Life & Times – No.42

No.42 is a loco where its MRT fleet number co-incides, by a non-coincidence, with the running number it bore in industry. No.42 is Motor Rail 7710, one of the large 32/42hp locos fitted with a Dormal 2DL diesel engine. It was new to Sir Robert McAlpine, Pant Farm gravel pits, Wrexham, but moved during the 1950s to the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway (LBLR) as their no.14. Ownership was then transferred to Joseph Arnold Sand Quarries on 3 December 1958 when the two sand quarry companies (Arnold and Garsides) took responsibility for the operation of the “main line” of the LBLR.

This locomotive was used on the LBLR “main line” from the sand quarries down to the standard gauge railway interchange point (near Billington Road in Leighton Buzzard) on the Leighton Buzzard to Dunstable branch line. The large white cross on the cab side was to allow staff at the Billington Road yard of the LBLR to identify locos (and therefore trains) at a distance.The former LBLR now forms the basis of the current Leighton Buzzard railway.

The loco was withdrawn with a destroyed gearbox. The forward/reverse sliding dog (at the top of the gearbox) had essentially exploded. Sadly, the Simplex Data Recorder doesn’t exist, but maybe this happened when a driver went to change gear and grabbed the forward/reverse lever in error. The loco was preserved at the Cadeby Light Railway in 1979, where, after the gearbox was rebuilt, it became first-choice loco for passenger trains when “Pixie” was indisposed. No.42’s power – both starting and stopping – provided the driver with reassurance on the steep grade and curves at a Leicestershire Rectory. 2006 saw the loco operate the official “first train” at Apedale; those familiar with the site will see how far things have progressed since. In 2016, the loco returned “home” to Leighton Buzzard, and was memorably operated with the other two surving LBLR 32/42HP Simplex locos, which are in the care of the Leighton Buzzard Railway.