Walkden goes back to war

The Ribble Steam Railway (RSR) is joining in with Preston’s Armed Forces Day celebrations on 28th June 2014 by returning Walkden, one of its most popular steam locomotives, to its wartime identity.

Built for the War Department by Hunslet of Leeds to help move munitions and supplies during the latter part of World War II, it was built cheaply to a basic but rugged design and intended to last a very few years. The locomotive entered service in 1944 as No. WD75105; itspent a few weeks shunting goods trains in Britain before being shipped to France to help with the Allied advance in early 1945.

After hostilities had ended, No. WD75105 remained in Continental Europe, initially helping to rebuild war-ravaged areas before eventually being sold to Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch state railways) for use in the coal industry, where it lasted in use far beyond its intended life, finally being withdrawn in the late 1970s. It was repatriated to England in the 1980s and the lengthy process of restoration started. A large number of parts were missing and these were acquired from the National Coal Board’s workshops in Walkden, after which the locomotive was later named, just prior to its closure. The locomotive returned to steam in 2008 and has been a popular performer on the RSR’s dock and riverside line ever since.

RSR Chairman and owner of Walkden, Dave Watkins, comments: “Thanks to the railways at home and abroad, the necessary troops, arms and supplies could be moved quickly to the places they were needed, and it is no exaggeration to say that engines like this played a significant part in winning the war. This engine is presently the oldest working member of the class to wear wartime colours, and in its return to its World War II appearance it will act as a fitting tribute to the thousands of railwaymen that fought in the conflict.”

The locomotive will keep its War Department identity for one weekend only, after which its nameplates will be reapplied and it will return to its usual guise.

Other elements of the Preston Armed Forces Day take place around the City’s flag market, with battle re-enactments, 1940s music and dance and military vehicle displays all expected.

More information about the RSR can be found on the website, www.ribblesteam.org.uk, while details of the Preston Armed Forces Day are available at http://www.armedforcesday.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=2589

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