Lock, Dock and Two Smoking Vessels

Restoring Steamships and Maritime Heritage in the UK – Lock, Dock and Two Smoking Vessels

By Maryann Soper


Thousands of people across the UK are actively saving our maritime heritage by supporting one of the many organisations set up to restore vessels or promote careers in maritime. As we know, our little island has a rich seafaring past and is littered with historic ports. Thankfully, many of them are seeing a revival as top quality regeneration and investment has seen remarkable success. Coastal docks, such as The Royal Albert Docks in Liverpool are absolutely thriving with fairground rides and an upbeat vibe, since the heritage-led regeneration; and as such plays a crucial part in the World Heritage Site designation. We also have recent success in Hull, where £23m has been pledged to regenerate the maritime heritage of the region.

Albert Dock, Liverpool 11 © GooseyGoo


Liverpool’s Historic Docks © Copyright Maryann Soper

Then we have glorious historic docks snuggled inland, like those at Gloucester, with a more subtle and sedate retail and leisure space. The Sharpness Canal ran ships inland from the River Severn and Gloucester was a major trading centre. And so we are bestowed with iconic warehouses, still proudly adorned with their names.

Gloucester Historic Docks © Copyright Chris Allen and licensed for reuse under CC by SA 2.0


Gloucester’s Historic Docks © Copyright Chris Allen and licensed for reuse under CC by SA 2.0

Staying in the Southwest, we must mention Brunel’s Bristol Docks; they too have been subject to a successful regeneration programme, with education and discovery in maritime and industrial heritage at its core.


SS Great Britain (1) by GooseyGoo


The SS Great Britain at Bristol © Copyright GooseyGoo

These are scenes where current culture is enjoyed while maintaining and honouring the fabric of the culture that shaped us. It’s a perfect blend for a sustainable future, which is why society’s such as the Steamship Freshspring Society are adopting a heritage-led, education-focussed, commercially viable, community-based plan.

Advice from the experts in the Heritage Lottery Fund remind us frequently that they invest in robust long-term plans, rather than plug holes in projects with cash, so we can see the wisdom in their logic in the regenerated historic docks around us.

The Freshspring Society are not the first to be operating in this way and we must look to our friends in Liverpool for inspiration and council, those from the Daniel Adamson Preservation Society. The Steam Tug Daniel Adamson is very comparable to the ss Freshspring; it is of a similar size and technology and was also saved from the brink of disaster.


Steam Tug Daniel Adamson © Copyright Chris Allen and licensed for reuse under CC by SA 2.0


Daniel Adamson © Copyright Chris Allen and licensed for reuse under CC by SA 2.0

Daniel Adamson was the engineer who had the original vision for the Manchester Ship Canal, which has been described as one of the greatest engineering projects of the 19th century.

The twin screw, coal-fired steam tug was built at the Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead and is a remarkable survivor from the steam age and a most unusual vessel. It was built in 1903 to tow long strings of barges laden with goods from the inland towns of Cheshire and the Potteries to the seaport at Liverpool. The Danny had been laid-up and neglected with no funding for even basic maintenance since 1984. Dan Cross was the impetus for the bid to save her. Dan, a skipper of a powerful modern tug currently at Milford Haven and with an interest in many aspects of heritage, canvassed fellow tug enthusiasts and bought the tug for £1.

The Daniel Adamson Preservation Society or DAPS, formed in 2004 and it took 12 years to get the tug ship-shape. The objective of the society is quite simply, “To conserve and restore to full working order, the steam powered tug tender and to operate her in and around the Mersey Estuary for public benefit”.

They started off by getting a free tow out of Ellesmere Port to Liverpool for her restoration there, which sounds rather familiar to the Freshspring’s restoration journey, thanks to Keynvor MorLift Ltd.

They also got the tug listed as a nationally important vessel by its addition to the coveted National Historic Ships Register. This vital proof shows the potential funders that the ship is special even though it is in a sorry state. Other great names on the register include the SS Great Britain and the Cutty Sark! Well, this too has been the course of the Freshspring.

The DAPS workshop at Sandon Dock, used by the engineers, includes a machine shop filled with donated equipment and was vital to the project, with training facilities donated by the Llangollen Railway group. The Freshspring Society have and are making partnerships with the local railway groups in North Devon to form a heritage engineering pool of resources and experts to raise the progress of industrial heritage preservation in the region.

The team at DAPS were very active in their fundraising activity and early in the project were supported by grants from charitable foundations such as Esmee Fairbairn, Garfield Weston and PRISM, which acted as “seed corn” to get the project underway. The much bigger grants came later; from the HLF amounting close to £4 million and a landfill tax funded grant of £75k via WREN for the art-deco areas.

