2 Rerailing “Perseus”

Among some slides that have been digitized are these recording the arrival of the diesel shunter at Christow in April, 1993.

There had been difficulty loading the loco at Exmouth Junction because the 55-ton crane booked for the job had failed and a 45-ton substitute was sent which was inadequate. At Christow this meant that the best that could be done was offloading the loco at the yard entrance.

A while later, when the ground had hardened, staff had the bright idea of running the loco down the slope using short lengths of rail which would have to be picked up and taken forward after each short advance. A combination of sloppy controls and the driver’s lack of conversancy led to this plan and the loco quickly derailing.

Seeing that only the flanges sank into the roadway, the driver applied power and drove the loco on the dirt to the foot of the slope, where it lay gradually sinking until craned in the summer. But the first lift only repositioned it so that it could again be driven along the ground to where the crane could rerail it.

This “off-road” driving had precedent as anyone who has seen the concrete outside St. Blazey shed will know.

The loco “working” at Exmouth Junction, being loaded and departing on a lorry were all filmed.

April, 1993

The 45-tonne capacity crane lifts the loco from the low loader standing on Sheldon Lane. The lorry could not enter the yard and the crane could not have lifted the loco from any other position.
Short rails were placed for the loco to rest upon.
Even Inspector Clouseau would have been able to see what happened here.
No member of staff at Christow would have dared put up a notice like this in later years. +

August, 1993

Rerailing Perseus came at the end of an exhausting day. In a complex operation – perhaps a yarn for another time – the feed store from Ivybridge had first been brought in one piece to Christow, demolishing the parapet walls of a bridge on the valley road in the course of its Police-escorted journey.

It was essential to start the engine because the loco had to be driven along the ground again. The old six-volt batteries were nearly flat but using the decompression levers allowed the six-cylinder Gardner to be cranked.

The crane swung the loco through half a turn and placed it so that it could be driven about thirty yards to the end of the line as it was then. This went as planned but then the crane got stuck in the ballast and the driver had great difficulty positioning himself close enough to the loco to be able to lift it. He wrestled with the controls but finally stopped and folded his arms in despair. “What about draining the fuel?” he said. The lads at Western Fuels had generously filled the 125-gallon tank.

Draining wasn’t necessary and no one remembers what was done, only that the loco did get rerailed and two old boys who had come to watch, who had both travelled on the branch, were like kids again. Jerry, the one in the cab, remembered going off to start his National Service in the winter of 1947 when only the trains were moving.

Some shots went off under the wheels to celebrate the first loco at Christow in over thirty years and the first ever diesel.

In 2020, a photograph came to light which proved that “Perseus” was not the first diesel locomotive to reach Christow.

Below is a gallery of photos taken in 1987/88 when the loco was still wearing the yellow livery in which the scout first saw it in the early 1970s.

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