A sheep in wolf’s clothing – a preserved Stanier 8F locomotive

When is a sheep in wolf’s clothing NOT a sheep in wolf’s clothing? Apparently, when it’s an ‘Eight Freight’! This photograph was taken inside the loco shed of Peak Rail at Rowsley, Derbyshire. My cousin, who knows more about railways (and the Midland Railway, in particular) than I will EVER know, suggested that we might find a short trip to see the newly repainted LMS 2-8-0 8F, No. 8624, rather instructive – it was.

I must confess, at this point, that I am a former museum curator. I love to see machines, of all types, restored to their former glory, for the delight and edification of enthusiasts, students of history and technology, and the general public. I wince when I see a steam locomotive, particularly one which had a previous life with either British Rail or its antecessor companies carrying what I refer to as a ‘post-service’ nameplate. Yes, the current owners have a right to name their new charge what they will; they own it after all, BUT….it still makes me shudder. This case does NOT involve a nameplate, but something similar.

This locomotive represents one of the most successful and versatile freight designs from the fertile mind of Sir William Stanier. The first example of the class was constructed in 1935, and was followed by 852 others, built by organisations as diverse as the North British Locomotive Company, LMS, and the Southern Railway. Following the withdrawal of all steam traction from British Railways in 1968, 8F survivors lingered on in obscure corners of the world into the 1980s (Turkey was home to possibly the last active, non-preserved, 8F).

8642 is the last surviving Southern Railway-built 8F (out of a batch of 105), and was salvaged from the Woodham Brothers scrapyard in Barry, South Glamorgan. Here we can see her, following an extensive restoration, in the loco shed at Peak Rail, Rowsley. I must admit to being a little shocked when I first saw the locomotive. I remember my cousin saying, ‘What the…?’ The ‘Eight Freights’ never ran in LMS Crimson Lake – ever. Not only that, the shade of red that 8642 has been painted in is nowhere near that lovely, deep scarlet that LMS Crimson Lake should be. (For a good example, see ‘6201’, ‘Princess Elizabeth’, a beautiful Stanier ‘Princess Royal’ class). The final shock came when we examined the cab side; above the engine number was the motive power classification. This should have been 8F (the F standing for Freight). Instead, some bright spark had painted 8P (for Passenger), thus putting it in the same classification as the superb ‘Princess Royal’ engines, which have a tractive effort over 25% higher than an 8F! I am glad to say that sanity later prevailed, and ‘8F’ was painted on the cab sides. However, the whole ‘sheep in wolf’s clothing’  appearance makes me feel uneasy.

A shame, as I was looking forward to seeing either an LMS or British Railways black scheme, to remind me of those happy days when the ‘Eight Freights’ would come powering around the curve at Ambergate Triangle, pulling enormous numbers of goods wagons. Oh, and 8624  has moved on to pastures new; it has had a short stay with East Lancashire  Railway (Bury, Greater Manchester), the Churnet Valley Railway (Cheddleton, Staffordshire), and can now be seen on the Great Central Railway at Quorn (Leicestershire)!



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