Mark Smithers welcomes a distinctive addition to the ranks of Britain’s narrow gauge new-build steam locomotives – and also learns about the latest developments at North Bay Engineering Services.
In issue 230 of Heritage Railway in 2017, I referred to work then in progress at the workshops of North Bay Railway Engineering Services Ltd (NBES) on a 2ft gauge replica Decauville ‘Type 1’ 0-4-0T. At this time, the company’s workshops were located at two premises in Scarborough.
The smaller of the buildings – located close to the town’s North Bay Railway – served as a machine shop, whilst the larger – located in an adjacent village – fulfilled the function of an erecting shop. No doubt, the history of NBES will be familiar to many readers, especially those whose main interest is the narrow gauge sphere, but for those unfamiliar with the company it will be helpful to give a brief outline here.
The decision to set up the company, a subsidiary of Scarborough’s North Bay Railway, was taken in the spring of 2014 in connection with the Heritage Skills Initiative, then running in the North East and Yorkshire.
Two apprentices were initially trained and then taken on by the company during 2014/5, whilst engineer Mark Ashton joined in October 2014. During more recent times the limitations of the Scarborough area as a location for the company’s activities became apparent and a move was made to Darlington.
The rationale for this measure was explained by David Humphreys: “Mark and Steve Watson, another NBES employee, live in Middlesbrough – 50 miles from Scarborough and were travelling daily. We could not get staff and parts for manufacturing and remaking things were coming from Teesside.
Darlington is the centre of the new-build and restoration scene, with the A1 and G5 at Shildon as new-build, along with Darlington Railway Preservation Society and the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group. At Stockton, nine miles away is Northern Boiler, with whom we work closely. Darlington is a convenient site as it is only 15 miles from Middlesbrough.”
As has previously been detailed in Heritage Railway 215, the first full-size narrow gauge locomotive built by NBES was the 20-inch gauge Bagnall Sipat-pattern 0-4-0ST Georgina completed for the North Bay Railway in 2016. Although construction commenced on another Sipat-pattern locomotive, this time of 2ft gauge, work on this locomotive has currently stalled.
Whilst Georgina’s completion was a major achievement in itself, it is self-evident to most readers that in order for any enterprise in the field of new-build steam locomotive construction to appeal to more than a very narrow customer base, the ‘jump’ in design sophistication from the cylindrical firebox to a true locomotive-pattern boiler must be made.
The natural progression from Georgina’s basic specification to a locomotive of similar size, but with such a boiler, coupled with the need to choose a relatively distinctive design – at least on the domestic scene – led to the choice of the 3.5 tonne Decauville ‘Type 1’ as the next major NBES project.
Read more and view more images in Issue 246 of HR – on sale now!