Rail fans go loco

A classic locomotive is to be relaunched after a 40-year restoration at Quainton.

In 1978, Quainton Railway Society bought an old locomotive from a scrapyard in Barry Island, Wales. Locomotive no. 6989 ‘Wightwick Hall’ has been at Quainton, now better known as Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, ever since, while undergoing an incredibly long and complicated restoration, spanning 40 years.

Built by British Railways and completed in March 1948, ‘Wightwick Hall’ worked for 16 years and covered 640,645 miles working in the fast freight and express passenger roles until June 1, 1964. She was then sent to the scrap yard where she spent 13 years and five months exposed to the salt air of Barry Island, which took its toll on her bodywork, as well as being stripped of many of her parts. Her rusty hulk was then spotted by Quainton’s restoration team, who then went off to raise the £9,000 required for her purchase. ‘Wightwick Hall’ finally arrived safely at Quainton after a long journey, having to avoid the Severn Bridge because she was too heavy (the new crossing hadn’t then been built).

An article appeared in a local paper speculating that ‘Wightwick Hall’ would steam again within three years… 40 years later, after many thousands of volunteer work hours, and the team are finally able to celebrate the completion of this stunning locomotive (see picture).

The volunteer team has been an ever-changing group, with eight people at most working at any one time, but only five people in recent years. Over 80 people in total have been involved throughout this incredible 40-year project. There have also been long pauses in the restoration project due to the sad loss of certain team members.

Finally, on December 11 2018, ‘Wightwick Hall’ passed her ‘steam test’ allowing her to be used for passenger use at Buckinghamshire Railway Centre – in perfect timing for their 50th anniversary celebrations this year.

A special celebratory launch event will be held on Sunday, March 3 for people to come and see this locomotive steaming once again. Visitors will be able to have a ride behind this stunning loco, as well as ride two other trains which will be running this day as well. If weather allows, the team will also be running its miniature railway. The Railway Museum and Visitor Centre, with shop and café, will all be open as usual from 10.30am-5pm.

Picture: Derek Pelling

Admission: Adult: £14
Senior: £13
Child (5+): £10
Family (2a+4c): £42.50
Pre-booking is available at www.bucksrailcentre.org
> Families who live within eight miles of Quainton can buy an annual local family pass for £42.

For more information contact:
Email: marketing@bucksrailcentre.org.
Tel: 01296 655720.
Website: www.bucksrailcentre.org.
Find it on Facebook: ‘Buckinghamshire Railway Centre’.
Buckinghamshire Railway Centre, Station Road, Quainton, HP22 4BY