Armoured Simplex restored to original appearance

Rocky Lancer, Leighton Buzzard Railway  |  Published: Feb 17th 2019

Restoration of Greensand Railway Museum Trust’s (GRMT) 40hp Armoured Simplex LR2182 has taken a huge stride forward following fitting of the distinctive cupola roof and appropriate steel protective doors.

The work of replicating the platework which makes the locomotive, built by Motor Rail and Tramcar Company of Bedford (MR461/1917), unique was undertaken by Statfold Engineering Ltd.  On successful completion of the contract LR2182 was delivered back to its restoration base at Leighton Buzzard Railway’s Stonehenge Works on Wednesday 6 February 2019.

Construction of the cupola roof has been supported by a £3,300 grant for this specific purpose made to GRMT by The Association of Industrial Archaeology.  Other work undertaken by Statfold Engineering Ltd, including manufacturing and fitting the side doors, became possible following receipt of a significant donation by a benefactor.

Only two examples of this armoured form of the 40hp Simplex locomotive survive in the world.  This locomotive, LR2182, is the only example still with its original Dorman petrol engine, the only survivor to be presenting an original unmodified appearance and the only operational example of the armoured type.  The bodywork of the other survivor of this type was modified during its days of sugar industry service in Antigua and is now cosmetically restored, retaining this modified form, in Antigua. 

“The addition of the steel superstructure which replicates LR2182’s original form is a huge step forward in the restoration of this important, indeed unique, WW1 locomotive,” commented GRMT chairman, Cliff Thomas.  “Statfold Engineering has done a terrific job and we are very grateful to The Association of Industrial Archaeology and the many people whose donations have made it possible to have this work undertaken.”

“The locomotive, or tractor as it was known to the army during WW1, is now operational and looks as it did when built in 1917.  The restoration is not quite complete with remaining tasks including fitting the exhaust, finishing various details and final painting, but the end is clearly in sight,” added Cliff Thomas.  “I am pretty confident that it will be ready to be unveiled to the public during a launch event at Leighton Buzzard Railway in May.  On behalf of the trustees I would like to thank the many volunteers at Leighton Buzzard and Moseley Railway Trust whose efforts and help have been invaluable during this project.”


LR2182 background history

LR2182 was built to work on WW1 trench supply railways and seems to have arrived in France in time to serve on the battlefields during the final year of WW1.  Post-WW1 it worked in industrial service between about 1921 and the mid-1960s during which time it lost its distinctive upper bodywork.  It entered preservation in 1971, initially being displayed at the (then) Narrow Gauge Railway Centre at Gloddfa Ganol (Blaenau Ffestiniog) before going to the Museum of Army Transport at Beverley.  Here, it was displayed with a wooden replica of the distinctive roof, known as a ‘cupola’ by Motor Rail.  Its private owner donated LR2182 to the Army in December 2001

The Army placed LR2182 on loan to Leighton Buzzard Railway in March 2005, but contractors undertaking the move to Bedfordshire caused serious damage including destruction of the wooden replica cupola.  The Army subsequently donated the historic loco, as it stood, to Leighton Buzzard Railway and in 2009 ownership was transferred to Greensand Railway Museum Trust which undertook to restore it to operation in its original form.  Volunteers reconstructed the upper part of the loco, again in wood, to present 2182 in its original form pending commencement of a full restoration project.

Aided by a PRISM fund grant serious restoration commenced at the beginning of 2016.  Volunteers have restored the frames of the locomotive, including replacing corroded steelwork, overhauled the gearbox, repaired the radiator and renovated many other components.  The seized original 40hp Dorman 4JO 4-cylinder petrol engine was repaired by contractors and reassembled by a volunteer.

The locomotive made its debut in operational condition for the first time in preservation during Moseley Railway Trust’s 13-15 July 2018 ‘Tracks to the Trenches’ event, although at that stage without the distinctive upper bodywork and much work remaining to be done. 

delivery of 2182, image 1
delivery of 2182, image 2
Images courtesy Cliff Thomas/Greensand Railway Museum Trust
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