Sunday, 2 July 2017

Sometimes, out of left field, comes something you never expected.

It was a very special day for me at Urmston today. I'm expecting the lovely Jubilee next month, but another even more interesting machine has 'popped up' in the interim; 'Wildfowler', a 2.5 inch to the foot 5" gauge model of an 0-6-0 Fowler 2 foot gauge tank engine somewhat in the idiom of the Beyer Peacock engines belonging to Jim and Dave that I have been driving at the club.

On Tuesday I visited Steam Workshop in Heckmondwike to view the loco and I was smitten! Simon, boss at the company, suggested he bring it to Urmston today so we could run it in real conditions, carrying fare paying passengers. It performed fabulously, Dave, Jim , Billy and other experienced Urmston drivers all had a go and loved it, as did Malc and me. Just a few minor 'running in' things to fix, which Simon is sorting.

'Wildfowler' is quite softly sprung which makes for great haulage capacity as the wheels will follow vertical track irregularities and therefore give maximum grip and less tendency to slip under load. But it does mean she 'dances' a bit under way!  A real 'Wild Fowler'; the builder, Walter (see below) knew what he was at when he named her!

When I visited Steam Workshop on Tuesday we were convinced this was a model of an actual loco, not just a 'free lance Fowler'. The 'Fowler' detail in the motion and cab and tank shapes were too specific for that. But we didn't know which loco.
On Wednesday I was at Manchester Locomotive Society (MLS), of which I am a member. I'd noted the works number on the builder's plate on the loco and looked it up in the MLS library copy of Fowler locomotive build list. There it was! No.16991 built October 1928 for Nockton Estates Light Railway, a Potato farm in the Lincolnshire fens, owned by Smiths Crisps.
She worked there until 1930 but proved too heavy for the light ex-WW1 two foot gauge track, so was sold on to a contractor and spent her final years working on reservoir construction in Weardale in the North East. On completion of that project she was put put up for sale, but there being no takers (she was well knackered by then) she was cut up on site in 1938.
Here's the amazing thing - I also discovered that this model had been built by a Walter Fidler of Burton on Trent in 1964. I passed this information on to Simon and a penny dropped; his grandfather had been a friend of Walter. Walter died in 1965 before completing the model, but having done all the 'engineering'. We think Simon's grandfather might have finished it, doing the 'bodywork' (tanks, cab, boiler cladding etc.)
None of this was known when 'Wildfowler' first arrived at Steam Workshop about a year ago in rather tired condition. It found a buyer who paid a deposit and Steam Workshop started work on it, but he had financial problems and dropped out. It was re-advertised and that's when I got involved. Steam Workshop have re-tubed the boiler, replaced the front tube plate, and repainted the engine in a lovely lined-out 'Fowler orangy-brown', inspired by preserved Fowler 'Saccharine' at Statfold Barn Railway.
Simon found Walter's obituary in a 1965 copy of 'Model Engineer' magazine. It states that 'Wildfowler' (named by Walter, 16991 never having carried a name) was Walter's (a noted model engineer) masterpiece. The piece carries pictures of the locomotive under construction.
It is a very beautiful thing of superb quality. I feel privileged to be its next owner.

Here's a link to Steam Workshop's site: CLICK HERE

Here are some pictures. Click on any for a larger image.

'Wildfowler' as she arrived at Steam Workshop

 First peek of 'Wildfowler' in Simon's car as it arrived this morning

 'Wildfowler' on its way to the steaming bays

 Lovely loco! Facing the wrong way for running at Urmston, though. It's a heavy two-man lift, but Simon and one of his guys lifted it, turned it, and put it back on the track.

 It's chunky! It's massive! 'Wildfowler; dwarfs my 'Alfred' on a steaming bay

Steam Workshop's picture of the finished loco

Here's a video of the first fire, and then running at Urmston: 'Wildfowler' video



  1. Looks good Vince,can't wait to see it in the flesh, I picked a bad day too be ascent! Bob

    1. All being well, 'Wildfowler' should be running at Urmston on Sunday.

  2. Thanks very nice blog!