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"Dean Goods" 2516, which is the sole surviving member of a large class of 260 0-6-0 goods locos in the '2301 class' designed by William Dean.
Built in 1897 at the Swindon works of the Great Western Railway, In 1913 it was fitted with a Belpaire boiler and in 1935 a superheater.
It spent most of its BR life working from Oswestry but also spent time at Brecon, Llanidloes and also briefly at Reading.
It was withdrawn by British Railways in May 1956 from Oswestry shed, still carrying GWR lettering rather than BR. After a period in open storage at Swindon, it became part of the National Collection, it is currently (2021) in the 'Steam' museum in Swindon.
Locomotives from this class were famously sent abroad on war service, in both the first and second World Wars. By the 1950s the survivors hung on for use principally on branch lines with lightly-laid track. The last of the class to be withdrawn was 2358 in 1957.
Preserved British Steam Locomotives website
'Locomotive Classes extinct in 1957', The Mancunian 258, page 64.
The MLS/SLS Shropshire Railtour 23 April 1955
Passing Presthope on the freight-only Much Wenlock - Longville section.
This was the ninth tour which the Society ran jointly with the Stephenson Locomotive Society and it carried 171 passengers in a four coach train, covering a distance of about 100 miles. It was hauled by GWR 2516, one of Dean's 0-6-0 goods engines, with Driver Bob Higgins at the controls with 21 year old fireman Ron Evans, both of Shrewsbury. Much of the route was to follow the tracks of the old Ironmasters which included the villages of Ironbridge, Coalbrookdale and Coalport whose names are synonymous with the industrial revolution.
History of the Area
The triangle formed by joining Coalbrookdale, Oakengates and Coalport played a big part in this country's industrial development and records show that coal was exported from mines in the area as early as the sixteenth century via the River Severn when Abraham Darby, the Ironmaster at Coalbrookdale, began using coke rather than charcoal as his fuel to smelt iron in 1709, his innovation revolutionised ironmaking as it was much cheaper and quicker to produce, so the future of the collieries and the ironworks was secured for years.
By the end of the 18th century the business had increased enormously and among the famous men associated with the Shropshire ironmasters were Thomas Telford, Richard Trevithick and the architect John Nash. Telford when surveyor for Shropshire became the first great master in the structural use of iron. He built his first iron bridge over the River Severn at Buildwas (it no longer survives) but other of his works do He was responsible for the world's first iron trough aqueduct which carried the Shrewsbury Canal over the River Tern, a tributary of the Severn, at Longton on Tern about 3½ miles north west of Wellington. Its trough was cast at Ketley Ironworks by William Reynolds who was closely associated with the Darby family and this was the prototype of Telford's famous aqueduct at Pont Cysyllte over the River Dee near Ruabon Trevithick, the pioneer in the use of high pressure steam, visited Coalbrookdale in 1796 and in 1802, carrying out many of his experiments in the ironworks.
One of the results was the first steam locomotive in the world which ran on Coalbrookdale rails in 1802, before the Penydarren trials in South Wales. And John Nash recognised the possibilities of iron in architecture when in 1805 he designed for Lord Berwick at Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury, the oldest surviving roof-lit picture gallery. The slender carved iron frames in which the roof lights are held were cast at Coalbrookdale By the end of the 18th century output from the ironworks had increased enormously and was exported via the River Severn. Three generations of the Darby family were involved and in 1754 they built new smelting furnaces at Horsehay which were connected with Coalbrookdale and the river by waggonways, the plates of which were manufactured at Coalbrookdale foundry. In addition, a long 1050 ft. inclined plane was built to lift and lower canal boats to and from the river.
The third Abraham Darby is perhaps best remembered for his bridge construction and in particular for the world's first cast iron bridge which was completed across the Severn Gorge. it does not contain a single bolt, nut or rivet. It was cast at Coalbrookdale, is 196 ft long with one major span of 100 ft. It is still in use for pedestrians but closed for vehicles in the 1930s. It is now a substantial reminder of the achievements of those very early days in the area.
Railways reached the Coalbrookdale area in the 1850s, starting with the Shrewsbury to Wellington line which eventually became GWR and LNWR Joint and opened on 1/6/1849 It was extended by the GWR to Wolverhampton in November of the same year. The tour started from Platform 6 at Shrewsbury at 2.25pm with 2516 carrying the usual load of passengers; there were hardened members who never missed a railtour anywhere and others of more selective nature such as those who timed and noted every passing feature on laboriously drawn up schedules tediously prepared with columns of red and green inks.
