Furness Railway Locomotive No. 20 to visit West Somerset Railway for their 150 event in July 2024

Furness 20
Tim Owen

Following on from the recent Spring Steam Spectacular and Summer Diesel Festival, the West Somerset Railway is pleased to announce further details of our 150 event. A week long celebration is being held from Tuesday 16th July to Sunday 21st July 2024, marking the 150 year anniversary of the opening of the line from Watchet to Minehead.


This event will see three visiting steam locomotives in action. For enthusiasts, Furness Railway No. 20 will be the star of the event, and will be visiting the West Somerset Railway for the first time. No. 20 is currently the oldest operational locomotive in the UK, and will make a novel sight working on the line. Being of 1863 vintage, this engine was a mere 11 years old when the Watchet to Minehead part of the line opened. The engine will be appearing courtesy of the Furness Railway Trust.


Hawthorn Leslie 0-4-0ST no.3581 ‘Marston, Thompson and Evershed no.3’ will also be visiting for the event, and will work top and tailed with FR No.20 on special services from Minehead to Williton and return on Tuesday 16th and Saturday 20th of the event. The engine will be appearing courtesy of the Foxfield Railway.


Both locomotives will be in steam throughout the event, and will be carrying out short shuttle trips from Minehead Station in addition to services to Williton on the Tuesday and Saturday.


The final visiting engine in action will be the newly built GWR Grange Class 4-6-0 no.6880 ‘Betton Grange’. This engine entered service in late-May 2024, and the West Somerset Railway are proud to be the second heritage railway to be hosting this locomotive. The brand new ‘Betton Grange’ will provide an interesting contrast to the 161-year old FR no.20, meaning both the oldest and newest operational steam locomotives will be working together at the event. No.6880 will appear courtesy of the Betton Grange Society and will work the main service starting at Bishops Lydeard at 10:15 on all days of the event. The three visiting engines will be joined by one of our home fleet of steam locomotives working the service from Minehead starting at 10:00.


The Furness Railway Trust’s website gives some background information on their locomotive - “Furness Railway Locomotive No. 20 is a 0-4-0 tender locomotive that was built as one of a batch of four locomotives for the Furness Railway in 1863. It worked there until 1870 when it was sold to the Barrow Haematite Iron & Steel Co. and converted into a saddletank locomotive. It ran in industrial use for ninety years, being re-built again with a new boiler in 1915, and was transferred to Barrow Steel Works upon nationalisation in 1942. On retirement it was fortuitously donated to the George Hastwell School in Barrow in 1960 where it was situated in the playground for the benefit of a generation of Barrow schoolchildren. It was then purchased privately by two enthusiasts in 1983 with the aim of converting it back to a tender locomotive. This scheme failed upon the death of one of the owners and the dismantled components were purchased in 1990 by the Lakeside Railway Society and transferred to the newly formed charity, the Furness Railway Trust (FRT), in 1991.


The 150th anniversary of the Furness Railway in 1996 saw the FRT gaining funding of £97,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £10,768 from the PRISM Fund of the Science Museum to add to its own funds to re-build the locomotive back to its 1863 condition at a cost of £148,000. This involved acquiring a brand new boiler and building a tender to replace that which had been retained by the Furness Railway in 1870. The re-build took place in the Barrow Shipyard with the new tender tank being bult by apprentices at Furness College in Barrow. Commencing in September 1996, the project was completed on the 13th January 1999 when the locomotive gained its boiler certificate and hauled a short goods train on the heritage railway from Haverthwaite to Lakeside in Cumbria.

FR 20 has since visited many heritage railways and is maintained and run at the FRT’s base at the Ribble Steam Railway at Preston. It is currently Britain’s oldest operational steam locomotive and has appeared in two big screen films: Possession in 2000 and The Invisible Woman in 2012.”


The event will see other attractions across the railway on selected days with ceremonies at Watchet, markets, horse and cart rides, Punch and Judy and much more on Minehead Station.


For full details of the event please visit the West Somerset Railway website.




10th June, 2024
by West Somerset Railway
5 Min Read

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