There is little in the way of definitive records covering the history of Handyman.
Early years –Burton Quarries. Handyman was ordered by Burton Ironstone Company during 1900 to supplement the two existing locomotives that the company operated at its Burton Latimer Ironstone Pits in Northamptonshire – a Black Hawthorn built 0-4-0ST “Woodcock” and a Manning Wardle 0-6-0ST named “Banshee”. The price of the engine was £900 with an additional charge of £15/10s for a water lifter on the tank.
The entry for the engine on the Hudswell Clarke order book does state the name of Handyman, the reason for the name is not known, and unlike the other Burton engines, it never acquired any nameplates – the name apparently being painted on the side of the tanks, although clear photographic evidence of this seems lacking.
In the years after the Great War business at Burton reduced significantly due to recession and only one loco was usually in operation, Handyman is reported to have been the main locomotive used. Eventually in February 1921 the Burton quarry was closed, and Handyman was transferred to the nearby Cranford Quarry of the Cranford Ironstone Company, the Burton and Cranford companies having merged some years previously. There seems some inconsistency in published sources as to whether Handyman moved in 1919 or 1921, although it would seem logical that it would have been moved on closure of the Burton pits.
Cranford Cranford was a metre gauge system compared to the 3ft gauge system at Burton, and it seems that an attempt was made to widen the gauge of the locomotive by moving the tyres. One of the subsequent owners of the locomotive – Bob Harris, casts doubt on this conversion in his article in the January 2009 issue of the Llanfair Journal, stating that he found no evidence of it. In any event, any conversion seems to have been unsuccessful and the locomotive remained in store out of use until 1936. The engine spent so long unused that the building where it was kept is said to have been known as “Handyman’s shed” for many years afterwards.
In 1936 Handyman was moved to work at Scaldwell quarries, another 3ft gauge system owned by Staveley Minerals. Prior to the move it received a rebuild and overhaul at Blackwells of Northampton where it acquired its stovepipe chimney to replace the Hudswell Clarke original and some modifications were made to the smokebox.
In its early years at Scaldwell, Handyman seems to have been used as a back up to the other locomotives in operation and as a result spent regular spells out of use. It is thought to have been last used in 1961.
Scaldwell quarry finally ceased operating in 1963, and Handyman’s working life came to an end. Three volunteers at the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway(Bob Harris,
David Plant & Gerald Rainbow) saved the engine from the scrapyard, purchasing it from Staveley Minerals and arranging for it to be stored at the W&LR.
In 1964 the locomotive was moved to Cyfronydd on the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway, stored on a small section of 3ft gauge track. There was relatively little progress made with restoration and after several years the loco was moved to the Welsh Highland Railway store at Kinnerley, Shropshire, where it was in a more secure position. When the Welsh Highland moved its operations away from Kinnerley, the owners of Handyman moved the locomotive to the Midland Railway Trust at Butterley, Derbyshire. The dates of these moves are not known definitively although it appears that the loco was at Butterley by 1982 (recorded in “Industrial Locomotives 1982” published by the Industrial Railway Society.)
Little seems to have happened at Butterley and by 2003 lack of space meant that Handyman needed yet another home. The owners decided to finally dispose of the engine via Alan Keef Ltd who planned to restore it on behalf of a client for operation in Ireland, where there are several 3ft gauge railways. The restoration wasn’t completed and the loco remained at Alan Keef until July 2008 when it was acquired by the National Railway Museum to be one of the featured locomotives of the NRM+ redisplay of the Great Hall. The intention was to display the loco along with two ex Scaldwell tipper wagons to tell part of the story of industrial railways.
The NRM+ project was subsequently cancelled, but cosmetic restoration of Handyman commenced in late 2012. When completed and put on display as part of the National Collection it will be a change in fortune for this small Yorkshire built industrial locomotive which spent much of its working life out of favour and 50 years in an un-restored condition after preservation.
In June 2020 it was disclosed that the National Railway Museum intend to dispose of the locomotive. The NRM stated that the locomotive did not fit the Museum’s criteria for preservation or plans for display and that it would be more appropriate for the locomotive ro be preserved elsewhere.
In May 2021 the locomotive moved to the Statfold Narrow Gauge Museum Trust for cosmetic restoration.
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