Lough Erne was one of the last two steam locomotives built for the 5ft 3in Irish gauge railway. They were built by Beyer Peacock in Manchester in 1949 for the Sligo, Leitrim and Northern Counties Railway (SL&NCR). The SL&NCR owned just over 43 miles of line from Enniskillen to Carrignagat Junction with running powers over 5 miles of the Coras Iompair Eireamm (CIE) to Sligo
The class followed previous designs on the railway which had employed the 0-6-4T for some time. In fact the locomotives looked little different from engines built in 1904 and 1905 although there were significant design differences including larger diameter cylinders.
At the time of the acquisition the SL&NCR could not afford to buy the engines and instead leased them from the manufacturers. It is worth noting that the SL&NCR was the last privately owned railway undertaking in Ireland as it was not absorbed into the Irish State’s Great Southern Railway in 1925.
The railway operated in a sparsely populated area and never prospered and was subsidised by Governments on both sides of the border in Ireland. The railway closed in October 1957 following the Government of Northern Ireland making the Great Northern Railway close its line through Enniskillen.
After the railway’s closure, the other remaining steam engines went for scrap.
In 1959 the Ulster Transport Authority (UTA) bought the two Lough class locomotives from Beyer Peacock and gave them number 26 Lough Melvin and 27 Lough Erne (Beyer Peacock works number 7242). They were initially based by the UTA at Adelaide shed from where they undertook shunting duties in the Belfast quays and Grosvenor street goods yard.
Parts of No.27’s rear frames were cut away to increase the angle through which the bogie would move and so allow the engine to negotiate tight curves in the quays area. It was probably also at this time that the steps became bent – more likely by accident than by design.
Later the engines were transferred to York Road, Belfast, where Lough Erne remained mostly on shunting duties until withdrawal in 1969. Lough Melvin was withdrawn from service two years earlier and was scrapped before Lough Erne was withdrawn.
Following withdrawal from service Lough Erne locomotive was acquired by the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland. The locomotive then carried out shunting duties at the RPSI’s Whitehead headquarters in County Antrim until the boiler certificate expired in 1972.