This locomotive was built in 1942 by Peckett & Sons for the Ministry of Supply and delivered new to ROF Sellafield. It spent all of its working life on this site although under different ownerships.
At this time the locomotive used oil rather than coal as the risk of using coal in an explosives factory was too high. After the end of the Second World War the demand for steam locomotives to shunt wagons on the Sellafield site had decreased to the extent that this was the only locomotive remaining there in 1947. The decision in that year to build a nuclear facility meant that there was a need for more locomotives and four others (including a diesel) were transferred to what was then renamed Windscale. The diesel turned out to be in a completely run-down state and was never used.
The locomotives were had to cope with the considerable construction traffic on the site and from the exchange sidings near Sellafield station on the Whitehaven-Barrow line.
The process of steaming up the oil burning locomotive was unpleasant for those working nearby. The air drawn in by the burners and the effects of combustion set up a considerable throbbing which could be felt unpleasantly in the adjacent machine shop and main stores building. It was agreed that this need not be tolerated since the necessity for oil burners no longer existed. As a result it was decided to revert to coal firing and the conversion was readily carried out on the plant.
The locomotives were housed in a two road shed and were very well maintained. When the locomotives were taken into UKAEA ownership in 1954 they were numbered to fit in with the asset register and thus 2027 became 4300/B/0001. 4300 indicated a new locomotive, B Windscale Works and 1 the first number in the series of locomotives. The full number was inscribed on a plate which was fitted to the rear of the bunker and number 1 was painted on the cab sides and on the front buffer beam.
The locomotive remained at Windscale Works for very many years –
it is noted as still being there in 1987 although it was only kept as a standby engine. At some stage the locomotive moved to the West Coast Railway depot at Carnforth where it remained for many years.
By January 2020 the locomotive was to be found outside the station at Irlam with the name Irlam painted on its side and with CWS Soap & Candle Works painted on its cab side. It still carries the UKAEA asset register of 4300/B/0001 and the number 2027. This followed the locomotive being acquired by Friends of Irlam Station as part of their work to improve the appearance of the site and interpret the area’s industrial history.
Putting the locomotive on a plinth outside Irlam station may appear strange but there is a logic to it. Three Peckett locomotives worked at the CWS Soap Works near Irlam. One (Works No 1530) was delivered 1919 and two (Works Nos 2130 and 2131 were supplied in 1951). All three have since been preserved. CWS owned rolling stock as well as locomotives and for many years ran a twice-daily service for the work force to coincide with main line train arrivals and departures at Irlam station. The service used an ex-Midland Railways six-wheel carriage, hauled by a Peckett locomotive. The carriage has since been restored and is on display in York Railway Museum. When the line at Irlam closed in 1966 2130 and 2131 were sold and then worked at Fort Dunlop. 1530 was sold in 1968 and moved to Falmouth Docks.
It is interesting to note that there was a triangle on the Sellafield site railway layout which allowed locomotives to be turned. Many preserved mainline locomotives used this and the water facilities on site when steam charter trains operated along the Cumbria coast to Ravenglass.
In 2011 the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which was running the Sellafield site at the time, informed West Coast Railway Company that its locomotives would no longer be allowed to use the triangle on the Sellafield site. At that time the facility had been made available for steam charters for 36 years but it was decided that it should stop due to the security threat level.
Brief History of Sellafield Site
ROF Sellafield was constructed in 1942 as a Second World War Royal Ordnance Factory close to ROF Drigg which had been built two years earlier. They were both built in isolated places on the coast, of what was then Cumberland, because of the hazardous nature of the processes carried out there and to minimise the risk of enemy air attacks. Both were classed as Explosive ROF sites specialising in high-explosive TNT at Drigg and propellant at Sellafield.
After the war the Sellafield site was briefly owned by Courtaulds for the development of a factory but reacquired by the Ministry of Supply at adapt the site for the production of materials for nuclear weapons.
The construction of the nuclear plant commenced in September 1947 and the plant was renamed Windscale Works. The construction of the site was a very large project and involved up to 5,000 workers. The two graphite-moderated reactors at Windscale which became known as the Windscale Piles became operational in 1950 and 1951. They were built to produce weapons grade plutonium. The fire in Pile 1 on 1957 was the worst nuclear accident in Britain.
The United Kingdom Atomic Energy (UKAEA) was formed in 1954 and took over the ownership of the Windscale Works.
In 1956 the worlds first civil nuclear power station became operational at Calder Hall. This became Calder Works which was located on the southern side of the River Calder with Windscale being on the northern side of the river where the reprocessing of nuclear fuel was undertaken. The two sites together making up the Sellafield Site.
In 1971 British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) was formed out of the Production Group of the UKAEA and took on overall responsibility for the Sellafield. UKAEA Reactor Group still managed the Windscale Piles and the prototype advanced gas cooled reactor which had commenced operating in 1962 plus some other facilities at Windscale.
I was employed on the Sellafield site from 1964 for a number of years and had a close association with the site until 2002.