Among the bric a brac on the various tables might be the principal weapons of those about to indulge their fancies to the full; for some the one-inch map, for others the RCH diagrams and a smaller contingent content to log every engine number and consider the day well spent. Others eagerly scanned through the windows for any evidence of old tramways or canals or to see who might spot the cameras of Arthur Camwell or Patrick Whitehouse as a small number of road vehicles followed us about.
Leaving Shrewsbury round the curve towards Wellington we soon got going at a spanking pace.
There was a brief stop at Wellington (above) to pick up more enthusiasts including two people who were fighting to get the closed Coalport line re-opened. Leaving here we continued on the main line for just over a mile before branching on the single track Much Wenlock line at Ketley Junction. The ruling gradient was 1 in 50 and in just under another half mile passed Ketley station 1m 47ch from Wellington) with substantial buildings on the down side and a siding which gave access to a factory It was also the site of a one-time ironworks. ln another half mile we passed Ketley Town Halt (opened 6/3/1936) which consisted of a short wooden platform with a timber shelter on the left of the line.
The next station, again half a mile distant, was New Dale Halt (opened 29/1/1934) which was identical in construction. The line still climbed round sharp curves at 1 in 45 to the level crossing at Lawley Bank which had a combined signal cabin and timber shelter and was at the top of the bank. From leaving the junction our progress up the hill got slower and slower and we began to think it would be the worst place for the brakes to leak on.
The loco was certainly winded but made it to the top of the bank, then stopped. Heads hung out of windows and we learned that the fire was in poor shape, the driver calling to Heaven for a "Pannier". It was a long halt and at such an early stage our schedule had been upset, but when we finally set off again we simply flew down the steep bank (1 in 40) towards the Severn Valley.
Horsehay & Dawley was the next station, a low single storey brick building with a signal cabin. Here a section of a plateway was still in use and was one of the first sections of the Coalbrookdale system to be laid down. Horsehay Works had been responsible for casting axle trees for the wagons from an early date but all standard gauge wagons at the present time were moved by tractor. However, we did not have even a glimpse of the plateway from the train. From here we descended through rolling countryside to Doseley Halt (opened 1.12.1932) which had a wooden platform and shelter.
At Lightmoor Junction the line from Madeley Junction trailed in on the left and double track began. Lightmoor was the brickworks of the Coalbrookdale Company and plateways ran to Coalbrookdale along the same valley as the GWR. The gradient also steepened to 1 in 50 again as Lightmoor was reached. The station had both timber and corrugated iron buildings and opened on 12.8,1907 when it was known as Lightmoor Platform. It closed between 1.1.1917 and 7.7.1919 and was fully staffed at the time of our tour. It subsequently became unstaffed from 6.2.1956.
From here we continued the descent towards the river, passing the wooden building of Green Bank Halt (opened 12.3.1934). lnmediately beyond we passed over what was known as "diggers Bank", the site of an early inclined plane to Horsehay (a jigger is a mechanical contrivance for hauling wagons to a considerable height) and then into the beautiful scenery of the narrow Coalbrookdale and over the rooftops of the famous works and the village in the valley on the left. Below were the remains of the original "Top Works", the lower part being much more recent. A signalbox and sidings to the ironworks heralded the station which at the time of the tour was fully staffed It had substantial brick buildings and became unstaffed on 1.10.1956. Coalbrookdale Company possessed many industrial locos during its history but in 1955 had just one O-4-OST, Peckett 2039 of 1943. There were also the remains of a couple of Sentinel locos rusting away in the yard.
The train then crossed Albert Edward Bridge over the Severn from where it was possible to get a glimpse of the Iron Bridge on the left. And so to Buildwas where the train stopped and emptied as our fellow travellers shot out to photograph the "Dean Goods" at its unscheduled stop. We should have passed here at 3.12pm but by now it was much later. A "Pannier" was available to take over, but thanks to some fine work with pricker and shovel, the fire was in good shape and the errant photographers bundled back into the train.
