Full steam ahead for Sidmouth locomotive restoration project

Eastleigh shed, 8 May 1959 (c) C Boocock

Eastleigh shed, 8 May 1959 (c) C Boocock - Credit: Archant

Enthusiasts have a unique opportunity to invest in part of Sidmouth’s rail heritage as a £300,000 locomotive restoration project has been put back on track.

The town’s namesake was one of a fleet of express steam locomotives used in the 1940s to haul trains from Waterloo to Devon and Dorset and the engine featured in the Herald on June, 27, 1947 when it was officially ‘christened’.

After an 18-year stint in the scrap yard, escaping the cutter’s torch, several changes in ownership and being overlooked for restoration once, Sidmouth is finally to be returned to its former glory.

Nick Thompson, of Regency Gate, is one of the driving forces behind the project and is hoping people will support it and even become part-owners of the locomotive.

Southern Locomotives Ltd – a specialist, not-for-profit company – bought Sidmouth in 1982, but it was only last month that chairman Simon Troy made the unexpected announcement of plans to start restoring it early next year, saying it is ‘now or never’.

Nick – a director and volunteer with the company - said: “It was sent to a scrap yard in South Wales before it was bought for preservation. However, buying 91 tonnes of rusting steel is the easy part – restoring it to working condition takes a lot of time and money.

“This is our best, and possibly the last, opportunity to bring 34010 Sidmouth back into service. Big, green locos with shiny brass nameplates attract people of all ages and it will bring the town of Sidmouth to the attention of people from all across the country.

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“This is the last one [of the fleet of locomotives named after the towns they served] to be restored.

“It was nearly in line for restoration a few years ago, but then someone gave us money to do a different engine.

“Sidmouth has now found its way to the front of the queue.”

Nick’s dad worked on the railways and as a life-long train enthusiast.

His interest piqued when he heard about the historic engine with such a strong link to where he lived. He called Southern Locomotives to enquire about Sidmouth and has been involved ever since.

The restoration project has already gained overwhelming support from the company’s shareholders, who have stumped up £30,000 of the estimated six figure costs.

Interested residents can buy shares for £250 up-front or by standing order from £10-a-month.

To find out more, contact Nick on 01395 519335, email: nicksidmouth@gmail.com or visit: www.southern-locomotives.co.uk