"The Best Day Ever" (quote)

On a foul day which saw snow, sleet and rain in equally heavy measure, NELPG test steamed their BR class J72 tank loco 69023 at Darlington today. At lunchtime a group of staff and volunteers from Shildon popped over to see what was going on. Below, Richard Pearson tests the loco’s safety valves before moving on up to the running line of the Darlington Railway Preservation Society.

Some of our group at the entrance to the NELPG compound at Hopetown as the J72 passes, crossing over to the running line.

With all points locked and secured, the J72 begins running up and down to test various bits. It runs very smoothly, with nicely set up valves, but as ever a few niggles have shown themselves! These were not bad enough to stop play, so in the pouring rain, a few cab rides were offered.

During the course of my ride, our driver was Fred Ramshaw, NELPG stalwart and one of our Shildon volunteer team. Below, Fred eases open the regulator and sets off to the other end of the demonstration line.

The view from the fireman’s side as we approach the limit of run, with a group of NELPG members and the folk from Locomotion looking on. The quote “Best Day Ever” comes from Locomotion’s Events Officer Pam Porter, after having a drive. She now tells me that 69023 is her favourite engine, even beating “Oliver Cromwell”! Well, I think everyone has a soft spot for this little loco – I certainly do as my first train set was a J72, thirtysomething years ago…

69023 is now to be fettled and the top coat of paint added before it moves to Shildon for lining out and varnishing and proper running in. Watch this space to find out when it is due to make its first runs at the Museum.

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About Anthony Coulls

Anthony is Senior Curator of Rail Vehicles at the NRM and has been an active heritage railway volunteer since 1988
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