The ‘John Howe’ Story

JOHN HOWE was ordered by Howe’s Plaster Works in 1908 to operate between their private sidings (HOWES SIDINGS BOX) on the Settle & Carlisle near CUMWHINTON in Cumberland as it was then and their works at Cocklakes. The private branch contained quite a severe gradient up to the works of which little trace is left today. Howe’s Plaster Works became the CARLISLE PLASTER CO, (remember Carlite Plaster and Carlite Bonding?) it later became a part of British Gypsum.
In 1969 Graham Ellis was involved with a job in Kendal and also a volunteer at Steamtown and Dr Peter Beet who was the boss of Steamtown was anxious to obtain some locos that were more economical to steam than mainline locos for footplate rides that were possible in those days. Graham had heard that there were locos for sale at Cocklakes. So with Peter’s blessing he went to investigate and found a Barclay towing another dead Barclay that had come from Long Meg, another British Gypsum site on the Settle & Carlisle for which they had running rights to go back and forth between Howe’s Sidings and Long Meg. After talking to the driver, John Long, it transpired that there were locos for sale but they were all sold to another railway which had failed to produce the cash. Graham then saw the Works Manager, Mr. Sanderson and several meetings later a deal was struck and a clutch of Barclays left Cocklakes for Steamtown. None had seen much use for years and were stored in a shed covered in deep white gypsum dust. None had boiler certificates either. Included in the deal was current shedmate, J N DERBYSHIRE. This loco had a sex change and became Jane of that ilk when “she” reached Steamtown.
Work was needed to the boiler to get JOHN HOWE going and while at Carnforth the loco was vacuum fitted and new tyres obtained from Barclays in Kilmarnock. All the locos that came from Cocklakes had homes to go to in the sense that there were folk at Carnforth ready to pay for them and Graham gave John Howe to his late wife Libi on the basis if you can’t fight them then join ’em. Libi coming from North’ British country near Fort William dictated the new livery – a la North British & also Campbeltown & Machrihanish in Argyll where the family was living, not to mention Edinburgh Corporation Steamrollers.
The lum (chimney to us in Preston) lost its bell mouth early on in order to be able to access the sheds at Cocklakes. The loco never had a nameplate and the lettering reflects that shown on the official Barclay photo. The current boiler was fitted in the 1950’s. All the time the loco was at Cocklakes it was driven by members of the Long family and as far as we know John Long was the last. He subsequently visited Steamtown to have a drive.
If you look at the buffer beam you will see that there are holes below the existing buffers. These were there to take a set of secondary buffers that would match up with the wooden wagons that were used at Cocklakes and are of a type similar to those used by Victorian railway contractors.
As the opportunity to run trains at Carnforth has now ceased, a transfer to Ribble Steam Railway was arranged.
It was transported by road courtesy of Alan Atkinson Trailers Ltd on the 12 April 2006; it languished in our shed for a month whilst Boiler Insurance was sorted out. She then had her first run on the Preston Dock metals exactly one month later on 12 May. The loco is quite low-slung, and needed to be run along the full length of the line to check clearances.
A second run was made with two coaches to check her capability and she was then rostered for her first turn the next day, Saturday 13th May 2006, and has completed many more outings since then. As not fitted for carriage steam heating, she was only to be used during the summer months!

The article originally featured in
Ribble Pilot 16 / Summer 2006.

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