By Geoff Courtney
THEY were ubiquitous on tracks throughout the BR network, but generally ignored by passengers and trainspotters alike.
They provided an essential service, but were accorded no accolades or recognition. They ground out the miles on the national network carrying personnel, but didn’t figure in the Ian Allan ABCs and were rarely photographed.
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They were an essential part of the British railway system, but seemed to play no part at all. Everywhere yet nowhere, ubiquitous but esoteric.
In preservation the twilight world of Wickham trolleys continues, with few paying them any heed or giving them a second glance. Beside the giants of steam they are minor attractions in both size and the public’s perception, bit part actors which rarely make it onto the cast list.
But bit part players provide an essential role in many theatrical productions, and in railway preservation too. Just ask Jonathan Flood, co-founder of the Rail Trolley Trust, which has this month announced plans for a permanent base on the Chasewater Railway in Staffordshire that will include a three-road running shed.
“I have always been interested in railways, and in 2005 I decided to look for a suitable small vehicle to purchase and restore,” he said. “I started looking at small narrow gauge diesels, but
soon decided against this option and so started researching Wickham trolleys.”
With the help of the Industrial Railway Society he found suitable examples, but says that every time he spoke to the owners they said they had plans for them. “Eventually I found one looking rather forlorn at Laxey on the Isle of Man, and ascertained it was owned by the island’s Government. After 10 months of correspondence it was agreed I could purchase it.”
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