Wrapped in plastic sheeting and with her paintwork clearly the worse for wear, being in the public eye during the events at Liverpool, she was able to attract 13,000 visitors, who donated £11,000 for her restoration! This helped to provide evidence for the HLF award that the public wanted the vessel to return to operational service. Freshspring’s strategic positioning in Bideford allows the general public to see her and thus footfall will also contribute to  fundraising applications and evidence that she is being adopted the people.

Meanwhile, the big bid to the HLF was being worked on and gaining momentum behind the scenes.

The DAPS application gained the support (in writing) from major museums, MP’s , councils and organisations. It had to prove it was a sustainable investment for the benefit of the community, so revenue streams had to be determined and justified.

And then there’s the matter of match funding!

DAPS had to raise another £175,000 in matched contributions. After restoration, revenue is generated by the pleasure trips, but up until that point other strategies were implemented, such the “Danny” ale, a 4.2% hopped bitter, sold throughout the North west paying royalties to the DAPS. And Freshspring too will follow suit and develop multiple creative revenue streams to pay for the running costs and contribute to that crucial match-funding.

When the HLF bid was successful, the restoration contract was put out to tender and Camel Lairds of Birkenhead were the successful bidders. Once again it was a Svitzer tug that was to be involved in towing her into the Birkenhead dry dock, literally yards from where she was built in 1903!

£3m was spent, thanks to the Heritage lottery Fund, to recreate this superb and unique art-deco boat.

So the DAPS’ 12 year journey, of endless effort, looks a little like this:

  • Pioneering People – keeping the vision strong
  •  Paperwork – obtaining charity status
  •  Proof of Provenance – National Register of Historic Ships
  •  Freebies and Favours by Corporations – essential help, such as, towing and engineering works
  •  Prominent People – profile building and social clout!
  •  Practical People – All hands on deck! Do what you can, but properly!
  •  Paperwork People – The major fundraising campaign – behind the scenes
  •  Plain Sight – being in the public domain provided valuable evidence for grant applications
  •  The HLF and Restoration – Submitting the application and sending the ship away for restoration
  •  Delivering the Dream – operating the vessel and generating revenue


The Steamship Freshspring is in year four of turning its life around and major strides have already been made, thanks to a close involvement with the right people from the very start. They have the Pioneers, the paperwork, proof of provenance, freebies and favours, prominent, practical and creative friends and she is sitting proudly in public view in Bideford, North Devon, so they’re really in the final two stages of delivering the dream!


The Steamship Freshspring on her way to Bideford, 2016.

Meanwhile, a dream came true for our friends in Liverpool – on the 22nd of April 2017, enthusiasts gathered at Latchford Locks to witness the Daniel Adamson make its first voyage to Salford along the whole length of the Manchester Ship Canal, since 1984. Everything was going feel until they got to Latchford Swing Bridge, which stubbornly refused to open.

They say that Daniel Adamson would have been turning in his grave, but I think he would have been proud of the marvellous maritime success stories in the UK; lock, dock and vessel.

11th July 2017Comments Off, ,
Hunslet Loco # 1215 – Restoration Update!

Hunslet 4-6- 0T number 1215 – progress report.

By Martyn Ashworth – Project manager – 31 st May 2016


Restoration of the ROD Hunslet 4-6-0 number 1215 tank is accelerating now as we head towards completion, steaming and launch, so here is a quick update and summary of where we are with it and of the critical path for completion of the restoration work.

See History of the Hunslet Loco # 1215 for more info HERE!

The loco 1215 has proved to be an interesting restoration project – there has been a high degree of conservation work required because of her originality, her history and her iconic status serving behind the allied trenches in WW1. Many of her components are stamped 1215, or 303 (her WD number) or even 37400, the original Hunslet batch order number from May 1916. 1215 will have to work for her living once she is operational again and she will have to be reliable in service, so this has meant that some quite drastic engineering work has had to be carried out some times and many old parts have had to be replaced with new ones because the old parts are worn out or cracked.

ALL the old parts have been retained and nothing is ever thrown away.

When 1215 came to our workshop it was relatively complete – the boiler had been removed from the frames and the Trustees had started to remove the very badly damaged cast iron block from between the frames at the front – this is essentially the smokebox saddle but it is actually much more besides and of all the items on 1215 that were badly damaged this was by far the worst. It is to the great credit of CIW of Coalville that they were able to recover this block for us and placing the heavily repaired casting back between the frames was one of the first milestones of the restoration finally achieved – but with many more to go.

