Sybil Sold

Unique 1906 Bagnall locomotive Sybil, nominally based at the Launceston Steam Railway in Cornwall, is to have a new home at the West Lancashire Light Railway at Hesketh Bank, near Southport.

James Evans, whose family ‘adopted’ Sybil in 1965, has decided that selling her will give him more spare time to progress a high efficiency Modified Fairlie proposed for the Welsh Highland Railway; some funding to develop the detail design will come from the sale.

A new trust is being set up to own Sybil which will become a core member of the West Lancashire Light Railway locomotive stud. Graham Fairhurst who led the negotiations on behalf of this group, said that it was very pleasing that not only did the deal mean that Sybil was joining the West Lancs. collection, but that the group were part funding a really exciting new build locomotive project in the Modified Fairlie.

Amongst the subscribers in the Sybil group are several younger enthusiasts who will be able to enjoy part ownership of this historic narrow gauge locomotive. James has also agreed to retain a share himself thus maintaining the continuity of “two owners from new”.

Much mechanical work has been undertaken by James since Sybil ran on the private Inney Valley Railway in Cornwall, but the first task for the new group is to get quotations for a new ‘launch’ type boiler. It is intended that the restoration to working order will take place over a reasonably short period and to a high standard of originality.

A spokesperson for the West Lancashire Light Railway said that: “The acquisition of Sybil indicates the confidence placed in the West Lancs. by James, which especially follows on from last year’s completion of the very high quality restoration of Kerr Stuart Joffre. This locomotive is an important addition to the collection, which now includes locomotives from most of the main British builders of narrow gauge railway locomotives. The acquisition of Sybil is particularly important as W. G. Bagnall Ltd. was one of the larger and more innovative builders of narrow gauge locomotives for both the home and export markets, and up to now had not been represented in our collection. It is also very appropriate that Sybil will join former Dinorwic Quarry Hunslet Irish Mail at the West Lancashire Light Railway.”

Dinorwic Slate Quarry was very loyal to the products of the Hunslet Engine Company and Bagnall Sybil was the only new, non-Hunslet built locomotive bought by Dinorwic once it had become a Hunslet stronghold. Sybil seems to have been a well liked locomotive at the Quarry and lasted in service almost until the end of steam traction there. It spent most of its working life on the Hafod Owen level at Dinorwic, which included working on the lakeside tramway linking to the terminus of the 4 foot gauge Padarn Railway. The locomotive was named after Sybil Mary Verschoyle, who in 1902 became the third wife of Quarry owner Sir Charles Garden Duff-Assheton- Smith.

As is well known, James Evans was the originator and driving force of the new-build, Lynton & Barnstaple Railway type locomotive Lyd, which was completed at the Ffestiniog Railway in 2010, and he is now heading the ‘Super Fairlie’ project. Recent design discussions suggest that this should be fitted with electronic ‘traction control’, to ensure that the two power bogies work in harmony with slipping regulated automatically. Thus the locomotive would be the first single boiler, double Fairlie 0-6-4-0T, and also the first steam locomotive in the world to have ‘traction control’. Combined with a futuristic welded monocoque construction, it would require sophisticated design techniques, and a sponsor working in advanced technology would be essential for success.

An interesting spectacle for everyone interested in narrow gauge railways will be to see a restored Sybil alongside the new build ‘Super Fairlie’.

Further details of the ‘Super Fairlie’ project can be found here, and the project will soon have its own dedicated section on this website.