686 The Lady Armaghdale

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686 The Lady Armaghdale
LadyA 20120512.jpg
686 The Lady Armaghdale
Built By Hunslet Engine Company
Configuration 0-6-0
Status Out of service
Loco Number Works No 686
Other Numbers MSCManchester Ship Canal 14
Built 1898
Designed By Hunslet Engine Company
Type Chest class
1963 Sold by MSCManchester Ship Canal to ICI
1969 Arrived on SVRSevern Valley Railway
2009 Last steamed
Length 24ft 0"
Weight 35t
Tractive effort 15,940 lb
Pressure 160 lb/sq in

Steam Locomotives

686 is an inside cylindered 0-6-0 side tank locomotive, built at the end of the 19th century for use on the Manchester Ship Canal railway system.

686 in service

Manchester Ship Canal

Built by the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds in 1898, 0-6-0T works number 686 was the second of ten Hunslet ‘Chest’ class locomotives ordered by the Manchester Ship Canal Company (MSCManchester Ship Canal). It was given the name “St John” after Port Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada.[1]

The locomotive had a number of special features to enable it to work heavy trains round the tight curves of the MSCManchester Ship Canal’s extensive railway network. These included Cartazzi leading axle boxes (see below) and flangeless centre driving wheels. Leaf springs were fitted on the front two axles and coil springs on the rear axle. In a powerful loco with a short wheelbase, this resulted in a lively dancing ride which led to members of the class being referred to as a ‘Jazzer’.[2]

During the First World War the MSCManchester Ship Canal stopped using locomotive names and introduced numbers, 686 becoming No 14.[3] One name plate was retained and fixed on the rear inside of the cab, where it can still be seen today.

During its working life with the MSCManchester Ship Canal, 686 may have carried a number of different liveries, probably starting life in dark green with double white lining and possibly later acquiring a slate blue livery. The final livery was known to have been black (see gallery below).[4]

686 was finally withdrawn from service by the MSCManchester Ship Canal in 1962, at a time when the railway was being scaled down due to the transfer of traffic from rail to road.

ICI Dyestuffs

In 1963 a locomotive at ICI Dyestuffs at Blackley Manchester was damaged in a runaway accident. The locomotive was a Hawthorn Leslie saddle tank No 3455/1920 named “The Lady Armaghdale” after the wife of a former Chairman of the company.[5] Rather than repair the Hawthorn Leslie, the company opted to purchase 686 as a readily available working replacement. 686 was duly repainted in ICI crimson livery and acquired the name “The Lady Armaghdale”, although the locomotive was never popular at ICI, being regarded at best as a pseudo ‘Lady Armaghdale II’. By 1968, 686 had been withdrawn from service for a second time.[6]

686 in preservation

Following their acquisition of MW 2047 Warwickshire in 1967, 686 was the second locomotive to be purchased by the Warwickshire Industrial Loco Preservation Group, arriving on the Severn Valley Railway on 14 July 1969.[7]

First boiler ticket

686 was first steamed a week before the 1969 August Gala,[8] although SVRSevern Valley Railway News does not record any mileage until 1971. Not sufficiently powerful to haul service trains, 686 acted as 'station pilot' and shunter, hauled a number of works trains and gave occasional footplate rides at Bridgnorth. The locomotive also appeared in several film and TV productions, including a BBC Horizon documentary on railway accidents in 1972 and as a Russian locomotive in The Incredible Robert Baldick in the same year.

Mileage recorded in SVRSevern Valley Railway News was as follows:

Year Mileage
1971 289
1972 195
Total 484

Second boiler ticket

A heavy overhaul was carried out between 1972 and 1981, during which several modifications were made to 686. These included fitting vacuum brakes to allow use on passenger trains, and the installation of an improved lubrication system and a new ventilator in the cab roof.[9]

After re-entering service in 1981, 686 resumed the role of occasional station pilot and works train locomotive. Visits were made to Tyseley in 1983 and 1986 and to the newly opened Crewe Heritage Centre in 1988, with 686 hauling passenger services on the demonstration lines at both locations. After nine years, the locomotive was finally withdrawn from service on Good Friday 1989 with leaking boiler tubes.[10]

Mileage recorded in SVRSevern Valley Railway News was as follows:

Year Mileage
1981 10
1982 80
1983 205
1984 130
1985 36
1986 50
1987 62
1988 96
1989 0
Total 669
Cumulative 1,153

