Hunslet 1215 - A War Veteran's Story
Hunslet 4-6-0T No.1215 was one of a class of locomotives built to the order of the British War Department for use by what became the Directorate of Light Railways. This organization used 600mm gauge railways to supply the trenches by bridging the gap between the end of the standard gauge railways and the relatively static front line of World War I on the Western front. They were used to move huge quantities of troops, casualties, shells, rations and other supplies over a network that, at its full extent, included over 3,000 miles of track.
Apart from being one of the largest classes of one single type of narrow gauge locomotive built within the UK, the vast majority were also completed within the space of three years. A total of 155 of them were ordered by the War Department from the Hunslet Engine Co. at a time when Hunslet were also constructing howitzers, shells, and machinery to make shells, as well as a limited number of other locomotives. By comparison, in peacetime they averaged about 40 locomotives of all types per year.
The other remarkable feature of these machines is the diverse locations in which they, and the nine built post-war, ended up. From hydro-electric schemes of the Scottish Highlands, to the pampas of Argentina, Harrogate gasworks to Australian canefields, Oxfordshire ironstone to Palestinian power stations, Nepalese forests and Chilean nitrate mines, all made good use of these neat little locomotives. Happily 1215 survives and resides at the Apedale Heritage Centre.
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