Friday 15 December 2017 06:35:45 AM

Enjoy a Run on May Day With a Black Beauty Steam Engine
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A “Black Beauty” of the steamy kind will make her debut in her shiny new colour scheme this coming May Day in Downpatrick.
On Monday 6 May and also on 27 May at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway, train enthusiasts will get a chance to see this addition to the Downpatrick County Down Railway in action.

Since her hauling her first ever passenger trains in her existence at Christmas, Orenstein and Koppel built steam locomotive No. 1 retired to the worksheds to be fully painted out and lined by veteran DCDR painter Cyril Leathers from Ardglass.

No 1 is ready to roll for the May bank holidays at Downpatrick railway.

No 1 is all painted up for the May bank holidays at Downpatrick railway.

While it was hoped that No. 1 would make her fully-painted debut on the popular Easter Eggspress trains, the very unseasonable weather with heavy snow and minus-degree temperatures meant that the job had to be put on hold until the temperature improved.

It was decided not to use the engine and damage what painting had already been done, as it would likely result in the job having to be done again.
So in a shunt carried out last Saturday, No. 1 exited the workshed looking resplendent in her historically-accurate black and yellow lining.
After the highly successful Easter ‘Eggs-press’ trains, the May Day bank holidays are the perfect chance to take another trip to Inch Abbey this time to sample the delights of a real steam train and rail travel at its most traditional.

While it’s still hardly “exam weather”, and you’re looking for something to do, why not look at the either the rain dribbling down a vintage railway carriage window, or shelter from the cold outside as you’re snuggly inside travelling through the County Down countryside.

Warm teas and coffees, as well as lots of buns, at highly competitive rates, will be served all day onboard a buffet carriage parked at Inch Abbey station; if travelling in to the town from Inch Abbey the return journey can be made on any of the services. The “Thomas the Tank Engine” model railway will be back as usual.

Robert Gardiner of the DCDR said: “It’s taken two decades of work and funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to get No into shape. This was for a new boiler, as the old one had corroded so badly it had to be scrapped. Interreg funding, as well a substantial amount from the DCDR’s own funds has helped with thgis project. Work on its restoration was undertaken in a joint effort by the DCDR and the RPSI over that twenty years, which was such a long period as the locomotive was in an incredibly poor condition after it was saved from lying in a County Down field in the 1980’s.

A work of art ready to roll. Cyril Leathers from Ardglass, a veteran of Downpatrick and County Down Railway, with No 1 which he has hand painted.

A work of art ready to roll. Cyril Leathers from Ardglass, a veteran of Downpatrick and County Down Railway, with No 1 which he has hand painted.

“No. 1 is one of two sister engines at the DCDR, and was built in the mid 1930’s by Berlin-based Orenstein and Koppel for the Irish Sugar Company (Comlucht Suicre Eireann) for use in their factories at Mallow, Thurles and Tuam. There were a total of nine of these engines built, three for each factory), and they were used to transfer sugar beet wagons from the main line sidings in the factory complexes for processing.

“Even though German built, they are also a legacy of early post-partition Ireland, as normally Irish firms would have ordered new locomotives from Great Britain, but de Valera’s Irish Free State was engaged in an ‘economic war’ with the UK and so the order went to Germany instead, leading to these very continental looking locomotives appearing on the Emerald Isle. It is believed that the last time No. 1 was steamed was in 1958.

“After withdrawal from service, in 1960 the engines were sent to Dalkey Station, south of Dublin, for storage with a view to being moved to England for preservation. This project did not work out (due to the key players finding out that the width between the rails in Ireland is different to that in England!) and the locomotives were moved to Ballynahinch Junction for storage in 1978, as part of an attempt to resurrect this branch line as a heritage line. When this scheme failed to get off the ground the locomotives were purchased from their owner and moved to Downpatrick a decade later in the late 1980’s.”

After a period of storage in Downpatrick, work began on rebuilding No. 1 while No. 3 was restored at the RPSI’s workshop in Whitehead. No. 3 was returned to service on Saturday 2nd October 2000, and is currently dismantled for a full ten-year boiler inspection, and it is hoped to return No. 3 to traffic as well ASAP.A new boiler was fabricated by Woolf Engineering, and No. 1 was moved to Whitehead in 2004 for completion of its restoration.  While No. 1 will be ‘chuffed’ to see Santa this December, running all four weekends of the DCDR’s Lapland Express services (subject to running in trails), it is hoped when the loco is fully painted that it will be given a proper homecoming celebration some time early next year.

The Lapland Express last December was the first time in No.1’s life that it will have hauled passengers, instead of wagons full of sugar beet.