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Railfest 2012: the little loco that gave a vicar “barbarous treatment”

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This is one of a series of blog posts we’ll be bringing you in the run-up to our huge 9-day Railfest 2012 festival in June 2012. More blog posts about Railfest 2012

I’m Sarah Fellows, an Assistant Interpretation Developer. I am currently researching the vehicles which will be coming here for Railfest 2012 in June. I have been in contact with many different heritage railways and museums to get as much information as possible about each vehicle.

Recently, the curator at The Colonel Stephens Railway Museum in Kent sent me some lovely photographs of Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway Gazelle.

Gazelle is thought to be the smallest standard gauge steam engine in the UK. It was built by Alfred Dodman & Co of King’s Lynn in 1893 for local businessman William Burkett.

Gazelle in 1911

This little locomotive has led a very eventful life. As well as taking William Burkett on the occasional private excursion, Gazelle contributed to the war effort after it was bought by the War Department in 1941 and used to move ammunition.

In 1947 a member of 161 Railway Construction Company was surprised to find Gazelle hidden under a pile of corrugated sheets. The soldier who found the locomotive later said.

“I just couldn’t believe it when I first saw her very dirty etc, more like a toy than a small engine”.

One of my own favorite stories from Gazelle’s past concerns Reverend Brock, Vicar of Criggion, who took a trip on the Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway from Shrewsbury to Criggion in 1912.

He later wrote a letter of complaint to the Board of Trade in which he made his feelings about riding behind Gazelle very clear.

Preceding to the branch to Criggion I was put with another man and two women into the back part of an engine with only a screen between us and the fire – no roof and the sparks and smuts falling over us – one spark nearly got in my eye – with danger of being blinded – my clothes too injured by the same.”

Gazelle in early 1911, shortly before Rev Brock took his eventful journey.

The Reverend continues…

“I have occasion to use the Rly for my wife and daughter and friends from London and of course I cannot subject them to such risk and barbarous treatment”.

Gazelle was fitted with a cab shortly after this which would have provided passengers with some protection from the elements. In 1915 or 1916 Gazelle finally got a carriage in the form of a modified horse tram which can be seen in the photograph below, taken in 1926.

All photographs are courtesy of Colonel Stephens Railway Museum Collection.

Written by Sarah Fellows

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  1. robinjg

    excellent research, really interesting!

  2. Greg. Tingey

    The photos also show that, at some point, it was converted from 2-2-2 to 0-4-2, with, necessarily, much smaller driving wheels.

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