200 tonne crane drafted in to move historic Leeds locomotive

Picton, built in 1927 by Hunslet Engine Company, is moved into place at Middleton Railway. Picture: Simon Hulme.
Picton, built in 1927 by Hunslet Engine Company, is moved into place at Middleton Railway. Picture: Simon Hulme.

VOLUNTEERS celebrated a moment which had been years in the making as an historic locomotive finished the last leg of its journey from a sugar mill in Trinidad to its permanent home at the world’s oldest working railway.

Although the rare Picton model has been in the care of Middleton Railway Trust for more than a decade, it has been awaiting much needed conservation work and a proper shelter in which it can be preserved.

The team at Middleton Railway record the moment that Picton is lowered on to its new piece of track. Picture: Simon Hulme.

The team at Middleton Railway record the moment that Picton is lowered on to its new piece of track. Picture: Simon Hulme.

Crucial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund was secured back in 2013 in the shape of a £70,650 grant to buy and conserve two locomotives in the David Monckton collection.

But it was only yesterday that Picton could finally be moved onto its new section of track with the help of a 200 tonne crane supplied by Ainscough Crane Hire.

Middleton Railway Trust vice president Ian Smith said: “When it was fully operational, Picton would have weighed 52 tonnes so we’ve really been in their hands.

“Ainscough had to bring the crane from Billingham I believe. They’ve been very good to us and we’re very grateful to them for their support.”

The relocation of Picton was sponsored by Ainscough Crane Hire and BAM Nuttall.

The relocation of Picton was sponsored by Ainscough Crane Hire and BAM Nuttall.

Thanks to some skilful lifting, the 1927 locomotive was safely moved across the site.

Mr Smith said: “Picton is 10ft wide, which means it’s far too wide to run on any railway in this country, so the intention was always that we would create what’s called the Picton Shed.

“What we’ve done today is that the engine has been moved from where it’s been stored for the past 15 years and onto a new piece of track. Next we start building a shelter around it. Visitors will still able to see it but it will be covered up and sheltered from the weather.”

The Heritage Lottery money will pay for the shelter and the restoration work, but the relocation of Picton was sponsored by Ainscough and BAM Nuttall.

Once the 1927 locomotive is safely under cover, the trust’s team can begin the task of removing layers of rust and preserving the metal beneath.

Picton forms an important part of the Leeds locomotive building story, having been built less than a mile away from the railway at Hunslet’s.

It was part of a range developed specifically for export and is very rare in the UK as a result.

One of a batch of three, it ended up in a sugar mill in Trinidad where it was eventually discovered by former trust chairman David Monckton.

Recognising its significance, he arranged for this particular locomotive – the best of the batch – to be brought back to Middleton Railway.

Mr Smith said: “We’ve all heard of the Flying Scotsman. When that was built in 1923 it was supposedly state-of-the-art, but Picton was actually technologically better.”

Meanwhile, work to restore the other locomotive in the Monckton collection to working order is continuing apace.

It is hoped that the 1941 locomotive built by Hunslet’s – Brookes No.1 – will be fully restored by spring 2017.

One of the other major projects taking shape at Middleton Railway is the construction of a new running shed where the team can prepare locomotives for service indoors and carry out light maintenance work.

With no grant aid available, the railway trust has turned to the community to show its support in helping to raise the £49,000 needed to complete the build by buying an individual the brick.

Thanks to the public’s generous support, all the bricks have been funded and the shed is due for completion in 2017.

It will also feature a section honouring a local sports team.

One of the other major projects taking shape at Middleton Railway is the construction of a new running shed where the team can prepare locomotives for service indoors and carry out light maintenance work.

With no grant aid available, the railway trust has turned to the community to show its support in helping to raise the £49,000 needed to complete the build by buying an individual the brick.

Thanks to the public’s generous support, all the bricks have been funded and the shed is due for completion in 2017. It will also feature a section honouring a a local sports team.

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