What may prove to be the world's last commercially built narrow gauge steam locomotive for industrial use has been secured for preservation in the UK. The locomotive is Dahuichang number 4, a 762mm gauge C2 class 0-8-0 tender locomotive. The locomotive was built at Harbin Works and has the number 221 of January 1988, and is one of, if not the last ever built.
Number 4 now lives at the Ffestiniog Railway's Boston Lodge Works, in a new facility purpose built for its restoration. It is owned by a group of Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway footplate crews.
Although Number 4 came from china in a complete and working order it has never been in steam in the UK. A hot / cold examination of the boiler was undertaken and the locomotive taken for a test drive by two members of the group during the August bank holiday weekend in 2006. A satisfactory performance resulted in the group committing to purchase the locomotive and a further visit to Beijing in October 2006 ensued. This visit saw the locomotive collected from the Beijing Capital Steel and Chemical Factory's limestone quarry railway at Dahuichang. After around six weeks in transit, arrival in North Wales early in January 2007, was just in time for its 19th birthday!
At first, accommodation was provided outside under a tarpaulin in Minffordd yard for approximately 18 months. The group were very grateful to then be asked by the National Railway Museum for the locomotive to be a guest visitor at Locomotion in Shildon. Inside at last it was parked opposite the much older experimental tilting Advanced Passenger Train (APT-E) and the prototype Deltic. After a brief stay the locomotive was shipped to Harbour Station where it was transported by rail the one mile across the cob to Boston Lodge works where again sadly, accommodation was only available outside in the sea air. Whilst all this was going on, the group were working hard on securing an agreement with the Ffestiniog Railway Company. The result was by December 2009 a brand new purpose built steel shed was erected on spare land at Boston Lodge Works, being fitted out and connected by rail by the end of April 2010. The meant that Number 4 was on display in its new home during the Ffestiniog Railway's Quirks and Curiosities Gala over May Day bank holiday weekend 2010.
Work is currently on going to strip the locomotive, carefully cataloguing and assessing the condition of components as they are removed. Some modifications will be necessary for successful operation on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway. The biggest of these modifications will be the re-gauging of the frames from 762mm gauge to a nominal 2' gauge and all the associated works to the suspension/springing which will be required.
More information on this locomotive and the plans for it to re-enter traffic on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway along with regular news updates are on this site.
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