“Will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?”

Barrow Hill Roundhouse & Railway Centre, Derbyshire:  USA tank 30075

Barrow Hill Roundhouse & Railway Centre, Derbyshire: USA tank 30075

I don’t know much about railway locomotives, but I thought I could identify a Southern Railway USA-class 0-6-0 tank locomotive when I saw one.


I spotted a locomotive with the unmistakable American outline at the Barrow Hill Roundhouse, but 30075 isn’t what it seems and its story is interesting.

These USA tank locomotives were mass-produced by the United States Army Transportation Corps in 1942, as part of the preparations for what became D-Day.  382 of these punchy little shunters (which the Americans call “switchers”) were stockpiled in Britain, ready to operate the railways of Europe as they came under Allied occupation.

After the Second World War the Southern Railway bought a batch of fifteen to use in and around Southampton Docks, because they could cope with very sharp curves and yet were powerful enough to haul a full-length boat-train if necessary.

Fourteen were actually used, while the fifteenth was broken up for spare parts.  Under British Railways the fourteen were numbered 30061-30074.  Four of them survived into preservation.

30075 is not one of the fourteen, let alone the four.

Other ex-US Army locos were bought by private railways in Britain;  the Chinese bought some, as did the Egyptians, and some ended up in Israel and Iraq.

The Yugoslav State Railways thought they were so good they bought over a hundred, and then built nearly a hundred more themselves.

One of these, number 62-669, dating from 1962, was purchased from a Slovenian steelworks by the Project 62 Group [http://www.project62.co.uk/background.htm] in 1990.

They brought it to the UK, converted it as closely as possible to the British specification, and gave it the next number in sequence after the fourteen originals.

In 2006 the Group bought another from a steelworks in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and this will in due course become 30076.

In the 1960s we thought steam locomotives, apart from a few museum pieces, would disappear forever.  Fifty years later, preservation is morphing into reconstruction and, in this case, reconstitution.

It’s an interesting and welcome twist on the conventions of museum preservation, and it’s ironic that while many genuine historic locomotives are preserved in aspic, sitting indoors, beautifully maintained, highly polished like works of art, brand new locomotives like Tornado and nearly-new examples like the USA tanks are coming into service.

If it steams, and it moves, and it brings pleasure, I’m in favour.

The 60-page, A4 handbook for the 2018 ‘Waterways and Railways of the East Midlands’ tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list has a section on the Barrow Hill Roundhouse and is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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