One Man and his Steam Engine

by Tony Storey

This article was published in the December 2023 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

In 1929 a six-wheeled steam railway locomotive rolled off the production line of the Hunslet Engine Company in Leeds, Yorkshire, It bore the name Newstead. The company had a fine reputation for the quality of its machines, which were designed for industrial use.
The locomotive quickly found a buyer and entered service with South Kirkby Featherstone & Hemsworth Collieries Ltd., where it was used for shunting wagons of coal from the colliery and marshalling them into trains for onward delivery to power stations, factories and towns.
At that time the nation was heavily dependent on coal. In 1947 the coal mines were nationalised and Newstead became the property of the National Coal Board. Between November 1954 and October 1955, it was on loan to Frickley Colliery.
In 1965 the locomotive was transferred to Woolley Colliery, West Yorkshire, from where it was withdrawn from service in 1970. The future for the engine was bleak as there was little demand for an elderly machine with forty years of hard work behind it. The only option seemed to be the scrap merchant, where it might be melted down and turned into a Ford Escort or countless paperclips.
Many miles away in Hertfordshire news of the locomotive’s plight reached Malcolm Saul. Malcolm James Saul was born in Ware, Hertfordshire, in 1938. His father, James, had married Dora Jarvis in St Albans in 1936 and in the 1939 Register the family lived at 100 Park Road, Ware. James was an engineer of sorts, making tools and gauges, which probably led to his interest in old machinery. Malcolm married Jane Marshall in 1967 and the couple made their home in Ware. He enjoyed looking around scrapyards and would sometimes bring home items of interest for his collection. Malcolm was also a keen gardener and rented a plot of land from the nearby Carmelite convent. He created a garden and vegetable plot, and now had somewhere to keep his acquisitions, which included a vintage steam roller. Jane always knew that his ambition was to own a steam locomotive, but was still surprised when Malcolm told her that he had sold his steam roller and used the proceeds to buy Newstead.
Malcolm took good care of his engine, building a shed around it to protect it from the weather. Newstead was sent to a company in Suffolk for a two-year refurbishment in the 1980s and in 1990 it returned to its home in Ware and Malcolm was able to raise steam and drive his engine on a short length of track. He planned a private running line and bought in more track, but the railway was never built. Sadly, Malcolm passed away in 2015, and his widow, Jane, was faced with the difficult task of ensuring that Newstead went to a good home.
The Small Loco Group at the Nene Valley Railway, Peterborough, were first to enquire about Newstead. They were invited to the convent and after tea and biscuits with one of the sisters from the convent, they were led through the leafy grounds to a small shed, where they were amazed to see the engine covered in a thin layer of dust but otherwise in very good condition. A sale was agreed.
Blocked in by trees, it took three days to remove the 38 ton locomotive from the convent grounds. Aided by local farmers with their tractors and a small army of volunteers carrying rails and sleepers by hand, nearly a hundred yards of track had to be laid before Newstead could be dragged across the muddy ground to the waiting lorry. The discovery of the ‘lost’ locomotive and the work to remove it was covered on local news and in the national press.
Upon arrival at Wansford, on the Nene Valley Railway, a group of volunteers began dismantling the locomotive for assessment. The cab, tank, boiler and all the fittings were removed and the boiler was inspected and found to be in good condition. Unfortunately the lack of available space in the workshops at Wansford prevented any further work, so the engine was reassembled and cosmetically tidied, before going on static display in the yard. The search for a new home began in late 2017, in the hope of returning the locomotive to steam within a reasonable timescale. In October 2018 Newstead received more publicity as it was transported around the M25 to its new home, the Spa Valley Railway steam shed at Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
Newstead is now receiving a comprehensive overhaul to enable it to become an active member of the Spa Valley Railway fleet. There is currently a team of around a dozen volunteers aged from 14 to 80, male and female, committed to the project. By 2026 the engine might be pulling coachloads of passengers. In the meantime it is enabling young people to acquire engineering skills, working as a team alongside pensioners enjoying a new challenge. Malcolm Saul would have been pleased with the results of his decision half a century earlier to save Newstead for posterity.
We have been able to trace Malcolm’s direct male line back (despite most of them being named James) until the birth of Richard Saul in Burghwallis, Yorkshire, in 1694. Most of the family remained in Yorkshire until the early twentieth century

The steam engine Newstead
The steam engine Newstead