O.W.W.R. No. 34, A Lone Survivor

In the last issue we looked at a model locomotive that has strong associations with Wolverhampton. This month we describe another such surviving relic, which was known somewhat confusingly, as 'The Model', although it consisted of a full size locomotive chassis. 'The Model' was originally an E. B. Wilson 0-6-0 tender engine supplied new to the O.W.W. in 1855. Numbered 34 on the O.W.W. and 252 after entering G.W.R. service. The locomotive was withdrawn in August 1904.

J. A. Robinson had the frames, cylinders and two leading sets of wheels set up inside a room in the roundhouse at Stafford Road to assist enginemen in understanding the workings of a locomotive. The cylinders were cut away to reveal the piston and the valve arrangements with the motion in different positions. The arrangement was fully described in the G.W.R. magazine of November 1910. The model was set in a pit, the wheels and motion activated by a crank arrangement.

Generations of Great Western enginemen gained experience from old number 252, it remained in use until the end of steam and the closure of the depot. Even in later years. the motion was kept bright and well oiled. The engine was brought to the attention of the resident engineer as the demolition of Stafford works began. The engineer being an enthusiast set about saving the chassis. The demolition contractor did not object to the engine's removal from the ever disintegrating works, but neither the transport museum at Clapham, or Wolverhampton Corporation showed any interest in the project. Old 252 made its last rail journey whilst its fate was decided, being towed to Oxley behind a shunter. The chassis was damaged due to the excessive speed of the shunter, the cast iron gear being broken.

It was in this time of uncertainty that someone managed to steal the 1873 Wolverhampton rebuild plate. The chassis was eventually sent to Shugborough Hall, but was never put on public display and languished outside, rusting beneath a tarpaulin sheet. Its future now seems finally secure for the Armley Mills Industrial Museum is to erect 252 as it once stood at Stafford Road. The only surviving remains of an O.W.W.R. locomotive, and of an E. & B. Wilson design once running on a British railway, seems to have found a home at last.

The Drivers Instruction Class appear to be studying the workings of the slide valve in this 1920s photograph. Behind the men is a large diagram illustrating the piston valve. These instruction classes were attended during the men's off duty periods, without pay. To assist potential locomotive drivers in their studies a Stafford Road driver wrote a manual, entitled 'The Locomotive, its failures and remedies". The book was copyrighted in 1904 by Thomas Pearce of 7 Dunstall Road, running to at least eleven editions. Photograph courtesy of Ned Williams.

The 'Model' on the eve of its rescue. Photographs courtesy of R. S. Fitzgerald, Leeds Industrial Museum.

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