Tale of a tank engine (and it’s not Thomas)

Borrowed time: BR 80072 in Barry, 1986

Owen and I went on a steam train today. We took the short ride on the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway.

The train was pulled by an impressive tank engine, BR 2-6-4T 80072, built the month my sister was born, November 1953. Like most engines on preserved lines, it was rescued from Barry scrapyard in South Wales – steam’s graveyard. I’ve blogged before about this remarkable place, and today wondered if by chance I’d taken a photo of 80072 on my visits to Barry in the 1970s and 1980s. It seemed unlikely – I always made a beeline for express engines such as GWR King Edward II, rather than the less glamorous British Railways standard tank engines. But going through my old photos I found out that I had snapped 80072 on my last visit to Barry, in October 1986. By then, the remaining engines were in a very bad way.

It’s little short of a miracle that this wreck is today pulling trains again. All credit to everyone who made it possible.

80072 had an interesting history even before the great escape from Barry. It hauled commuter trains from Southend and Tilbury to London’s Fenchurch Street. It then had a complete change of scene, moving to Swansea to work the beautiful central Wales line. The month before I was born it moved back to England, to Leamington, working parcels and car transporter trains.

PS: curiously, I didn’t take a photo today. That’s almost as remarkable as the fact I photographed our engine 26 years ago…

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