This August, visitors to the “Forging History: 180 years of the Crewe Works” exhibition at Crewe Heritage Centre will be able to view the last fully operational LNWR locomotive built in Crewe! The 135 year-old Engine No 1054 Coal Tank will be on loan from the Bahamas Locomotive Society.
From a Crewe design originating from 1873, the ‘Coal Tanks’, as they were known, were introduced on the London & North Western Railway in 1881. Engine No 1054 was the 250th example (of a total of 300) of this class, and was constructed at Crewe Works in 1888.
The engine worked for 50 years on vital local services hauling coal, goods and passengers in across the country. Due to be scrapped in 1939, the engine was saved to help in the War effort and went on to survive another 20 years until it was earmarked for scrapping in November 1958.
However, the engine achieved celebrity status when it helped haul the last train between Abergavenny and Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. As a result a fund was set up to buy and preserve the engine and after six months of fundraising enough money was raised to buy the engine – the first locomotive to be preserved in this way.
The Forging History exhibition celebrates the 180th anniversary of the Grand Junction Railway Engineering Works moving from Edge Hill to Crewe and runs from 1st July to 10th September 2023. A wraparound programme of activities will also be on offer:
Keith Whitmore, Chairman of Bahamas Locomotive Society, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been invited to participate in this event to mark the 180th anniversary and to display this 1888 built loco back in the town where it was built.
The Coal Tank is the only operational LNWR loco in preservation and can be seen in operation at its home on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and at other railways as well, indeed in September the loco can be seen in steam in South Wales where the loco worked for many years at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway for their 40th-anniversary celebrations. Crewe Heritage Centre and the Town Council should be really proud to be able to mount such a significant event.”
After the engine was saved at the end of the 1950s, the fund organisers presented No 1054 to the National Trust in 1961, for exhibition at their industrial railway museum at Penrhyn Castle in North Wales.
Some 10 years later the Trust, having no effective facilities to conserve the largest engine in their collection, decided to place the Coal Tank on loan to the Bahamas Locomotive Society, who received it in 1973.
In the subsequent 50 years, the Society has authentically restored the engine and maintained it in working order. The last major overhaul completed in 2010 was supported by a grant from the National Lottery Fund, ensuring the quality of the work which was undertaken by Society volunteers. This will ensure the longevity of the engine as a working locomotive, which is a testament to the Victorian skills and expertise used in its manufacture at Crewe Works 135 years ago.
Photo credit: Bob Williams.