Locomotion to unveil 'Old Lady' in honour of pioneering steam enthusiast

By Culture24 Staff | 17 April 2009
a photo of green steam locomotive in a workshop

(Above) Locomotive No 1247 in it's superb new green livery.

The National Railway Museum at Shildon is set to unveil its latest steam locomotive renovation project, the Old Lady, in honour of the pioneering steam enthusiast who saved her.

Great Northern Railway locomotive No 1247 was bought out of service by Captain WG Smith RNR in May 1959 - some 60 years after she was built - and staff at Shildon will be unveiling the loco on May 16 2009 having re-painted her with a lined GNR green livery.

Smith died in March 2007, but the unveiling will be carried out by his widow, Mrs Judi Fawcett, and his children.

"This engine is important not for what she is, but for what she did," said Dr Ian Harrison, Chairman of the South of England Group of the Friends of the National Railway Museum, which has funded the restoration.

"When Bill Smith bought this engine from BR in 1959 - the first time a private individual had bought a working steam locomotive out of service - it opened the way for the scale of main line preservation that we see today. Without Bill's foresight and persistence, the way would have been much harder for those who followed in his footsteps."

a photo of balck loco in a shed

How the locomotive looked on arrival at Locomotion, Shildon.

1247 is a member of the "J52" class of 0-6-0 saddle tank engines. She is the only one left out of an original 129, and was built for the GNR by Sharp, Stewart & Co in Glasgow in 1899 to meet a design by HA Ivatt. The locomotives were intended for shunting and short freight workings. The Old Lady was a "shed pilot" at London's Kings Cross, where she acquired her affectionate moniker.

The relic sported a GNR green livery when Smith donated it to the National Railway Museum in 1980, but a subsequent repaint in 1995 placed her in BR lined black livery (as 68846). The latest reworking is in honour of Smith's memory, aimed at ensuring the vehicle is displayed in the condition which he would have wished.

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