Class B7 'Pug' 0-4-0 Saddletank No.68 (No.51218)

No. 68 was acquired direct from British Railways as their 51218 in late 1964 and delivered to the Worth Valley Railway to become the first locomotive there on January 7 1965.  

At the time there were concerns that this would not happen, as the costs of rail transport from Wales to Keighley was more than the purchase price.  However the private owner of the recently-established museum at Bleadon and Uphill station (he had purchased 0-4-0 tank 1338 from BR) put us in contact with Pickfords, who quoted a reasonable price to bring 51218 by road on a low loader to Haworth.  This apparently included a journey across Oxenhope Moor from Hebden Bridge.

So (above) you see their Scammell Highwayman VXD 558 ready to unload 51218 as the very first loco on Worth Valley tracks.

Pugs were given running numbers in the L&YR build sequence, so preserved Pug No. 68 later became LMS number 11218 and BR number 51218.  No. 68 had a varied working life ending up shedded at Preston by 1950, followed by spells at Monument Lane, Crewe South, Bank Hall, Widnes, Bristol Barrow Road, Swansea East Dock and Neath, from where she was withdrawn in 1964.

Re-tubed in 1974 for the Stockton and Darlington parade, No. 68 celebrated her 75th anniversary in steam in1976 and saw occasional use for some years, subsequently spending a number of years painted bright green as ‘Percy’ on static display in Oxenhope shed.  The mid-1990s saw the first major overhaul since 1963, taking place at Haworth and the East Lancashire Railway, with a return to steam in late 1997 as 51218 complete with replacement saddletank. For the next few years 51218 was well travelled around railways in the UK, with Centenary celebrations in 2001 a various locations, regularly working at enthusiast events on the Worth Valley as well as further temporary repainting into green to be ‘Percy’ in steam.

Repainted into L&Y livery with replica ‘68’ plates in 2004, the boiler tubes lasted well beyond the expected 5 years and were eventually condemned in early 2006, and the Pug will not run again until the boiler has had a 10 year overhaul.  This will entail removing the saddletank and cladding, lifting the boiler, removing the blastpipe, ashpan, grate and boiler tubes.  No. 68 will remain substantially intact in store until 752 is finished, although in late 2009 the Trust was able to provide useful training to young volunteers at Haworth through removal of the ashpan, which will enable an inspection of the firebox by the resident boilermaker.  The inspection has since taken place and found that whilst the boiler shell is in excellent condition, replacement of the firebox roof stay bolts will be required.  Although the travels and events in steam raised sufficient funds for the next overhaul, it is expected the cost will be now be higher depending upon the method adopted to access the stay bolts. The loco has now been cosmetically restored as 51218 for the Worth Valley's 50th anniversary of reopening at end of June (see photos below).

Gallery - click the image to view ..