A Herefordhsire Gem


One name is synonymous with narrow gauge locomotive restoration and new-build projects. Mark Smithers reports on progress to be seen at an open day at Alan Keef Ltd.

Lyn’s boiler in the outdoor area of Alan Keef Ltd’s premises at Lea, near Ross-on-Wye. Although awaiting the fitting of lagging and cladding, the dome cover and chimney, whose base was made by Israel Newton Ltd, were in place.

The name of Alan Keef Ltd will doubtless be familiar to most operators and fans of heritage railways, especially in the narrow gauge field, as its product range, which covers contemporary industrial railway equipment in addition to heritage material, has grown steadily since the company’s foundation in 1968. Well known for supplying new steam locomotives to such diverse locations as Beamish Museum’s waggonway and the locally-based Perrygrove Railway, one of the company’s most important features is that it is the proud successor to Motor Rail Ltd and Simplex Mechanical Handling Ltd and is therefore able to supply full technical back-up to Simplex locomotive owners.

The (normally) annual early autumn steam-up and open day at Alan Keef Ltd’s workshops, based at Lea near Ross-on-Wye, has consistently proved a popular event and although it did not take place in 2015 owing to other commitments, its return for the current year on September 17 was very welcome, and I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the site on that occasion.

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As a representative of the Simplex connection with the company’s work, the 1920-vintage 2ft 6in gauge Simplex petrol locomotive, Dalmunzie (No. 2014) was on display outside the workshops. The most iconic of the items that were present on-site for most narrow gauge enthusiasts, however, was the project to re-create the well-known Baldwin 2-4-2T of the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. This is a project that will be familiar to visitors to Alan Keef Ltd open days and L&BR galas since 2013.

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