Situated near Holmewood in North Derbyshire, NCB Williamthorpe Colliery in 1967 was the place where several British Railway tank locomotives could be found plying their trade hauling coal wagons. Based at the nearby Westhouses engine shed, the tank engines were the last of their class in service with BR.

Designed by Sir Henry Fowler of the LMS, 422 of these shunting engines were constructed between 1924 and 1931. Many were built by commercial locomotive builders such a Vulcan Foundry at Newton-le-Willows, though the last fifteen were built by the LMS at Horwich Works.

47629 and 47289 at NCB Williamthorpe Colliery. - Clive Hardy
47629 and 47289 at NCB Williamthorpe Colliery. – Clive Hardy

47629 was built by William Beardmore & Co, Glasgow, entering traffic during December 1928. The engine spent its BR career around the East Midlands starting at Nottingham. There followed spells at Derby (three times), Rowsley (twice) before ending up at Burton. From there 47629 was reallocated to Westhouses in early February 1966. The locomotive survived until October 1967, when it was withdrawn after giving 38 years, 10 months and 7 days service.

47289 was built by the North British Locomotive Co, Glasgow, entering traffic during October 1924. Its BR career was spent around the North West with spells at Stockport Edgeley, Edge Hill, and Aintree. It was withdrawn from service at Sutton Oak (Peasley Cross) engine shed in late December 1966. Normally, that would have been the end of it and 47289 would have been turned into saucepans.

However, NCB Williamthorpe was raising output. During 1965-66 the colliery’s workforce produced 883,000 tons of coal and output for 1966-67 was set to be even higher (it would reach 914,000 tons and during 1967-68 992,000 tons). In early February 1967 the locomotive was returned to traffic and allocated to Westhouses. 47289. It was withdrawn in October 1967 after a service lasting 43 years 7days.   

Not on the picture is sister engine 47383. Built by Vulcan Foundry, Newton-le-Willows, 47383 entered service with the LMS during October 1926. Under BR ownership the tank engine endured a somewhat nomadic existence with tours of duty at Chester, Speke Junction, Carlisle Canal, Rose Grove, and Newton Heath. It was at Newton Heath that 47383 was withdrawn from service during the middle of December 1966. However, as with 47289 it was reinstated to traffic in early February 1967 and reallocated to Westhouses. After 41 years 7 days service it too, was withdrawn in October 1967. 47383 is thought to be the last of the class to have worked for BR.   

A number of these locomotives dodged the scrapmen long enough to be preserved, including four built in the North West by Vulcan Foundry.

Clive Hardy
Clive is our Transport and Railway writer, with years of experience he is a fount of knowledge on all things transport nostalgia.

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