BR Standard 5MT 4-6-0 No. 73096 is back on the Mid Hants Railway after the Watercress Line bought it from previous owner John Bunch for its “operational value”.
The purchase apparently brings to an end an acrimonious dispute that saw John, who once ran the line’s locomotive department, banned from the railway 18 years ago, despite a police investigation clearing him of any wrongdoing.
No. 73096 was built at Derby in November 1955 and saw service on the LMR and WR before being withdrawn from service in November 1967 and sent to Barry scrapyard.
Bought by John from Dai Woodham in July 1985, No. 73096 was returned to service on the MHR in October 1993, having undergone a major boiler overhaul. A new tender based on the chassis from an LMS Jubilee tender was built to BR1G style.
It became a stalwart of the ‘Green Train’, the MHR’s former main line tour operation and hauled the debut train to Salisbury on February 15, 1998.
No. 73096 has also been temporarily disguised as No. 73080 Merlin, No. 73054 and the Thomas the Tank Engine character Henry the Green Engine for special events.
On March 20, 2000, the 4-6-0 made heritage railway history by heading the ‘Quantock Flyer’ from Alton to West Somerset Railway’s Bishops Lydeard, being the first train to run from and to another preserved line.
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