In October 1938 a brand new 20/26 HP Petrol Simplex loco rolled off the production line at Motor Rail’s Bedford Works. Motor Rail 7066 was despatched to North Riding of Yorkshire County Council at Northallerton, who gave it their fleet number 6. It was eventually acquired secondhand by J & A Jackson for use at their Adswood Brickworks near Stockport. The brickworks used four Simplex locos, the other three being diesels, one of which was supplied new in 1946.
By 1967, conveyors had replaced the 22in gauge rail system at Adswood and three of the locos were moved to Jackson’s Heaton Mersey depot for disposal, whilst the fourth was sent to Jackson’s Greengate works in Lancashire for further use. It was unusual for a petrol loco to survive so long in the presence of far more economical diesels. A story from one of the employees claimed that it had only survived because the works manager could claim four gallons of petrol each week, but that none of that petrol actually ended up in the loco’s tank.
The diesels could easily be sold, but the Petrol loco remained until 1973, when acquired by the Moseley Grammar School for the Narrow Gauge Tramway project. The cost was £75 including transport, which was financed using a loan from one of the teachers, Mr Thompson. In the early 1970s a 20in gauge tramway had been laid in the grounds of Moseley Grammar School and two Ruston locomotives had already been obtained from Crowle Brickworks. The third locomotive was found to be 22in gauge at one end and 21in gauge at the other. It would need to be ragauged to 20in gauge, so Motor Rail were approached for advice. The response from Motor Rail’s Peter Cross expressed surprise at the existing gauge of 22in, stating that this could only have been achieved by moving the wheels on one side of the locomotive and suggesting that the easiest regauge would be to move the same side by a further 2in. Peter hoped that this arrangement “will not be objected to in the circumstances, but we hope that no locomotives have left our works in this condition.”
And so it was that No. 6 was regauged in 1974 and eventually put to work on the railway on 9th March 1975, having received a coat of bright yellow paint. It can be seen on passenger duties in the first photograph, in which the off-centre nature of the regauging can be observed.
On 13th July of that year, No. 6 was used in conjunction with the Ruston “Moseley” to provide a two locomotive service at the annual garden party for the first time.
With the change of the Moseley Tramway to 2ft gauge, No 6 was again modified back to its original gauge and the second photo shows it in action on the 2ft at the 1977 Garden Party on July 17th.
With expansion of the railway at Cheadle, and disposal of the two Ruston diesels due to the difficulty of regauging, it was eventually decided in January 1978 that No. 6, the only remaining society owned locomotive, should be sold and the proceeds used to purchase a suitable diesel, which would be more convenient and economical. Later in 1978 No 6 was sold to Cumberland Moss Litter Industries at Kirkbride for £170. It was fitted with a diesel engine and used at the peat works at Kirkbride until it fell out of use and was dismantled in the late 1980s. The loco was sold as a bare frame to Alan Keef Ltd in 1990, where it languished apart from a brief spell with Moseley Member Jim Hay.
No 6 became the focus of renewed interest following the establishment of the now Moseley Railway Trust presence at Apedale. We were keen to see at least one of the original 20in gauge Moseley locos back in the collection, and No 6. was readily available, if a bit of a challenge to restore, as can be seen from the photograph on arrival at Apedale in mid 2009.
However, the presence of a significant quantity of suitable spares, including engine, gearbox and wheels, convinced us that the project was feasible. As the role of this loco was to represent one of the original locos, it was decided that it should be restored as far as possible to the condition in which it existed at Cheadle in the 70s, including a coat of the original bright yellow gloss.
In order that we are not left with just a grotty frame on site, a rapid programme of chassis restoration has been undertaken and those who visited at the open weekend in September 2009 would have seen No. 6 at rolling chassis stage with Dorman 2JOR petrol engine now placed in the frames.
No 6 will eventually be 20in gauge again, but for the time being, and for convenience, it is sitting on 24in.
The project was finally completed in early 2011, with the reborn No 6 re-establishing a direct link with the origins of the Moseley Railway Trust all those years ago.