This class W7 locomotive was built by Peckett & Sons in 1941 for the Ministry of Supply and was deployed at the Swynnerton Royal Ordnance factory.
The Royal Ordnance factory (ROF) at Swynnerton became operational in 1940 and by mid 1942 the number of people working at the site had grown to approximately 18,500. To meet the needs of transporting the workers to and from the factory the LMS built a new branch line, which was double track throughout, ran for just under 2 miles from Swynnerton Junction to Cold Meece railway station. All freight movements to the facility were via an extensive rail network which was served the West Coast main line between Crewe and Stafford.
After the end of the Second World War the factory and station both continued in use until 1958. The factory closed in May 1958 and although the last scheduled train ran in June 1958, the station did not officially close until August 1959. The branch had been lifted by September 1963.
At some time the locomotive was moved to the Ministry of Supply facility at Salwick near Preston which had sidings which connected with the Preston – Blackpool line. As this came under the control of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in 1954 it is probable that the movement took place prior to that date.
The purpose of the site was changed in 1946 when it ceased to be a munitions factory. From around this time the site had been making nuclear fuels and in 1955 the factory at Salwick produced the magnox fuel for the world’s first industrial nuclear power station at Calder Hall. Since then the factory (which I knew as Springfields) has produced several million fuel elements and supplied products and services to over 140 reactors in 15 countries.
In 1971 the Springfields site came under the control of British Nuclear Fuels plc which was formed from the Production Group of the UKAEA. UKAEA (Reactor Group) retained a presence on the site for some years after this.
I had an association with the Springfields plant dating back to 1970 and was unaware of the fact that there was a steam locomotive on the site. This is perhaps because the locomotive was only used as a standby but there was little evidence of any railway on the site.
The locomotive was sold by BNFL to the Middleton Railway in 1972 and was in use there for eighteen years.
At the Middleton Railway the locomotive was given the name John Blenkinsop in 1981 after the an English mining engineer and an inventor of steam locomotives, who designed the first practical railway locomotive. Amongst other things he managed the Middleton Collieries in the 1820s.
The locomotive has been out of use since 1990 and is currently on loan to the Ribble Steam Railway which is based just a few miles away from Salwick. At The Ribble Steam Railway it joined the two diesel locomotives based at Salwick – Mighty Atom and Sparky.
The locomotive was cosmetically restored at the Ribble Steam railway before going on display there in 2018.