It can be announced that, after some negotiation, Bressingham Steam Museum is now the owner of a unique standard gauge Beyer-Garratt locomotive, ‘William Francis’. This engine is the only standard gauge example of its kind in preservation in Britain.
Beyer Peacock, the famous Manchester manufacturers of these distinctive articulated engines, built the locomotive in 1937, as Gorton works No. 6841. It is an 0-4-0+0-4-0 industrial locomotive and spent its working life in Baddesley colliery in the east Midlands. Only three Garratt industrial locomotives were ever in service in Britain and this is the sole survivor. Both the LMS and LNER operated standard gauge articulated locos but none survive and all other examples of this type in the UK are built for narrow gauge lines.
Upon withdrawal from service it was purchased by Mr J.R. Price and presented with other locomotives for display at Bressingham, although it remained in his ownership. In 1968 this engine was the very first standard gauge locomotive to arrive at Bressingham before the perhaps more prestigious ex main line engines that soon followed. Mr Price passed away last year and ownership was given to his son Stewart Price, who has kindly agreed to gift the engine to the museum. Included in the bequest was a fireless locomotive, left to another of Mr Price’s sons, Bernard and also likewise generously given to Bressingham. This is Barclay 0-4-0 no. 1472, known as ‘Bluebottle’ (or Robert Kett), built in 1916 to the order of Vickers Ltd and later used by T. Hedley & Co at West Thurrock until 1975.
This is a very exciting acquisition for Bressingham. It now means the museum has the opportunity to begin considering a feasibility study into the future display of William Francis. A possible return to steam has not been ruled out, although it must be emphasised nothing has been decided about this yet.
Bressingham has steamed a number of interesting standard gauge locomotives over the years and this engine would certainly continue that tradition. It keeps company with a variety of ex main line passenger, goods and industrial engines, in addition to some continental designs.