THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD

No. 18 - p220-221

APRIL 1968

IRONSTONE TRAMWAYS
OF THE MIDLANDS

(6)   A MYSTERY BAG ERIC S. TONKS

    It is always a pleasure to learn of hitherto unrecorded locomotives and if they were in ironstone service the interest to the writer is especially great. Since my last article in this series three possible locomotives have come to light and the circumstances are worth recording.

    In 1966 Peter Excell passed on the information that a locomotive is reputed to be under the water at Easton Neston's flooded quarry near the Blisworth to Towcester road, where the SMJ line used to cross it. Further, it was stated that the loco could be discerned under the surface in dry seasons. George Freeston, to whom every event in the Blisworth area is an open book, said that there certainly was some equipment in the pool, as frogmen had recovered certain items; and that if we had a dry season he would send me a telegram immediately a chimney appeared above the surface!

    Well, we all know about the "summer" of 1966, one of the wettest on record, so there was no help from the elements. However, George did find something - a photograph of the old pit, locally known as Showsley, in its working days. It is a poor photograph, unsuitable for reproduction unfortunately, but it does show a narrow gauge line with a cable worked incline complete with rollers, a few wooden tubs, and some wooden sheds. There is no sign of a locomotive, and indeed the original suggestion is not that it worked at the pit itself, but that it could have been a surface locomotive deposited in the pit later on. Incidentally, this pit was associated with the brickworks adjacent to the ironstone quarry and worked by the same Company. ,The most striking feature of the pit, however, is its great depth - some sixty feet or more - so that to see any loco the water would have to be very low indeed, entailing a great loss in volume over a comparatively restricted area; or the water would have to be very clear; or the locomotive would have to possess a very tall chimney!

    The identity of this postulated locomotive is entirely unknown, but if it does exist we presume it was one from the ironstone quarry. Our only hope lies with the frogmen.

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    The second "find" is less obscure and there can be little doubt of its authenticity. Through the kindness of Rodney Weaver, I visited Cadeby Rectory in April 1967 and there met Mr A.R.James, who was glad of the opportunity to chat as he had some information which would be of interest. He had too; he hails from Burton Dassett and knew the quarries there in their closed state well, but his uncle remembers there being a locomotive at the ironstone quarry for a short period, and of which I had no inkling at all. Mr James kindly visited his uncle, Mr R.W.Hunt, who now lives at Burton-on-Trent, and is in his eighties, though still possessing an excellent memory, into which he delved.

    Burton Dassett quarries operated for two distinct periods: 1898-1909 by the Burton Dassett Iron Stone Company, and 1918-1921 under T.& I.Bradley Ltd. Mr Hunt's parents died when he was young and his grandmother brought him up until she died in 1904, when he had a number of homes before joining the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1909. It is definite therefore that the locomotive is associated with the earlier period of operation, which would account for its being unknown to Mr Lloyd, the latterday caretaker who only knew the quarries under Bradley's ownership. Of the locomotive itself we unfortunately know next to nothing; Mr Hunt likened her broadly to Teddy Boston's PIXIE with which he is familiar, but the analogy must not be taken too far. Even the gauge is not absolutely certain; it was two feet alright latterly, with "Jubilee" track and steel side-tippers, but Mr Hunt recalls the locomotive pushing "small wooden tubs to the big wheel" (i.e., the wheel of the ropeway terminal). It is quite possible that the line was dismantled when the BDIS Co went out of business and later relaid by Bradley, in which case the gauges were not necessarily the same; however, from the limitations of the site, there can be no doubt that it was of the order of 2ft. Incidentally, the Company was a subsidiary of Attenborough & Timms, the then owners of Brixworth and Spratton quarries in Northants, with 4ft gauge systems; so they would have been familiar with steam power.

    The locomotive was not a great success, mainly due to the difficulty of providing an adequate water supply on the isolated hilltop, and horse traction was used again. So there it is - a vague but definite reference to a locomotive at a hitherto unrecorded site. Mr James plans to look up old friends in Burton Dassett in the hope of eliciting a few more scraps of information. As a final note, he mentioned that quarrying came to an end at the request of the landowner, who forbade further interference with the contours, particularly of the hill where the famous windmill stood at the time.

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    A letter from Mr P.I.King, Archivist to the Northamptonshire Record Office, came to me in April 1967, stating that in the "Seaborne Collection" was a photograph of a locomotive named SEATON, alleged to have worked in an ironstone quarry belonging to Lloyds Ironstone Co. Mr Seaborne lived at Corby and spent his spare time in amassing as much information as possible about local history, a good deal of which centred on the steel works and its antecedents. There were many photographs in the collection, including the one of SEATON, which I inspected on my next visit to Delapre Abbey. It is a typical Manning Wardle Class K 060 saddle tank, readily identified by our Hon Records Officer as number 662, supplied new on 25th June 1877 to William Moss, contractor, at Seaton station, named SEATON; renamed NEWBURY, it later worked for Falkiner & Tankred on a contract at Newbury, and finally (as far as Manning Wardle records go) going to the Chemin de Fer de Mersin a Tarsus et Adana in Turkey.

    The caption on the photo states "Lloyds Ironstone Co" and there is a suggested date of 1875. The latter is obviously wrong and Mr King thinks the stated owner is only a guess. The photograph came from a Corby man; the loco may have worked for Lloyds Ironstone Co in their quarries; alternatively, the driver(?) who owned the picture may have been a Lloyds driver who had previously worked for Moss and retained the photograph of his earlier charge. We need more information before we can be definite, but it seems unlikely that it ever was an ironstone locomotive.