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SOUTH DEVON RAILWAY GWR 0-4-2T Update 09/09/2021
GWR 0-4-2T 1420 at Staverton with Milk train
GWR 0-4-2T 1420 at Staverton with Milk trainPhoto © SDR 2004

On Friday 24th September 2021 “Thomas the Tank Engine” will be revisiting the SDR.

One of Thomas’ friends, Oliver, has been in the SDR workshops for the last 15 years and the restoration is hopefully getting closer to completion thanks to a recent grant of £5,000 from the Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust towards new boiler stays for the final restoration of former GWR Collett designed auto-tank 0-4-2 No. 1420, AKA ‘Oliver’ in the Thomas the Tank Engine children’s books.

Veronica Awdry is the daughter of the late Rev.W Awdry and her charitable trust helpfully distributes some royalty funds regularly for appropriate heritage railway projects, and which has been vital in the Covid 19 period with limited income and big losses suffered on all heritage railways.

Veronica Awdry comments: “Steam loco No. 1420 is a truly iconic engine for the South Devon Railway because members of the class were seen in use on the quintessential GWR branch line from the 1930s right up until its closure as a goods only railway in 1962, and then under the Dart Valley and South Devon Railway’s 52-year operation of the scenic seven-mile line from 1969 to date. Featuring as ‘Oliver’ in the Thomas series of books, I know he was one of my late father’s favourite characters.

”And, with the SDR celebrating its 150th anniversary year in 2022 having first opened in 1872, there is a concerted effort underway to complete the overhaul. SDR supporters are hoping to see ‘Oliver’ finished in time for service next year, although quite a lot of work is still needed. The popular engine is owned by the SDR Association and it last ran on the SDR in 2006 when it was stopped for a protracted overhaul mainly due to a leaking boiler.

Last year, a further £22,180 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) was made towards moving the overhaul of No.1420 forward to cover the manufacture of the remaining, vital firebox boiler plates and a new foundation ring, which was critical to enable the SDR’s skilled workforce to re-build the boiler and to keep the loco restoration timeline on track.

The earlier NLHF grant was made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, and was a considerable boost to the SDR which sadly was simply unable to run any trains last year.

Whilst the frames and wheels for No. 1420, AKA 'Oliver' have already been restored and considerable boiler work has been completed, there is still a long list of work to be completed for which funds need to be raised so further specific donations towards finishing the tasks would be warmly welcomed by the SDR.
The outstanding works include assembling the new boiler components – smokebox, front tubeplate, barrel, inner copper firebox, outer steel firebox, foundation ring and refitting the steam dome.  Once the boiler shell has been assembled it will need the new stays fitting and a full set of new tubes.  The tubes have yet to be ordered.
Although the chassis is now back on its wheels, none of the valves, pistons or motion are fitted and nothing has been done yet to overhaul these parts.
Due to the standardisation of parts by the Great Western Railway many of 1420’s Boiler fittings are now in use on other SDR locos so the replaced parts need refurbishing, and there is the small issue of buiilding new side tanks which will take some making because the left and right tanks are completely different designs due to the reverser !

GWR 0-4-2T 1420’ new boiler barrel and smokebox
1420’s new boiler barrel and smokebox. Note boiler barrel is a “telescope” construction
GWR 0-4-2T 1420’ new firebax - front tupeplate view GWR 0-4-2T 1420’ new firebox - backhead view
1420’s new copper inner firebox - from front – tubeplate ( left ) and rear – backhead (right ).
Photos © ADBennett 2021

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