Buildwas was the junction with the Severn Valley line, 8m 9ch from Wellington and the tenth station since leaving there. The main station buildings were in the fork of the Severn Valley and Much Wenlock lines but the platform for the latter was at a higher level. To the north was Buildwas generating station with its extensive sidings controlled by a modern 114-lever signalbox. Also a glance to the right revealed Buildwas Abbey, situated in a meadow beside the river and reckoned to be one of the finest ruined abbeys in the country.
Also seen nearby was the 1334 ft high hump of "The Wrekin", something of a geological oddity, rising abruptly from the flat Severn plain and remote from the nearest range of hills. It is said to be the result of volcanic activity several million years ago.
Leaving Buildwas, the Much Wenlock line immediately began to climb at 1 in 40 but the "Dean" ran confidently up the long hill, keeping company with the B4378 road, the river and the woodland through Farley Dingle Halt (opened 27.10.1934) which was 2¼m from Buildwas. The wooden platform and shelter were well below the level of the road which crossed the line at the western end of the station. Just beyond the bridge was a siding to an underground petrol store which was put in here during the second war. This led to the waiving of certain locomotive restrictions on the line, "Red" group engines except 47XX class 2-8-Os being allowed to work Government traffic from Buildwas although previously the heaviest locos allowed were "Blue" group 51XX 2-6-2Ts. It is said, however, that great difficulty was experienced with larger engines on the sharp curves and gradients, particularly in wet weather.
And so to the small market town of Much Wenlock which had a single platform with a very impressive Gothic stone building with a large picturesque rockery on the other side. There was also a signal box, sidings and a one-road engine shed. The town had kept a lot of its medieval character, its most famous attraction being its ruined priory which was originally founded in the 7th century, destroyed by the Danes in the 9th century but rebuilt some 100 years later at the instigation of Lady Godiva. ln 1955 the passenger trains from Wellington terminated here but the line westward as far as Longville was still open for freight and the tour train continued its journey along this overgrown section.
We passed Westwood Halt (opened 7.12.1935) and in just over a mile reached the village of Presthope which was the temporary terminus of the line from Much Wenlock when it opened in December 1864. The Wenlock Railway then had to divert from its original planned course south of Wenlock Edge and tunnel before reaching yet another Halt at Easthope (opened 4.4.1936). Here the village nestled in a hollow and there were splendid views of The Wrekin and the Welsh Hills in the distance. On this section was the summit of the line at about 700 feet above sea level and the greatest altitude reached by a normal railway line in Shropshire (though Clee Hill Quarries were higher).
We then began to descend for just under 2 miles to the end of the line at Longville where the station had sturdy red brick buildings. All along this section, cottagers left their housework to stare in amazement at the sight of a passenger train which they had not seen since the end of 1951.
The engine ran round the train in the goods yard, an operation scheduled to take 18 minutes, then we retraced our journey back to Lightmoor Junction, stopping for water at Much Wenlock. At Lightmoor we took the 3m 76ch single track to Madeley Junction. 2 miles north of Shifnal on the Wellington—Wolverhampton line. This was the earliest of the branches over which we travelled, opened on 1.6.1853 by the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway. After about a mile, the LNWR Coalport line crossed by an overbridge and just before this we could see the LNWR Madeley Market station on the right. Immediately beyond was the GWR Madeley (Salop) station, the only intermediate station which had closed to passenger traffic in 1925, but all the buildings and goods depot were still standing.
Immediately beyond the station we crossed the site of the Coalport branch of the Shropshire Canal but its course only existed as a muddy ditch towards Coalport whilst in the other direction to Trench it could only be traced by following a series of pools and hollows. The GWR branch to Kemberton Colliery came next, coal from which was originally carried to the canal by a tramway. In worsening weather conditions we came to Madeley Junction, now about 30 minutes late, and here the engine ran round to take us back to Wellington for yet another reversal. Our appearance here caused quite a flutter among the regular clientele.
Now we took the LNWR Stafford line to Hadley Junction, passing Hadley Castle Car works (renamed Sankey's) which built many of the early tramcars for Manchester and other undertakings. Shropshire never had a single yard of public tramway within its borders. At the junction we took the 8 mile long LNWR Coalport branch, passing on the left the remains of the canal inclined plane which connected the Shropshire Canal with the Newport branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. Then we passed Oakengates (LNWR) station and a startled queue outside the Grosvenor Cinema.
