When will Sidmouth steam again?

More funding needed to start restoration on Sidmouth locomotive

WHEN Nostalgia found a photo of a rusting steam locomotive with the word Sidmouth crudely painted on it, news editor Di Bowerman knew who to ask to find out more - Sidmouth resident Nick Thompson, webmaster for the restoration group which owns the loco, who recently ran a popular Steam Evening in the town.

He writes: “The loco was built by the Southern Railway in 1945, and was one of a series named after towns in the West Country. The only time that it ever came along the branch line to Sidmouth was on 27th June 1946 when it was named by Mr Lancaster Smith on behalf of Sidmouth council. The Sidmouth Herald was there to record the occasion which was reported in the June 29 edition.

The class was 4-6-2 Pacific type express passenger locos designed by Oliver Bulleid, and built in Brighton works to haul passenger trains from Waterloo to Bournemouth, Weymouth, Exeter and points west.

In the 1960’s, steam gave way to diesel and the ageing locos were sent for scrap. Number 34010 Sidmouth was sent to Woodham’s scrapyard in South Wales where it lay quietly rusting for 17 years until it was purchased for preservation.

In 1982 the loco arrived at Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (famous as the setting of ITV’s Heartbeat) however little work was done there, and in 1997 it was sold to restoration company Southern Locomotives Ltd.

Work started on the restoration of Sidmouth, and a replica nameplate was made. This was displayed in Field’s window for some weeks, and a number of residents came forward to support the project which allowed valuable parts to be obtained.

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However more recently Southern Locos has focused on projects for which funding was available, and work on Sidmouth will restart when sufficient money is available to ensure that it can be completed in a reasonable time. The loco’s frames and driving wheels have been restored, and many parts are available. If there are benefactors who would like to support the project, Southern Locos would love to hear from you.

Over the years nearly �2 million has been raised from supporters, funding the restoration of five similar locos. Southern Locos is a limited company, offering shares for �250 each. Shareholders do not expect a dividend, though they do get an annual opportunity to drive and fire one of their locos. The company has the right skills, a workshop in Swanage, around 700 supporters, and a sustainable business model.

While it will be some years before Sidmouth returns to steam, Southern Locos already has a similar loco, Eddystone, in service on the Swanage Railway, and this will be joined by Sir Keith Park later this year.”

*For more information about Southern Locomotives Ltd see www.southern-locomotives.co.uk or email nicksidmouth@gmail.com.