We had a break from 1215 between about Christmas 2013 until August 2014 when we were all working flat out to complete work on our previous project – the restoration (rebuilding?) of Hudswell Clarke 0-6- 0WT “G” class number 1238 of 1916 for the Moseley railway Trust, so in all we have been at it for about four years now on 1215 which seems to be about right for this magnitude of job. Please bear in mind that this is only one or sometimes two days a week – we are all volunteers and although most of the team members are retired, many of us are not and a day job has to also be juggled with the commitment to restore these old locos.

Hunslet 1215

I always work using a “Critical path” for any project and 1215 is no different, so our progress is mapped out and the next stages are always being planned for. I mark-off the key stages or “milestones” when they are met and it is always good to see the ticked off list of these growing – when they are all ticked-off it means we have finished and we can bring in the next project!

1. Re-wheel the chassis – DONE

2. Overhaul the bogie – DONE

3. Take delivery of new boiler – DONE

4. Complete work on pistons and valves –

5. Complete work on the springs – DONE

6. Complete work on the brakes – DONE

7. Complete work on the couplers –

8. Make up all new pipe runs –

9. Fit repaired bunker to loco – DONE

10. Fit repaired water tanks to loco – DONE

11. Hydraulic boiler out of frames – DONE

12. Steam test boiler out of frames –

13. Fit tested boiler to frames, inc ashpan and cladding –

14. Fit cab top to loco –

15. Complete all detail work on the loco, inc painting –

16. Steam test loco and trail runs

As of the end of May 2016 the volunteer team have put in the grand total of 10163 man hours working on this loco – this does not include all the time that Ian Hughes, myself and others spend doing all the administration and drawings etc for the project. So far we have put in 2470 hours in 2016.The AVERAGE team turn out every Tuesday is now 12 people with 5 people on a Thursday, so we are a very productive team!

For the technically minded some of the work still outstanding on 1215 is as follows;

  • Complete fitting the new air and vacuum brake systems
  • Complete the sanding gear – make and fit feed pipes from top sanding dome
  • Brass cab windows acquired – these need new safety glasses fitting
  • Drill the new cab front for the window hinges and pivots
  • Machine up one new ROSCOE Lubricator from castings
  • Machine up two new FURNESS lubricators from castings
  • Machine up two rear cylinder drain taps from castings
  • Fit the cylinder end and valve chest covers
  • Fit new cylinder cladding covers
  • Machine new main steam pipes – lower halves made of cored phosphor bronze with upper halves made of copper
  • Make a new ash pan and fit it to the boiler
  • Fit new expansion links, die blocks and pins
  • Couplings now fully over hauled – these can be fitted once the pipe work is all in place between the frames
  • New crinolines made and fitted to the boiler – new cladding sheets now being cut to shape and fitted
  • New clack boxes on order – LH one is on the boiler. RH one is due at the workshop shortly
  • Fit two injectors to the loco and make up new pipe runs to these
  • Fit cab top back on loco and new cab front and cross bracket
  • Fit the already clad boiler to the frames and pipe it up. Drill holes in the smokebox saddle and bolt the boiler down
  • Fit chimney and dome top cover
  • Paint the entire loco!

All of this costs money of course and we have been extremely lucky in that we have been supported by various grant making bodies over the last four years. We have also been greatly assisted by the Trustees and the many supporters of WOLT who have given generously to the project and to one patron in particular, who also helped us with the 1238 project with considerable financial assistance. This well known heritage railway benefactor has twice helped us with match funding us so for every pound we raised he matched us.

If anyone reading these notes has been thinking about helping the 1215 project with a donation, now is definitely the time to do so – the loco 1215 needs YOU!

The volunteer workshop team are absolutely determined to see through the restoration of this loco to full working order once more – now the new boiler has arrived on site the clock is ticking and we will be counting down to the steam test.

There is still much to do, but we have all of this work in hand and it WILL happen.

To find out more, visit the website of the War Office Locomotive Trust (WOLT) –

Contact details for Ian Hughes are: and his phone number is 01887 822757 – (please leave a message – Ian will ring you back).

We urgently need extra funding now in order to see the job through to completion. WOLT is a registered charity and as such it is registered for gift aid. Gift Aid forms are available from the WOLT website or via Ian’s contact details above – this can further increase the value of a donation to the Trust by up to a further 25% and it comes from HMRC.

Thank You,


6th June 20161 Comment, , , , , Haulage | Locomotives | Rails | Relics | Restoration
History of the Hunslet Loco # 1215

The 1916 loco – 1215 – is a very important and historic narrow gauge steam locomotive.

Our locomotive was built by the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds to the order and technical specification of the British War Office for use on the light railways supplying the trenches of the Western Front. They were designed and the first locomotive of the class was completed in just over 3 months – a remarkable achievement for a relatively small manufacturer who was already committed to manufacturing gun making equipment for the War Office.

They had lost a large number of tradesmen to the various regiments raised in Leeds, eg the Leeds Pals, and as such now had quite a large number of female workers.

