Peckett & Sons     Works No 2031 Ashley 0-4-0ST

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This class M5 locomotive was built by Peckett & Sons in 1942 to work at the Exeter Gas Works.

The first gasworks in Exeter were built between 1815-17 on Exe Island by the Exeter Gas Light & Coke Company which had been established by Act of Parliament in June 1816.

A rival company, the Exeter Commercial Gas Light & Coke Company was established on Haven Banks, by Kings Sluice in 1836 but three years later this company was taken over by its rival from Exe Island.

Haven Banks was rebuilt in 1878 and in 1903 a tramway was installed to carry coal into the works from the canal basin. The works were again extended in 1912. In the 1920’s it was extended yet again to cater for the demands from developments taking place in Exeter.

Along with many other parts of Exeter, the gasworks was bombed during the May 1942 air raid. Two 500 kilo bombs were dropped at 02:30 – a report at the time said:

“Gas Works – 1 large oil tank approx 100′ in diameter & 18′ deep containing heavy oil and ammonical plant, destroyed by fire. Wynch House of Coke and Skip-hoist, damaged by fire. 100 kilo watt engine damaged by fire”.

The 1948 Gas Act created twelve area gas boards across the country and the Exeter Gaslight and Coke Company, along with 1063 other independent gas companies were merged into one or other of the twelve.

In 1952 the whole works was redeveloped yet again to increase gas production and a large, brick built gas retort was completed in 1956. The Exeter gasworks was the last in the south west to output coal gas, ceasing production in 1971, followed by demolition of the plant in 1973 when North Sea Gas was introduced.

The locomotive spent all of its working life at the Gas Works. It moved to the Dart Valley Railway (now the South Devon Railway) some time before the closure of the plant in 1971.

Apart from the odd visit to other heritage sites it has remained at on the South Devon Railway ever since and is owned by the South Devon Railway Association.

The locomotive has been given the name Ashley in honour of Ashley Burgess who was the preserved railways first permanent way inspector.

The locomotive is now on static display in the museum at Buckfastleigh.

2031 at Exeter Gas Works – circa 1967
2031 at Buckfastleigh in what was then the Dart Valley Railway – August 1970
2031 under restoration at Buckfastleigh on the Dart Valley Railway – August 1972
2031 at Buckfastleigh – April 1982
2031 in the museum at Buckfastleigh on the South Devon Railway – April 2018

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