Third boiler ticket

In June 1992, fellow Manchester Ship Canal locomotive Hudswell Clarke 680/1903 No 32 'Gothenburg' visited the SVR for a ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ event. Following this successful visit, the WILPG agreed that 686 should be overhauled, converted and registered as ‘Thomas’ for use in future such events. The overhaul required further modifications including new tanks, steam heating, bunker rails to improve coal capacity and a new chimney and smokebox. Life as ‘Thomas’ began in March 1994 at Didcot Railway Centre, where the locomotive was specially registered to allow a movement over BRBritish Rail or British Railways metals from the delivery point at the nearby power station.[11]

Visits to numerous other railways followed. 1998 marked the centenary of HE 686. The locomotive began the year still in use as a roving ‘Thomas’ and was photographed by David Cooke at the East Lancashire Railway in May of that year (see gallery). By October, 686 had been repainted in the more appropriate livery of Manchester Ship Canal No 14 and, as part of the celebrations, re-visited the East Lancashire Railway (see gallery) in the county where she first worked and the Middleton Railway in Leeds, the city where she was built.

Once again boiler issues brought a premature end to service for 686 at the end of 1999. The mileage recorded in SVRSevern Valley Railway News was as follows:

Year Mileage
1994 656
1995 1,219
1996 821
1997 1,424
1998 1,692
1999 1,085
Total 6,897
Cumulative 8,050

Fourth boiler ticket

A quick overhaul was carried out allowing a return to steam by 2001. 686 resumed duties as ‘Thomas’ in 2002, again visiting many railways in the UK and also making overseas visits to Holland (Z.L.S.M.) and Germany (Krefeld) in 2005. After being withdrawn from service in September 2009, once again with boiler issues, 686 was cosmetically restored at Bridgnorth into ICI red livery as 'The Lady Armaghdale'. The locomotive then entered The Engine House on 18 October to be displayed while awaiting overhaul.[12] She briefly left The Engine House on a few occasions, in March 2012 to visit the NEC (Best of Britain Exhibition) and again briefly in June 2018 and March 2019 during shunts of displayed locomotives. In July 2019 she was extricated from The Engine House and transported from Bridgnorth for display at the Chateau Impney Hill Climb Motorsport event. The locomotive again left the Engine House in June 2021 in order to create space for a 'Staycation' event, temporarily moving to Kidderminster Carriage Shed [13].

The mileage recorded in SVRSevern Valley Railway News to 2004 was as follows (details for 2005-2009 were not published):

Year Mileage
2001 11
2002 2,293
2003 1,937
2004 2,272
Total to 2004 6,513
Cumulative to 2004 14,563

Cartazzi axleboxes

F. I. Cartazzi was a senior engineer of the Great Northern Railway. His modified axlebox design was intended for trailing carrying wheels on larger locomotives and was used extensively on LNERLondon & North Eastern RailwayPacificLocomotive with a 4-6-2 wheel configuration’ steam locomotives.[14] On 686 his system is used on the leading axle. The top of the axlebox and underside of the axlebox lid have a series of inclined faces. On sharp curves the axlebox is forced sideways, bringing different faces into contact with the lid. On leaving the curve, the weight of the locomotive transmitted through the bearing spring and axlebox lid provides a self-centering force. The leading connecting rods on 686 include an additional horizontal pivot in front of the centre driving wheel to cater for the lateral movement of the front wheel, a feature not necessary on similar locomotives with normal axleboxes such as Jinty 47383.

See also

Steam Locomotives
SVR-based locomotives visiting other events
Locomotives running under different identities


  1. Shaw (1998) p. 31.
  2. Shaw (1998) p. 27.
  3. Shaw (1998) p. 29.
  4. Shaw (1998) p. 30.
  5. Shaw (1998) p. 35.
  6. Shaw (1998) p. 36.
  7. SVRSevern Valley Railway Stock Book Ninth Edition
  8. Shaw (1998) p. 39.
  9. Shaw (1998) p. 40.
  10. Shaw (1998) p. 41.
  11. Shaw (1998) p. 43.
  12. SVRSevern Valley Railway News 171
  13. WILT
  14. Wikipedia

Information from a display board in the Engine House and from past editions of SVRSevern Valley Railway News.


Loco page on Warwickshire Industrial Locomotive Trust website