686 The Lady Armaghdale
At The Engine House
This six-coupled side-tank locomotive was built in Leeds by The Hunslet Engine Company Ltd., and delivered new to the Manchester Ship Canal Railway in December 1898. The sidings of this system abounded in sharp curves, a fact which was taken into account in the design of the locomotive, with additional lateral travel provided on the axleboxes of the leading coupled wheels; flangeless centre driving wheels and side rods with double pivot joints were employed.
Following arrival on the M.S.C. Railway, it was given the running number 14, and also the name ‘St. John’. As far as is known, the locomotive continued to work at various locations on the M.S.C. Railway system until 1938, when it is recorded that the locomotive was returned to The Hunslet Engine Co. for a major overhaul, receiving a new boiler in the process. On return to the M.S.C. Railway, it was put to work in the Manchester Docks area and worked satisfactorily up to 1958, when it was again sent to Hunslet for repair, this time being fitted with a new firebox and new tyres. Following this, it is believed to have worked in the Warrington area until 1963, when it was withdrawn as being ‘surplus to requirements’, caused by the introduction of diesel locomotives.
However, it did not remain idle for long, as it was purchased by I.C.I. Ltd., for use at their Dyestuffs Division Works at Blackley in Manchester, only a few miles away from its former depot at Mode Wheel. Once at Blackley, the locomotive received a change of livery. The black of the M.S.C. was replaced by a cherry red livery, edged black and lined yellow. At the same time, the locomotive was renamed ‘The Lady Armaghdale’. The locomotive was used regularly at Blackley for transferring coal from the B.R. exchange sidings, on the Manchester—Bury electrified line, to the boiler house within the works.
In 1968, for reasons of economy, it was decided to abandon rail traffic, and thus in December 1968, the locomotive again became redundant. However, the firm decided to offer the locomotive for preservation and it was purchased by the same Group who had earlier purchased ‘Warwickshire’. 686 was transported to Bridgnorth in July 1969.
Following minor repairs, the locomotive was in regular use on shunting and pilot duties for some time, until taken out of operation for major mechanical work. After further extensive repairs at Bridgnorth, 686 was steamed again, and outshopped as ‘Thomas’ in blue livery in March 1994. In addition to being the star of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ events which were held regularly at Kidderminster, the engine has the most extensive record of hire to other railways of any SVR-based engine!
It operated as Thomas for some years, but was withdrawn from service in 2009, and cosmetically restored as “The Lady Armaghdale” for display in the Engine House.
The Warwickshire Industrial Locomotive Trust website has further information.