This B2 class locomotive was built by Peckett & Sons in 1924 and purchased new by the Aberthaw & Bristol Channel Portland Cement Co. for use at its Rhoose works. Here it was given the name Fonmon after a medieval castle just a mile north-west of Roose in the Vale of Glamorgan.
I am indebted to Brian Mills (author of Aberthaw & Rhoose: Lime, Cement, Power Generation and the Railway) for much of the following.
Rhoose is a coastal village lying some 3 miles west of Barry and 11 miles from Cardiff. Rhoose cement works (as a separate company at the time) built its No.1 kiln during 1912 and was producing cement clinker by 1913. That company was taken over by the Aberthaw & Bristol Channel Portland Cement Co. Ld on 1st January 1919. (They always left the ‘t’ out of Ltd). They started their asbestos factory at Rhoose as early as 1930 and were making cement blocks and asbestos sheets by 1932, followed by a takeover of the asbestos plant by Turner & Newall in 1935 who then extended the site.
By 1920 the local limestone that had previously only been exploited locally became the raw material for both Rhoose and the Aberthaw Cement Works.
Mention of its use as a stationary boiler has been made on a couple websites yet the current cement company’s database has not been able to corroborate this fact. As an employee of Aberthaw Cement Co from 1953 to 1963 with my late father who worked for the Company for most of his life, I have a lot of data to hand and in fact am currently hoping to produce a book on the industry. The loco’s use for raising steam for heating fuel oil storage tanks for the plant’s conversion from coal to oil following my leaving the company in 1963, comes as no surprise and yet one of the plant managers (now retired) claims that this did not happen. Their Beach-head power station was definitely used for steam supply but when not running, logically, the use of ‘Fonmon’ for steam supply prior to 1964 seems inevitable during periods when their power station was shut down., However, Rhoose works installed steam plant specifically for oil heating duty in 1968.
The locomotive was purchased in 1974 and transferred to Radstock and subsequently to Bitton in 1976.
The locomotive was initially stored at Radstock Station. The plan at that time was that Radstock would be a major part of the initiative to re-open a section of the Somerset and Dorset Railway. The Somerset Railway and Dorset Railway Trust relocated to Washford on the West Somerset Railway in 1976.
When the Radstock project was disbanded the locomotive was moved to Bitton on what is now the Avon Valley Railway. It was restored and worked there until its boiler certificate expired in 1990. It was then overhauled and ran again until September 2009.
In 2015 the Spa Valley Railway put the locomotive up for sale on behalf of the owner with a guide price of £45,000. Although it had been an early stalwart on the line it was not powerful enough for the needs of the railway.
In September 2016 the locomotive moved to the Ribble Steam Railway where it is planned to return it to steam again.