This locomotive was built in 1947 by Hudswell Clarke for the British Sugar Corporation BSC) to work at Woodston at Peterborough.
It was one of only two steam locomotives built new for BSC after the Second World War before the total commitment to diesel. It was also the largest steam locomotive owned by BSC.
It remained at Woodston for all of its working life where it was in daily use in the sugar beet season when it pushed wagons of beet from the farms up the steeply graded line to be uploaded at the factory. It also marshalled lengthy trains in the extensive siding that BSC had near the Fletton Loop just east of Orton Mere Station.
In the late 1960s diesel traction took over the duties that the locomotive had performed but it was still maintained in good condition.
In 1970 the newly formed Peterborough Railway Society (which later to become the Nene Valley Railway) set up their working base in a compound within sidings owned by BSC. The locomotive acquired the nickname Thomas at this stage because of its blue livery. In 1971 the author of the Thomas books (Rev W Audry) officially named the locomotive Thomas.
The locomotive was still put back into service during the autumn to spring sugar beet harvesting season until 1973.
BSC sold the locomotive to Peterborough Railway Society for a nominal £100. The Society stored the locomotive for several years until eventually parts, including a good boiler, from a similar locomotive were purchased from NCB Whitwood Colliery.
By 1979 it was back in steam as a major attraction at the Nene Valley Railway (NVR) at Wansford.
Following the failure of a diesel shunter at the BSC plant in 1986 the locomotive returned to its old haunts to work as a shunter again for one day whilst the diesel was repaired.
In the 1980s the locomotive (as Thomas) visited the Great Western Society at Didcot. So great were crowds that turned out to see the now – famous engine that the police had to be called to control the traffic. Thomasalso made visits to Leicester and Cambridge to promote the Nene Valley Railway. At a BR Open day at Cambridge in September 1990 and even took part in running a shuttle service under the overhead electric wires. It is claimed that it was the first industrial locomotive to run under the wires.
In the early 1990s, with its ten-year boiler certificate expired, Thomas underwent a major overhaul by NVR’s Wansford engineers, but work on major items was contracted out. The wheels were reworked by a Chatham – based specialist firm, whilst the boiler work was carried out at Swindon at a cost of many thousands of pounds. During this rebuild vacuum brake equipment was fitted to the locomotive.
There followed another period where the locomotive attracted large crowds who went to see Thomas. At his Wansford home as many as 8,000 visitors turned out to see the Thomas on just one working weekend.
It was taken out of service in 2002 for another ten year overhaul. The works was undertaken on a contract basis at a cost of almost £100,000 away from the Nene Valley Railway because of pressures from other work.
The locomotive continued to run as Thomas again until taken out of service in 2013 for another overhaul. It returned to steam again in June 2016.
The locomotive remains based on the Nene Valley Railway where it is restricted to operating around the yard at Wansford and hauling Wansford – Yarwell Junction shuttles. It does make an annual round trip to Peterborough once a year.
|1800 at the British Sugar Corporation works at Peterborough – September 1972|
|1800 on the Nene Valley Railway as Thomas – June 2016|