On Saturday 14th July 2018, the Midland Railway Butterley helped out during a special day where Bernard Davis from Cwmbran, South Wales, caught up with his dads old steam engine.
Bernard’s dad worked at Whitehead Wireworks in Cwmbran. He drove the works Peckett saddle tank steam locomotive called “Whitehead” until the closure of their rail facilities in 1966.
He can remember seeing the locomotive when his mother took him to the works. Whitehead would be seen shunting the wagons, which were loaded with coiled steel wire, between the works and the exchange sidings with British Rail.
On 24th January 1966, “Whitehead” was loaded onto a low-loader and taken away, never to be seen again by Bernard. That is, not until 14th July 2018.
Bernard began to search for the locomotive back in the 1980s after finding newspaper cuttings showing Whitehead on the English side of the Severn Bridge. This meant that the locomotive had been taken away for scrap, but in fact was bought in 1966 for preservation in Highbridge.
His first inquiries found out that the initial owner had sold on the locomotive in 1971 to a consortium of Great Western Society members and the loco had moved initially to Taunton and then on to the West Somerset Railway at Minehead.
Bernard wrote to the Great Western Society, but was told that the loco had again been sold on to a private buyer and was no longer on the West Somerset Railway… and so the search for “Whitehead” went cold.
Moving to September 2011, Bernard found out that Whitehead had joined in at a steam gala at the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway
Despite having the frustration that he had missed the gala, at least he was able to trace where the locomotive was now based. This happened to be several hundred miles away at the Midland Railway – Butterley.
Steaming into 2018, and knowing his desire to see Whitehead again, Bernand’s daughter, Heidi, contact the Midland Railway Butterley and Whitehead was put in steam especially for their visit.
Bernard was, therefore, able to stand on the footplate where his father had stood and driven “Whitehead” more than fifty years before.
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