The British War Office had finally concluded by late 1915 that the original transport plans of requisitioned horses and road transport was unsuitable for the conditions that the front had by now degenerated into, but the majority of British manufacturing was already turned over to the war effort in preparation for the Somme offensive, which started on July 1st 1916.

The fact that Hunslet managed to produce over 90 of this type of loco before the war ended was a remarkable effort.

Unfortunately, this was not enough for the War Office, so they turned to the enormous capacity of Baldwins in the United States, who turned out no less than 495 of their similarly proportioned locomotives – of which a small number still survive.


Our Hunslet is notable in a number of ways. It is only the 3rd one of the type built and it was actually the 2nd one to leave the factory as part of the initial order (37400) for 10 locomotives!

The 1215 was dispatched on the 12th August 1916 to France, though we do not know exactly where it headed to first. It is, however, well recorded that the Hunslet 4-6-0s were used on one of the first lines officially operated by the British forces.

We are also incredibly fortunate that of the few survivors of the type, 1215 is the only one that has a photograph of it in service as in September 1917 – it was snapped at Boisleux-Aux-Mont to the south of Arras. It was later involved in a slight misdemeanour with some ballast wagons just north of Arras, but after this time we have little information of its further war office service.


Post war, the War Office attempted to dispose of all surplus equipment and thus in 1924, loco 1215 passed through the Hunslet engine works again for repairs and a slight re-gauge on behalf of the Engineering Supply Company of Australia, and halfway around the world it went to then enter service at the Bingera sugar mill near Bundaberg in Queensland. Here it stayed for many years, the limited availability of steel for replacement locomotives during the second war prompted rebuilds and 1215 received a new boiler from the Bundaberg Foundry. Come 1957 and diesel locos had been introduced at Bingera so 1215 was moved north to the Invicta Mill near Townsville where a number of items were transferred off the resident sister loco Hunslet 1226, which allowed 1215 to run for a further 10 years.

By 1967, 1215 had been withdrawn, and it was presented to the Rowes Bay Bush Children’s home in Townsville (a scheme established by a WW1 veteran officer) where it was to remain next to the sea for a further 27 years. In 1994 this scheme closed down and after some discussion the locomotive was sold to a Brisbane based enthusiast who dismantled it and made a start on its restoration.


Ten years later (although progress had been made) the owners circumstances had changed, and the opportunity for acquisition and a return to the UK became available. Once fund raising was complete and an export permit was obtained (on the second attempt) 1215 became the first of its type to be seen in Europe for 40 years, and in doing so we reckon it completed its circumnavigation of the world as it returned via the Panama canal.

The next eight years brought periods of display at LOCOMOTION the National Railway Museum at Shildon and at Apedale, as well as visits to the Hollycombe Steam Collection and the Leighton Buzzard Railway, before developments and fundraising allowed a start on restoration.

Restoration was initially in a small way by the Trustees, but agreement was then reached with the team, lead by Martyn Ashworth (of Heritage Transport Supplies), who were then working on Apedale resident Hudswell Clark loco number 1238 (also of 1916) at a well-equipped workshop adjacent to a private engineering works in South Yorkshire, to take the project forward.

To cut a long story short the last four years, since the loco 1215 left Apedale, have been a mix of excitement, head scratching, frustration and relief involving a vast amount of emails, letters, driving, filing, sanding, machining, cutting more head scratching, some nail biting, appeals for support and with relief, notes of thanks.

Balancing this is the immense satisfaction of having a brand new boiler being finished off in front of a wheeled, piped and painted chassis with every item on it in great order!

This satisfaction is not just for the Trustees and the volunteer team – it must also be shared with the many organisations and individuals who have supported the project so far from the larger ones such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council (PRISM award), Statfold Barn Railway and Graham Lee, Garfield Weston Foundation, Foyle Foundation, Transport Trust, the Veronica Awdry Trust and our anonymous benefactor as well as the other individuals without whom we would never have reached the point we have.

However, there is definitely still room for others to share the satisfaction of completion as we push on to get the job done. So please help the team hit the target of returning 1215 to steam in her own centenary year.

Visit the website for more details.


6th June 2016Comments Off, , , , , Haulage | Locomotives | Rails | Restoration
An Obvious Inclination

Inclined planes, put simply – are purpose-built slopes. It seems like a simple or even obvious requirement to address the height differences on a transport system, but these were devised in an age when they were dealing with heavy loads and limited by available technology. Long before health and safety considerations, these guys had a job to do, a problem to overcome and the mighty inclined plane saved the day on numerous occasions. A to B had never been so much effort.

13th July 2015No comments, Haulage | Inclined Planes | Rails | Whim engines