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  • Mystery Number 34 – supplied by anonymous

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    Webb ‘Coal Tank’ No. 3287 is obviously taking water somewhere... but where, what and when? Can you help us out?

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  • Robert H. Barlow — 31-Mar-2005 3.14 PM
    Coal Tank with duplicate number 3287 was originally number 549 built in December 1886 and renumbered in January 1922. It became LMS number 7550, applied in December 1927 and was motor fitted around the same date. Withdrawal came in July 1931.
    The condition of the engine suggests a date in the first half of the period 1922-27.
    Mike Bentley — 07-Apr-2005 10.21 PM
    The photograph was taken at Greenfield. I have seen a print of this with the date 1915 written on the back, but that must be wrong because the engine became 3287 in 1.1922. Its number in the capital list was then taken by a Beardmore Prince, as happened to several of its contemporaries. There seem to be carriages on either side of the engine, and cords seem to be rigged connecting them to the engine cab. So perhaps it is working a motor train of some sort, though the carriage facing the camera has a corridor end. Perhaps the engine is shedded at Lees (Oldham) and the train is working from Oldham to Stalybridge or Delph.
    Dave Pennington — 17-Apr-2005 12.09 PM
    I have just received a copy of Back Track Vol.3 No.2. This has a copy of the photo and the caption states that the train is a push-pull working from Oldham Clegg Street at Greenfield c1915
    Reg Instone — 06-Sep-2016 5.56 PM
    Since this was originally posted, we have the benefit of Pete Skellon's excellent research into the history of the Coal Tanks, leading to the publication of his book on the subject.
    Coal tank 549 (later 3287) was one of 13 Coal Tanks fitted by the LNWR with rodding for working motor trains in 1920-21, in this case in April 1921. It may have been allocated to Lees shed soon afterwards, and was certainly there on 22/2/28, by which time it had received its LMS number 7550 (applied 12/27). Lees provided the stock for the Oldham - Greenfield - Delph motor service. When the ex-LNWR rodding system was abolished and replaced by the LMS standard VCR (phased in 1927-32) this engine was not deemed suitable for conversion, and was withdrawn in June 1931 (or July) without receiving VCR equipment.
    So - the photo must date from some time between 1923 and 1927.
    A number of corridor coaches were fitted with rodding in the early 1920s, for use in motor trains. From memory, I think they were something like diagrams M72 to M77, but I don't have my notes with me. I had wondered which services they were used on, so here is a clue! There is not much detail in the photo for a positive identification - is that a high-roof carriage?
    Reg Instone — 09-Sep-2016 10.27 AM
    Having been home and checked my records, I find that I was nearly right about the rodding-fitted corridor coaches.
    The first such carriages on the LNWR were the four 50'x9' toplight corridor thirds of diagram M52, each with a driving compartment, built in 1913, apparently as an extension of the batch of otherwise-identical D267 "standard" corridor thirds. See Jenkinson p154. I have yet to find any documentation explaining why they were built. As far as I know, there is no information on the allocation of these in early LMS days.
    They were the only motor-fitted corridor coaches on the LNWR until after the Great War. Then three vehicles were converted to M75 around 1921, but these were cove roof, so can be ignored for present purposes (D264 > M75). In 1923-24 12 high roof carriages of D265 (built 1908-10) were fitted with rodding for an unknown service. 6 had one lavatory replaced by a luggage compartment, but the other 6 didn't, so they may have been intended to work as 6 pairs, with associated driving coaches in 4-coach sets. This is just speculation, however. [all 12 were converted to M76A in 1927, but that was after the date of the photo.]
    The photo shows coaches coupled at either end of 3287, which is an arrangement only adopted for four-coach working, with the engine in the centre. Any further conclusions would be little more than a guess, and probably unwise!
    Thanks are due to the late David Jenkinson for the basic facts of the diagrams, and to Philip Millard for some of the detail. A set of motor coach diagrams recently transferred from the NRM to the LNWRSC has also been useful.
    The large Railmotor no. (500)7 and its trailer 1777 were built to work the Delph branch, and were used for a short period in 1910-11 before being taken off in March 1911, and then sent to the Prestatyn branch. The February 1911 WTT shows "Motor" services between Clegg Street and Greenfield between 8.0 and 11.42, also 2/5 to 5/31 SX with a single trip to Delph arriving at 4/40.
    Motor train services to Delph commenced in October 1911 using a 2-coach open set transferred from Rickmansworth (M17 + M46). 4'6" 2-4-2 tanks were the motive power, presumably. A second open set was converted in late 1911 /early 1912 specifically for this branch, and brought into service between February and August (M14 + M48). These two sets were still working in February 1916, but events after this date have not yet been investigated. The appearance of coal tanks and corridor coaches on the motor service would seem to indicate some further changes at an unknown date, probably after 1921.
    Reg Instone — 13-Sep-2016 1.09 PM
    The engine was standing at the water tank at the Huddersfield end of the Down platform, underneath overbridge 28. The photographer was looking across from the Up platform. See plan on p44 of "Scenes from the Past 49" (Foxline). So the coaches behind the engine were in the platform, but those in front of the engine weren't.
    I note that in the book this configuration was known locally as "double motor".
    Reg Instone — 20-Oct-2016 5.23 PM
    I have recently found some further information that sheds some light on the 13 Coal Tanks fitted with rodding in 1920-21. Allocation records show that, apart from Abergavenny, in the period 1924-25 the motor fitted engines were at Lees, Sutton Oak and Bangor. I have no proof that the engine in the photo was at Lees before 1928, but other fitted engines certainly were.
    At the Passenger Traffic Comm (PTC) meeting on 28th July 1920, minute 15658 reads: "Owing to the recent considerable increase in traffic between Oldham, Greenfield and Delph, it will be necessary to run three or four coach trains instead of the present two coach trains, and in order to accommodate them ..." (platforms to be lengthened).
    So the fitting of these 13 engines in 1920-21, and specifically this engine in April 1921, seems very likely to be direct result of this decision - and a similar one in regard of the St Helens - Warrington motor service, and perhaps others as well. Is it possible that the 4'6" tanks previously employed were deemed to be insufficiently powerful for 4 coach trains? That would lead to the Lees allocation (and Sutton Oak) of rodding-fitted 4'6" tanks being replaced by Coal Tanks. If so, that would explain a lot!
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