Return to Beyer Peacock

When K1 was the repatriated by the builders in 1947, it was the first example of a locomotive imported for preservation - almost 20 years before P.C. Allen (now at Leighton Buzzard) started the fashion. It is known that Beyer Peacock intended to restore the engine to working order and run it within their Gorton Works, and workers from the toolroom were given the task of looking after the loco; however it remains unclear as to how much work was actually carried out. It is believed that significant work was done on the motion, but otherwise it was restricted to cosmetic work, perhaps once it became known that the boiler needed much more than just a retube.

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 A seaward side view of K1 at Harbour station
(Photo: K1 Historical Archive)

With steam loosing its dominance as the main form of rail traction and Beyer Peacock needing to diversify away from the Garratt Locomotive as a source of income they first offered K1 on loan to the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum (at the Talyllyn Railway) in 1961. Unfortunately the NGRM could not meet Beyer Peacock's requirement that, in view the locomotive's historical significance, it should be kept under cover; however the NGRM did take the Beyer Peacock 18" gauge works shunter Dot.

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K1 at Harbour Station (Photo: © Chris Padley)

Purchase by the FR

As Beyer Peacock's business was coming to a close, they made contact in late 1965 with contacts at the Ffestiniog Railway, which led to the FR's purchase of K1 in 1966; as a result the loco was moved to Portmadoc. It has been pointed out that it was somewhat prophetic at the time that the loco was reassembled on the Harbour Station siding that was all that remained at the time of the link line to the Welsh Highland!

It was known at the time that K1 was too tall and too wide for use on the FR, though for some time the membership was encouraged to believe it would be cut down in height, and somehow reduced in width (in fact the large low pressure cylinders make this impossible), so it could be used on the FR.

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 K1 at York Railway Museum in 1983 (left) and 1993 (right)

On Loan to the National Railway Museum

After display at Harbour Station, followed by years of storage under a tarpaulin in Glan y Mor yard, K1 was loaned to the National Railway Museum at York in 1976, and cosmetically restored in a distinctive "photographic grey" livery. In this high-profile location, K1 became known to many thousands of visitors.

When the FR's plans for rebuilding the WHR took shape, it was recognised that the WHR would offer a line where K1 could be of real use, and would not require alteration to its historic outline. In April 1995 K1 was released from York to be restored for use on the WHR, a task that was an important focus for the Welsh Highland Railway Society, and so the K1 Group was formed to lead the work. The project to restore K1 for the WHR caught the imagination of many supporters that made the considerable fundraising needed much easier than it might have been.

K1 is a unique locomotive, and of considerable historical importance. K1 is the original Garratt, and thus the prototype of one of the most successful designs of steam locomotive, although it does have some technical features that were not perpetuated. There is also a tangible parallel with the Welsh Highland, in that K1 possesses great character and appeal - and had been allowed to sleep for too long.

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  K1 on display in Caernarfon in April 1995.

On Display in Wales

With the decision then made to restore both K1 and the Welsh Highland Railway, K1's first stop on leaving York Railway Museum in April 1995 was therefore to Caernarfon, where K1 was put on display in what is now Morrison's carpark on the site of the former Caernarfon main line station. The display featuring the engine (left) attracted a great deal of local interest. It would not be unfair to say that for many local people, the occasion was the first time that the restoration of the Welsh Highland Railway really began to take on a concrete form, although still some twenty months before work on the railway itself was able to start. The two days when "The Big Grey Engine" came to town made quite a mark at the time.

The engine then visited the Ffestiniog Railway for display at the May 1995 Gala, seen below in Minffordd yard. K1's elegant lines are clearly apparent. This would be the last time that the loco was seen in public and in its complete form before being moved to Tyseley for restoration work to commence.


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K1 on display in Minffordd yard for the Ffestiniog Railway's May Gala in 1995

The restoration took place in three phases and these can be divided as the locomotive moved from one location to another. The first phase was at Tyseley near Birmingham where K1 was dismantled and the restoration began in earnest. After this the loco moved to Boston Lodge on the Ffestiniog Railway for the work to continue. The first of its steam trials were conducted here, after which there was a further move to Dinas on the Welsh Highland Railway that would become its permanent base and where the last of the rebuilding and final steam trials took place.