Credit where credit is long overdue

We join with everyone in the heritage railway sector in congratulating two truly outstanding recipients of New Year’s Honours for 2019.

When local lad Mervyn Allcock set out to preserve the behemoth that is Barrow Hill roundhouse and turn it into a major heritage venue, there were many who remained unconvinced. How on earth could an old brick shed full of static locomotives be a visitor draw with the same appeal as an operational heritage line?

However, over many years, Mervyn and his Barrow Hill Engine Shed Society confounded such critics time and time again. What the powers that be had declared redundant and a prime candidate for the bulldozer became not only a multi-use facility for rail activities across the board, but a unique and phenomenal historical and educational resource.

And yes, not only does the venue have its own running line for passenger rides and photographic opportunities, but the interior of the former Staveley Midland shed has been transported back to the steam era with the addition of the trademark smoke hoods and other fittings.

Not only that, but as Britain’s last rail-connected roundhouse, the venue can now accept incoming charters, which can but enhance the superb gala events that have been staged there. Mervyn (right) has elevated what was once an everyday piece of local transport infrastructure into a national treasure and his MBE is richly deserved indeed.

London Underground is the oldest and best subway system in the world, and under Sam Mullins, it has the finest museum of its kind to showcase that fact. If not the beating heart of the capital, the Underground provides the essential facilitating veins and arteries, and the Covent Garden museum and its Acton depot are testament to that fact.

Indeed, LTM is a museum with attitude: I will never forget the marvellous spectacle that was Metropolitan Railway 150, when classic steam locomotives and wooden-bodied coaches returned to the tunnels beneath the city in 2013, running heritage services interspersed between the standard electric ones, and such events have been repeated, albeit on a smaller scale, at annual intervals, in joint ventures between the Underground and the museum.

I am sure that Sam (right) will give due credit in receiving his much-merited OBE to his marvellous museum staff who time and time again visibly pull out all the stops to help him make things happen.

December 2018 saw a new star born in the form of WR Modified Hall 4-6-0 No. 6989 Wightwick Hall, which ran for the first time in 54 years, at its restoration at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre. Bought from Dai Woodham’s scrapyard in January 1978, it has taken nearly 41 years to become the 150th steam locomotive from Barry to be returned to running order.

This is Heritage Railway’s 250th issue, and in early spring we celebrate our 20th anniversary. It was only a few months after our launch that we reported that WR pannier No. 9682, which as reported in our News section this issue, has just been bought by the Dean Forest Railway, had become the 100th ex-Barry wreck to steam again!

Fifty ‘scrap’ locomotives brought back to life in two decades by spare time volunteers lacking the facilities of the major railway company workshops of the steam era and their financial resources, is a stupendous achievement, one that has helped make the UK railway heritage sector a major player in the tourist industry and indeed the best anywhere.

Robin Jones, Editor

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