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 remains.
It is interesting to note that there was a triangle on the 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 Caurtaulds 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.