Chaloner loco back in business thanks to 135-year-old photo at Leighton Buzzard Railway

By Culture24 Reporter | 13 July 2012
a black and white phoitograph of a small steam locomotive with vertical boiler
The original works photograph of Chaloner with its cabin© Courtesy Brian Hurst / Leighton Buzzard Railway
Volunteers at one of the UK’s most popular light heritage railways are busily making adjustments to one of their most popular locomotives after an enthusiast unearthed a hitherto unknown works photo showing its original state. 

Chaloner, Leighton Buzzard Railway’s iconic vertical-boilered “coffee-pot” locomotive used in quarrying and built by De Winton of Caernarfon in 1877, was always thought to have looked pretty much as it does today, with no cab roof to protect crews from the extremes of the elements.

Now an original 1877 works photo has emerged that shows the loco with a cab. The photo came courtesy of rail enthusiast Brian Hurst, who revealed it at a recent promotional tour for a book about the De Winton works by Alfred and David Fisher and Gwynfor Pierce Jones.

a colour photo of a squat, black steam locomotive with central vertical steam boiler
Chaloner at the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway prior to its changes© By Agnellous via Wikimedia Commons
“That a works photograph existed at all was mindblowing,” says Alf Fisher, who bought Chaloner for preservation in 1960. “De Winton produced more than 70 locomotives, and for the one surviving works photo to be of Chaloner was quite something.

“But what it revealed left me almost speechless - it had a cab. Yet there was no record that any of these locos ever had cabs. This was a totally unknown feature, which completely changed the locomotive’s appearance.”

The primitive-looking narrow gauge engine, which is a star attraction at the heritage railway, has now had a replica cabin built in time for its next major public appearance, the Great Slate Quarry Fest event on September 15 and 16, where it will be joined by visiting locomotives with slate-quarry backgrounds. 
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