Between the dates of 28th of may and 5th of June in 2016 the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society hosted a large event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a very special type of locomotive. The Motor Rail Simplex was designed in 1916 as a cheap, reliable and easy to operate locomotive for the british trench railways in the first world war, and are still being built (albeit in very limited numbers) to this day. A design that truly stood the test of time. They came in many forms, from small basic 20hp tractors right up to large locomotives with well in excess of 100hp. This event celebrated the entire history of the Motor Rail and Tramcar company whose factory was located on Elstow Road in Bedford, and being that Leighton Buzzard is located close to Bedford, it is only right that the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society would mark this important milestone in the history of these marvelous locomotives. The event culminated in a record breaking run hauled by a total of 17 locomotives! With 16 on the front and one on the back it was quite the spectacle to behold! I had the fortune to be working there all of the weekend days of the event and would like to share as much of my experience as I can for the benefit of those who couldn’t make it.
On the Saturday I was helping out with the industrial train displays at Stonehenge Works, where we spent the day driving and shunting trains around the yards to demonstrate the locomotives in action and hauling the sort of wagons that they normally would have been seen on. Due to an incident in the morning, one of the passenger trains had to be cancelled. This meant that we had quite a bit of free time between trains where very little was going on. I made the most of this time by doing some photography around the Stonehenge works site. On the display trains we had Red Rum and Damredub, two 20hp simplexes, Damredub having the original Dorman engine and a hand start, Red Rum having a newer Perkins engine with the luxury of an electric start! Below is the gallery of photos from the saturday.
I also made a few drivers eye view type videos during that day. I edited them together and below is the result.
On the sunday was the climax of the event, with the simplex Cavalcade forming the 16:25 departure from Stonehenge Works. A supplement was added to the far on this train with all passengers getting a certificate to say that they were onboard the record breaking run. I was the guard for the diesel trains this day, which fortunately meant that I had the opportunity to ride this train, As II was busy with my guard duties this day I didn’t take as many photos as the saturday, but below are the shots I managed to take.
I also took the opportunity to make a video of the entire run, shown below in near real time.
After the Cavalcade the previous day a normal train seemed quite boring in comparison. I was guard again, I was intending to be on the display trains again, but due to last minute staff shortages I couldn’t play trains, but had to do some proper work instead. as with the other days, there were loco changes, multiple heading on all trains, and a good thrash coming from the locos. But compared to the previous day’s running, it just seemed to be lacking something, perhaps it was the complete insanity of the day before. whatever it was I just couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Anyway, below are my photos from that day, once again I didn’t take as many photos because I was busy being a guard.
Saturday 04/06/2016 and Sunday 05/06/2016
The next weekend I was back again, on the saturday I was helping with the industrial train display. It was a really busy day at stonehenge as several people from the Apedale railway came to help out/play with our trains. I didn’t take any photos that day as it was all action and almost no downtime but it was a great day for all involved. We used Red Rum, Damredub, Apedale’s G class, and LR 2478 on the display trains.
On the Sunday I was the Secondman for the loco crews, meaning that I was riding on the engines, changing the points, flagging the roads, swapping the single line tokens, and acting as a lookout for the drivers. many historical images show people riding on the front of simplex locomotives, it may look uncomfortable, but it is far less unpleasant than you’d think. The day absolutely flew by and again I wasn’t able to take any photos, I didn’t even stop to think and when it got to the evening and we were all going home it still felt like we’d only just started!
To conclude, this was an absolutely fantastic two weekends, I met some amazing people from the other railways who came to visit and brought their locos over to play with us. (with more railways added to my incredibly long list of places I need to visit). The highlight by a country mile was the record breaking cavalcade on the sunday with 17 locomotives on one train, but the whole event was a magnificent spectacle and I would love to see something similar again.
I would also like to thank the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway for hosting the event and allowing me to be a part of it, the Moseley Railway Trust/Apedale Valley Light Railway, The Golden Valley Light Railway and the Abbey Pumping Station for providing guest locomotives and crews for the event. This was a fantastic event and well worth it at the end.