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Leighton Buzzard Railway

Last chance to see WW1 veteran locomotive in steam before overhaul

1917 American-built 4-6-0T Baldwin locomotive WDLR No. 778 will make her last runs at the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway before overhaul on Wednesdays, 10 and 17 December 2014.  These will be the last scheduled opportunities to ride behind the locomotive, built for first world war battlefield service, until at least 2016 due to the expiry of her boiler certificate early next year. 

Cliff Thomas, Chairman of the Greensand Railway Museum Trust which owns 778, commented ‘the Baldwin has this year played an important part in events around the country to mark the start of the first world war and the contribution made by light railways during that dreadful conflict. We hope that she has helped people to learn about what life was like at the front and to appreciate the appalling sacrifices that were made by ordinary people on both sides. We are now focussed on undertaking its overhaul during 2015 with the intention of ensuring it is back in service for special commemorative events during 2016, to celebrate her centenary in 2017 and, more importantly, to mark the armistice in November 1918.’

Tickets for the return trip to Leedon Loop on the scheduled Santa Specials are available for £8 for adults (including mulled wine and a mince pie) at www.buzzrail.co.uk.  Child tickets, which include a present from Santa are £8.50 (2-12 years) and £4 (under 2).  Come along to see Santa and enjoy a final trip behind this iconic loco prior to its overhaul.

Notes for Editors

The Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway (LBNGR) is an accredited museum with a history inexorably linked with the First World War and the railway has built up a significant collection of 1914-1918 vintage narrow gauge equipment.  The National Railway Museum has placed its ‘protected’ type Simplex No. 3098 (MR1377/1918) on loan to the railway, and LBR is the base for the Greensand Railway Museum Trust’s Baldwin 4-6-0T WDLR (War Department Light Railway) No. 778. A rare survivor from the 495 built, she is an important part of the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway’s growing collection, she is to be joined next year by an equivalent era German steam locomotive, recently acquired from France.

Locomotive 778 saw service in France towards the end of the Great War, where a network of narrow gauge railways were used to carry munitions and other supplies to the front line. After the war, 778 was one of a batch of 50 exported to the North Western Railway of India, in what is now part of Pakistan. She later moved to the sugar-cane fields further south in India. She was finally withdrawn in 1983, at the Upper India Sugar Mills, Khatauli, Uttar Pradesh, India.

One of four now returned to the UK for preservation, it arrived at Leighton Buzzard in 1994 in very poor condition, as a long-term restoration project. In 2000, the newly formed Greensand Railway Museum Trust launched an appeal for the restoration of No 778, and subsequently managed the project to completion. 778 was finally launched into public service in August 2007, 90 years after it was first built. It is hoped to have her overhaul completed by early 2016 in time for her centenary in 2017.

The LBNGR is based at Page’s Park, Leighton Buzzard, and the line runs to Stonehenge Works adjacent to the sand quarries which the original industrial railway was built to serve.  For further information visit http://www.buzzrail.co.uk.

For further details and to arrange interviews, please contact Media Officer Steve Doughty on 07864-647513.