Birmingham spotlight – part 4


Secundus working on the Furzebrook Railway

We have given Birmingham quite a knock in our previous three posts, so it wouldn’t be fair to leave the City without bestowing a bit of praise.

Secundus, a Bellis & Seekings 0-6-0WT locomotive, was built in Birmingham in 1874. It has a most distinctive appearance – a marine type boiler, cow catchers and sideplates. One can only conclude from the ‘Toby the tram engine’ features that the design was originally intended for use on a roadside tramway, perhaps in Ireland where the 3ft gauge was in extensive use.

Secundus was the second locomotive (obviously!) to be delivered to the 2 ft 8 ½ in Furzebrook Railway in the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. Here it worked shunting clay wagons until the railway and all its locomotives were sold. Happily, the demolition contractors, Abelson & Co, presented the locomotive to Birmingham Mueum after the Birmingham Locomotive Club pointed out the engine’s unique status as the only surviving steam locomotive to have been built in the City. For many years, Secundus was hidden away in Birmingham’s Museum of Science Industry, but when the museum closed, the Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum Group were able to negotiate the locomotive’s return to Purbeck.

The locomotive is now on display in the railway museum in the former goods shed at Corfe Castle on the Swanage Railway. In the future the PMMMG plan to display the locomotive at a new mining museum that they are building at Norden, the Swanage Railway’s current terminus. Our congratulations all round, particularly to Jane Arthur of Birmingham Museum and Graham Feldwick of the PMMMG. We would also like to pay tribute to the late John Kellaway, a good friend of the Swanage Railway in the dark days of the project (1972-1976), and one of the prime instigators of the idea of a museum based on the mines and narrow gauge railways of Purbeck.

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4 Responses to “Birmingham spotlight – part 4”

  1. Robert Hall Says:

    Highly-evocative picture of the loco concerned, in use on its system. The Purbeck clay lines were among those Britain’s narrow-gauge delights, which cause regret to folk such as myself, over having been born too late – or in the wrong place – to have the chance to experience them in action.

    The sheer variety of weird narrow gauges which obtained in Britain – particularly on industrial lines – can be rather astounding, though delightful. “How come” 2ft. 8 and a half in., for instance – just a tiny bit wider than the mountain-rack-railway “standard” of 800mm, as on Snowdon? And the Furzebrook’s “companion” clay line in Purbeck – Fayle’s Tramway aka the Goathorn Tramroad (which ceased to exist in its original form, some years before the 1957 end to Furzebrook’s operations) was 3ft 9in gauge. Britain for individuality and eccentricity, there’s no doubt about that!

  2. John Rowley Says:

    Please note Purbeck is Famous for Ball Clay not China Clay

  3. dyspozytor Says:

    John, you are, of course, absolutely right. I have corrected the article.

  4. Andrew Bellis Says:

    Please note, the Secundus engine manufacturer is Belliss and Seekings (the Belliss with two ‘s’) from Birmingham. You’ll see why I’m so tetchy about this when I sign off! A. Bellis (Bournemouth).

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