Dunrobin 0-4-4T Duke od Sutherland (Highland Railway)

DesignerDavid Jones (Highland Railway Superintendent)
CompanyDuke of Sutherland (Highland Railway)
BuilderSharp, Stewart & Co
Driving Wheels4ft 6ins
Boiler Pressure150psi
CylindersInside – 13in x 18in
Tractive Effort7,183lbf
Valve GearStephenson

This locomotive (Works No 4085) was built in 1895 by Sharp Stewart & Co. of Manchester for the 4th Duke of Sutherland for his private use. The locomotive was given the name Dunrobin after the Duke’s estate at Durobin Castle. The locomotive is thought to have been the basis for the Highland Railway class W which was designed by Peter Drummond and introduced in 1905.

Highland Railway W class introduced in 1905

The W class engines had larger cylinders and greater tractive effort. They probably cad smaller cabs than Dunrobin as it was built to accommodate guest on the footplate. Four engines were built and two survived to be taken into BR stock. One was withdrawn from service in June 1956 and the other January 1957.

The Sharp Stewart & Co locomotive was the second built for a Duke of Sutherland to operate his private train. The first Dunrobin was bought by the 3rd Duke in 1871 and was a Kitson 2-4-0T. The first one was sold to the Highland Railway in 1895 and was rebuilt with a larger boiler and cylinders and carried the Highland Railway number 118 and the name Gordon Castle and was used on the Fochabers branch. It was later named Invergordon and was used as a shunter there.

The 3rd Duke of Sutherland had a private station built as a condition of financing the extension of the railway from Golspie to Helmsdale which opened in 1871.

The railway from Golspie was part of plans which started in 1864 when the Inverness & Ross-shire Railway completed its line from Inverness to Bonar Bridge. The following year the Sutherland Railway obtained authorisation to extend the line from Bonar Bridge to Brora. In 1868 the Sutherland company ran out of money when it had reached as far as Golspie and it looked as if the line would not be completed. The Duke of Sutherland owned a lot of land in the area and lived in Dunrobin Castle two miles north of Golspie and he provided the finances to complete the 17½ mile which linked Golspie with Helmsdale. The line between Golspie and Dunrobin was completed in June 1871. As part of the agreement to fund the railway the Duke built a private station at Dunrobin.

A further condition was that that the Duke would have running rights for a locomotive between Dunrobin Castle and Inverness. The Duke also purchased two carriages which Dunrobin hauled to Inverness where they were attached to a Highland Railway train to convey the Duke to his destination.

The locomotive usually travelled to Inverness between ten and twenty times a year. On one occasion it hauled the Duke’s coach to the Kyle of Lochalsh to collect guests for Dunrobin Castle.

In June 1902 the locomotive worked a VIP special train from The Mound to Dornoch for the opening of the Dornoch Light Railway. In September of the same year made another trip to Dornoch with King Edward VII on the footplate.

The bogie saloon coach is now under the care of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society at the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway. It is understood that Beamish Museum plan to run the locomotive with the coach when all the restoration work required has been completed.

The Highland Railway became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) in 1923 and part of British Railways (BR) following nationalisation of the railways in 1948. The rights of the Duke of Sutherland to use his private train on BR track was terminated in 1949.

The locomotive was then sold in 1950 to Captain Howey who founded the Romney, Hyde & Dymchurch Railway where initially the locomotive went on static display. The locomotive ran as far south as Carlisle under its own steam in March 1950.

It left the Helmsdale shed at 06:40 and went to Golspie where it was attached to the saloon coach before departing at 07:35. After many stops to take on water in reached Perth by 09:15 the following day and Carlisle nearly eight hours later. At Carlisle the slide rods were removed and the locomotive was hauled as part of freight trains via Leeds, Toton Wellingborough, Cricklewood, Hither Green and finally Ashford eight days after setting off.

There is a photo of the locomotive at Golspie on its final journey on the National Railway Museum website at – https://collection.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/objects/co8223461/duke-of-sutherlands-train-at-golspie-during-her-last-journey-gelatin-silver-print-photograph I have not uploaded the photograph as it would involve paying a fee for its use.

Following Howey’s death in 1963 the locomotives and carriages were sold to Harold Foster who exported them to Canada. In 1965 Foster was declared bankrupt and the locomotive and carriages were then purchased for the Government of British Columbia for $15,000.

Dunrobin was chosen to haul Canada’s centenary train across the country. It was driven by Charles Bucknell who was seconded from British Railways at Colwick (Nottingham) depot for three months.

In 1991 the locomotive was displayed at the Steam Fair show at Sacramento, California alongside class J52 locomotive 1247 (68846).

The engine and coach were then put on display at Fort Steele heritage village where Dunrobin was steamed occasionally. It was last steamed there in 2005.

In January 2011 it was announced that Beamish Museum had bought the locomotive and carriage and they were transported back to Britain in May 2011.

Dunrobin went to the Severn Valley Railway for restoration. By 2018 work on the boiler was largely complete. The driving wheels were found to have many cracked spokes and the decision was taken to replace all four coupled wheels.

Dunrobin in the Steam Expo Parade at the World Fair help in Vancouver – 1986 Photo by Roger Puta

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