HC 0-6-0 ST Wissington
Our smallest locomotive and the last steam locomotive to work in East Anglia
Wissington was built in 1938 by Hudswell Clarke of Leeds for the newly formed British Sugar Corporation (BSC). It was delivered to the Wissington light railway from new, which was a large sprawling light railway over an remote area of Fenland. The light railway connected several farms and to the Wissington sugar factory operated by the BSC. A separate line connected the factory to the exchange sidings on the Stoke Ferry branch. Wissington is a standard 'Countess of Warwick' design, which the BSC bought several including the sister loco at Wissington Hayle. The loco is relatively lightweight design well suited to the light trackwork of an agricultural railway with an axleload of around 8 tons. Apart from a spell at the Spalding Sugar factory, Wissington remained at the BSC plant for virtually of all its working career. With the arrival of diesel shunters and a reduction in rail traffic, Wissington was relegated to being a spare. By the early 1970's Wissington fell out of use but remained in storage. By 1978 Wissington had become the last steam locomotive in commercial ownership in East Anglia and had come to the attention of the M&GNJRS. After an approach by Society member Chris Beckett, British Sugar Corporation donated Wissington to the M&GNJRS and in February 1978 it departed for a career in preservation at Sheringham. After a cosmetic restoration Wissington became known to generations of children who climbed onto her footplate whilst on static display in the bay platform at Sheringham. By the early 1990's the weather had taken its toll and Wissington was adopted by John Howard and his sons who began a cosmetic restoration. By the late 1990's, the J15 restoration was well advanced and faced with some more serious work to make Wissington safe, it was decided to restore Wissington to working order. The restoration began in anger with the transfer to a private restoration site at Yaxham where the loco was completely dismantled. Supported by a grant from the PRISM fund and several smaller donations the loco would be overhauled with volunteer input from a small dedicated team. Over the next five years, the frames would undergo major repairs and renewal of the bufferbeams. Several new parts of the motion were remade and the wheelsets were sent away to Lancashire for remedial work. A new cab and bunker was manufactured at Weybourne workshops and new running boards were fitted. By the mid 2000's the boiler repair had begun, with much of the firebox being replaced along with a new smokebox and front tubeplate. In 2010 the boiler was steamed for the first time out of the frames. In late 2010, the loco was partially reassembled and transferred to Weybourne workshops for further work by the volunteer team. After almost two more years of hard work and around £70,000, Wissington was ready to run. In July 2012 Wissington passed its 'in steam' insurance examination and successfully undertook a test run on the NNR. Shortly afterwards she moved to the Mid Suffolk Light Railway for further running in and to star in their first ever steam gala. In the process Wissington left the county of Norfolk for the first time around fifty years. Following a first NNR appearance during the Spring Steam Gala of 2013, where she undertook shunting duties at Sheringham and worked several goods trains, Wissington returned to 'The Middy' for the 2013 season. On 15th September 2013, Wissington was officially commissioned during a special M&GN Joint Railway Society and Wissington supportsers' day at Brockford station. John Howard, who had singlehandedly led much of the overhaul efforts in the 1990s and early 2000s, was presented with a special commemorative plaque and worksplate as thanks for his contribution to the project.
Original article by Ian Lake, updated February 2014.