For some miles we were now clear of that little industrial belt, and once over the Lightmoor - Madeley Junction line over which we had travelled some 4O minutes earlier, we began the steep drop through Madeley Market where lines of children cheered us as we slipped by. We were now nearing Coalport, hemmed in by woodland where one of our members lost his hat on a swinging branch. This last section was in the bottom of the valley with the canal on the hillside to the east. Further on there was a siding to Blist's Hill Works and a considerable overbridge which carried a plateway to the foot of an inclined plane which climbed to the top of the valley on its way to Madeley Wood.
Work in this area was started by Darby interests but latterly was in the hands of the Madeley Wood Company, and there were many relics of the old plateways. In the 1800s it must have resembled an inferno with three blast furnaces, kilns, brick and tile works and steam winding engines hauling coal, clay and iron from the mines which reached to a depth of 600 feet, But in 1955 all was silent, the mines being abandoned in 1941.
And so we came to Coalport station (above) where a small crowd had gathered to welcome us. The sun, hesitant all day, broke through for some of the best photographs of the tour. There was time to inspect the station, laid out with typical Euston thoroughness which included goods shed, carriage shed and engine shed, all on a palatial scale relative to
the size of the village and the branch.
Beside the disused canal stood the abandoned buildings of the China Porcelain Works of the Coalport Company which occupied the site from the mid 18th century until 1926 when it became part of the Wedgwood Group and moved to Staffordshire but retained the name ”Coalport”. The buildings later became a museum showing the history of the porcelain china industry and of Coalport in particular.
The passenger service between Wellington and Coalport was withdrawn from 2/6/1952 and consisted of six trains daily and was known locally as "The Dodger”.
The tour reversed again at Coalport, leaving 20 minutes late to negotiate the gruelling climb when one comic remarked "First class remain seated, second class please leave and walk and third class get out and push”. We stopped at Wellington but then 2516 demonstrated her recuperative powers along the main line to Shrewsbury and we rounded the 25 chain Abbey Foregate curve in beautiful evening sunshine. This curve opened on 1/5/1867 but was seldom used by passenger trains although frequently by freight.
After passing the loco sheds, we took the Welshpool line and a course alongside the old "Potts" line which eventually climbed over us. A noticeable feature here was the fantastic shortness of the rails. After passing Hanwood station with its brick signal box, we went on to the Minsterley branch at Cruckmeole Junction. This single track joint GWR/LNWR line opened on 14/2/1861. The first station was Plealey Road with platforms and buildings on the right, then Pontesbury where a cheering group was on the platform on the left of the line. Its buildings were two storeys in height.
Just beyond, many eyes had a fleeting glimpse of the Snailbeach Railway and then we came to the terminus at Minsterley (above) where it seemed that most of the inhabitants were there to greet us. The local folk seemed genuinely pleased to see a passenger train at the station once again as services had been withdrawn from 5/5/1951 as a result of the national fuel crisis. The platform and buildings were on the right hand side.
Our stay was all too short because we had to be back in Shrewsbury to make certain connections, so after reversing for the last time the tour train was given a rousing send off as we left at 7.58pm. we learned later that our progress to Shrewsbury was relayed in a manner similar to the broadcasts of The Boat Race - passing Hanwood now", "engine going well", "just coming up to Shrewsbury West now” etc etc. We were just half an hour late into Shrewsbury but with the same goodwill which had been apparent from those officers who had travelled with us, the authorities at Shrewsbury had held the connections.
Our driver was unreservedly delighted, all the troubles with the fire having been forgotten. "I've certainly enjoyed myself today and what a shame that there will not be another quite like it", said he. We all shared his views. Thanks were due to Mr. W. Griffiths, District Commercial Manager at Shrewsbury who turned out to see us off and to all his operating colleagues who had so admirably met all our requirements. Likewise to the train crew. Like other railtours which we had run, this one gained a lot of favourable publicity in the local press.
These notes have been taken from the tour itinerary issued to all members who took part on the tour, from historical notes on the Coalbrookdale area written by J.M.Lloyd, from a report on the tour written by Harry Townley and from an article in the July 1965 Railway Magazine titled "In the tracks of the Iron Masters” by J.M.Tolson.
Text originally published in The Mancunian, the Society's journal, issue no. 245. This tour should not be confused with another of the same name which ran ten years later.
Last update December 2021. Comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org