original Taff Vale outline and gained its original number, 85. During this period no. 85 carried a plain black livery and ran in this condition on a regular basis until 2009 when its boiler ticket expired.

Due to its popularity and good condition, it received a further overhaul which was completed in February 2016 in time for that year’s Winter Steam Gala. Thanks to a bequest from a volunteer at Haworth this time no. 85 received full lining out, completing its transformation back to its original Taff Vale livery.

Since re-entering service, the engine remains part of the railway’s operational fleet and is paired with the Railway’s fleet of vintage coaches to portray rail travel from times gone by.