No longer needed – pannier tank 3404 at Swindon Works in April 1962. Photo: Mike Peart.
I was on one of my many visits to Swindon Works nearly 60 years ago at Easter 1962. Steam locomotives were fast disappearing, and I was on a mission to photograph as many types as possible before they disappeared for ever. One subject shown in my photo was of six year-old British Railways (Western Region) pannier tank locomotive number 3404. It still carried the old British Railways 1948 “Cycling Lion” logo that had been applied when it was made in March 1956. The later “Ferret and Dartboard” logo (some railway people had no respect for heraldry!) started to be used from 1956 onwards. Ten of these locomotives numbered 3400 to 3409 were made at the Yorkshire Engine Company’s Meadowhall Works, Sheffield. The Yorkshire company were sub-contractors for the Hunslet Engine Company, Leeds, which in turn made locomotives when British Railways workshops were overloaded. In fact, quite a few of the later British Railways (Western Region) pannier tanks were made under sub-contract at Meadowhall to Great Western Railway Chief Mechanical Engineer Frederick Hawksworth’s 1947 design. They emerged from Meadowhall Works between 1949 and 1956, and number 3409 was the very last one to be built, emerging in October 1956. Locomotive manufacture at Meadowhall continued until 1965 – the site is now better known as the massive shopping centre next to the M1 near Sheffield.
The ten new 34XX locomotives were all sent to Cardiff to shunt around the-then busy docks there. We frequent visitors to the Works normally expected locomotives of this type to be at Swindon for overhaul, repainting and a return to work. Most locomotives worked for 30 or 40 years, even up to 70 years with periodic overhauls. But it was absolutely not so in this case. 3404 had arrived on its last journey after less than six years’ work. It was to be scrapped and turned into car panels and white goods! This locomotive, and others of its type, had already been cold and in store for a year after they had been very quickly displaced by new diesel shunting engines. Such was the fate of relatively new steam locomotives at that time. Some of the new British Railways Standard 9F 2-10-0 freight locomotives only worked for five or six years. One such, 92220 “Evening Star”, a product of Swindon Works that I saw being built, worked for British Rail for five years from 1960 before becoming part of the National Collection. With the benefit of hindsight, as the preservation and heritage railway movements were just getting going in the early 1960s, a lot of opportunities to buy modern steam locomotives were missed. We did get some of them, but only after they had languished and deteriorated in the open air of scrap yards for many years in some cases. Swindon Works closed, too, in 1986 and the site is now part shopping centre, part museum and part offices. Shopping and leisure seems to have taken over where locomotive engineering once thrived…..
Mike Peart is the co-author of Volume 3, 4 and 5 of “History & Development of Railway Signalling in the British Isles” and "Trains of Hope" published by Friends of the National Railway Museum. He’s been an active Friend of the NRM since 1994.