Tuesday, 6 May 2008

The Old Locomotive Committee

'Lion' enjoys the sun during the 'Riot of Steam' in 2005.

What is the Old Locomotive Committee? In explanation, I can do no better than quote the brief history of the LION locomotive published by the present Old Locomotive Committee:-

"In January 1923 an interesting 'Old Locomotive' was noticed still doing duty as a pumping engine at the Graving Dock, Princes Dock on the River Mersey. This locomotive was subsequently identified as LION, built in Leeds in 1838 by Messrs Todd, Kitson and Laird for the Liverpool & Manchester Railway and sold 'Out of Service' to the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board in 1859. She had been used as a pumping engine since 1871.

Late in 1927, a number of members of the (now defunct) Liverpool Engineering Society, conscious of the recent Centenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway and anxious that the Centenary of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway should reflect the greater importance of the latter enterprise, began to look towards seeking LION's restoration and with this objective in view, formed themselves into an Old Locomotive Committee.

LION was restored to working order and provided with a tender and a train of six period carriages by mid-1930, in time for the Liverpool & Manchester Centernary celebrations at Wavertree Park, Liverpool, where she played a prominent part, giving a faultless performance. In 1938 she was used by the London Midland & Scottish Railway, both in steam and as a static exhibit, for the London & Birmingham Centenary Celebrations. In 1980 she was again restored to working order in time to lead the cavalcade on the first day of the 'Rocket 150' celebrations at Rainhill. She was a major point of interest for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when she was in steam, supported by OLCO members in costume, for the Crewe celebrations of 1987. HRH the Prince of Wales rode on her footplate in the course of the Royal visit to Tyseley which took place during the last period LION was steamed in 1988 - her 150th birthday year.

LION is probably best known for her starring role in the film 'The Titfield Thunderbolt' but she was also used for the films 'Victoria the Great' of 1937 and 'The Lady with the Lamp' in 1951. Before the last war she was kept on a plinth at Lime Street Station, Liverpool but latterly, having been passed to National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, following the demise of the Liverpool Engineering Society, she has been displayed in the Transport Gallery of Liverpool Museum. Following that museum's successful lottery bid, however, she has been on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester since mid-June 1999, returning to Liverpool in 2007. She is not in steamable condition, but details of what would be needed to restore her to working order have been established. Compared with some other sucessful restorations, they are not extensive.

Following LION being put back into working order in 1980, interest in the locomotive revived dramatically so that when moves to institute a society connected with the locomotive were made in 1984, the fledgling organisation adopted the name 'Old Locomotive Committee' as a tribute to the stalwarts of the former Liverpool Engineering Society who had rescued the locomotive originally. This full name has conveniently been contracted to 'OLCO', with a logo based on the letterhead of the successor company - Kitson & Co - of the partnership which originally built LION. OLCO members have been instrumental in helping to run the locomotive when in steam, researching her history, providing a focus for modellers with drawings (measured from LION herself), other information and annual steaming meets at various venues."

As stated above, the last steaming of LION was at Birmingham Railway Museum, Tyseley in 1988. She was stored there for some time before moving to Dinting for a while in anticipation of bringing her back to steam. Unfortunately, Liverpool Museums decided that LION will not steam again and LION was moved to Dorothea Restorations at Whaley Bridge for cosmetic restoration.

Since there was no suitable space to display LION in Liverpool, the locomotive then spent some years on display in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. During this time, OLCO member John Hawley refined his series of drawings of LION which form the definitive record of the current condition of the locomotive. A fairly detailed photographic record was also made. Click for photographs.

The Liverpool & Manchester Railway opened on 15th September 1830. 175 years later, in 2005, the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester hosted a 4-day celebration which they called 'Riot of Steam', featuring replicas of the contenders at the earlier Rainhill Trials. Liverpool Museum allowed LION to appear at these celebrations, giving rise to some interesting photo-opportunities. 'Riot of Steam' pictures.

In March 2007, LION finally left Manchester and was returned to store in Liverpool, although OLCO members still have limited 'visiting rights'. To see David Boydell's pictures of LION leaving Manchester, Click here.

It is intended that LION will be displayed in the new (and architecturally rather contentious) museum being constructed at Liverpool.

Members of OLCO receive a newsletter and, for the benefit of modellers, there is an annual competition of live steam models called 'Lionsmeet'.

As time permits, I'll post more information and more of my photographs of LION. To display all posts with the label 'OLCO' Click here.