Dunrobin - Locomotive and Castle
The Beamish Transport Museum is delighted to announce that after over 12 months of work and discussion we have agreed to purchase Dunrobin, the Sharp Stewart 0- 4-4T built in 1895 for the Duke of Sutherland to use to haul his private train over Highland Railway lines (of which company he was a director). The engine was based at Dunrobin Castle in its own shed. A four wheel carriage (No.58A - the day saloon) was also based there and is also coming to Beamish as part of the deal. A bogie coach used by the Duke is preserved as part of the NRM collection and will be on display at the Scottish Railway Museum, Bo'ness, shortly.
The engine was used until 1920 (though this information has still to be confirmed). In 1950 is was steamed 745 miles, along with 58A, from Dunrobin to New Romney for display alongside the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway. Photographs show it en route in March 1950. In 1965 the engine and coach was purchased by a Canadian businessman for inclusion in a museum he proposed in British Columbia. Shortly after arrival in Canada, the pair were sold for $15,000 to the B.C. government, finding their way to Fort Steele, an open air museum which features a working railway.
Dunrobin was used intermittently, also visiting other fairs and events, including Sacramento in 1991 when it met our Locomotion No.1, last being steamed in 2005. In Canada it has been fitted with an air pump, steam generator and a buckeye coupling. It was deemed surplus to requirements and after a chance visit by railway journalist Tony Streeter, it came to Beamish's attention that a sale might be possible.
The need for our own steam locomotive to operate at Rowley has been well demonstrated this season, with the variety of engines hired in costing both in terms of hire fees and haulage. We will have the Y7 next year and Dunrobin will be overhauled to come in alongside this in due course. The overhaul programme will be determined once the engine has been brought back to Beamish, a long journey for such an elderly machine! Whilst it is not of North Eastern origin, it will fit in well with its high-Victorian appearance. The engine has had some distinguished patrons - the cab having seen figures including King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI, King Alfonso of Spain, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Winston Churchill - though obviously not all at the same time! These figures reflect the Duke of Sutherland's position in politics and explain his desire to have his own private train.
So, what next? We need to go out and prepare Dunrobin and 58A for shipping, and then bring them back, probably next spring. I'd like to have them on display at the GNSF but we shall see if we can make that date. A survey will then be carried out on the boiler, we'll have a look at the loco mechanically then take it from there.
Details can be found at www.beamish.org.uk/historic-transport/ and click on the Blog link.
Good news for visitors to Dunrobin Castle. Following an intensive campaign by the FoFNL, the opening dates of the station will now coincide with the castle's season. Until now the castle's opening dates have been 1st April- 15th October, whilst the station only opened late May to late September. The result of this has been that up to now the castle has not put details of the station on its publicity because it was just too complicated to explain the variations in a short space. This will be rectified in the Castle's leaflets for 2011.
The station is situated at the end of the castle's drive. The walk to the castle front door takes about 5-7 minutes. With over 60,000 visitors every year it is hoped that rather more will reach the castle by train than at present. To further enhance the service, all trains which arrive at Dunrobin station during the castle's opening hours can now be requested to stop. With the potential of calls by the semi-fasts, day trips from Inverness and Thurso/Wick are now much more feasible. The castle is looking positively into the possibility of reduced entrance fees for those arriving by rail. As members will know, the station building at Dunrobin is quite unlike any of the others on the Far North Line. It was designed by the Sutherland family's own architect in 1902 in the then very fashionable cottage ornée style. Essentially it looks like a perfect piece of English estate architecture which has somehow lost its way and ended up in Sutherland. The station building houses a small railway museum. Most of the exhibits are viewable through the windows, but the station is also fully opened on about half a dozen days a year, usually coinciding with visits to the castle by Charter trains. The Northern Belle and UK Railtours are regular visitors.
So if you haven't visited Dunrobin Castle by rail before (and even if you have!) 2011 is the year to do so, with conveniently timed trains throughout the castle's season.