Fluff was the Lakeside Railway Society's first locomotive - bought by the Society to haul works trains on what was to become the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway from the Steelworks in Barrow-in-Furness. In due course the Furness Railway Trust was estasblished and took over all the Society's assets, including the little shunter. Read the story of the engine's glory days below!
The locomotive spent three years on display outside Vintage Vehicles Shildon - the "other" museum in Shildon, County Durham, next door to the NRM's Locomotion, but has now moved to the Trust's home base, the Ribble Steam Railway in Preston.
For a number of years, Fluff had stood in the yard at Haverthwaite, but was then cosmetically restored. The work was carried out by two of our teenage members - Chris Holmes and Chris Saxon - under the supervision of the 5643 restoration team. The new platework that replaced the rusty examples that form the bonnet were rolled by Quay Fabrications - kindly sponsored by Furness Railway Trust member Derek Milby. The new plates were painted with red oxide, cut and fitted. The inside of the cab roof was sanded and also given the red oxide treatment. The front lamp was cleaned and repainted, along with the name plates. Fluff is now resplendent once more in its distinctive yellow livery.
Phil Norman was one of the people who helped bring Fluff to Haverthwaite, and has written to us from Ontario, Canada, with his memories of the locomotive's halcyon days on the L&HR:
"It all began in late 1969 when the locomotive's existence came to the notice of members of the Lakeside Railway Society's Furness Branch. Fluff was stored, out of use, in a largely disused area of the Barrow Steelworks where it had languished for a number of years. A visit or two were made and it was decided to purchase the loco for the LHR. Over the ensuing few months, a restoration of sorts was done. The loco was pretty much intact apart from a missing rear cab window frame, and with a lot of elbow grease, enthusiasm, and a few tools, we returned the engine to life. We refrained from cleaning up and shining the copper top on the chimney for fear it would be stolen, but we did repaint it to its present yellow and red from its awful dull orange, with black stripes front and back.
Many foolhardy attempts were made to start the engine using the large hand crank in the cab, but all that was produced was a lot of sweat and swearing! Finally, arrangements were made with the Steelworks to have one of their shunting engines come and tow us to give us a start. This was a great success and the engine returned to life in a cloud of blue smoke and a lot of shouting and cheering from the assembled half dozen. To this day I never understood why we didn't use a large battery to start the thing the way it was supposed to be done. A few subsequent starts were made by various means inside the Steelworks, but the Steelworks management frowned on this.
I believe the date of the movement from the Steelworks to the L&HR was the 14th of October 1970. With coupling and connecting rods stored on the running boards, Fluff had been moved some days earlier to the goods yard behind the Strand in Barrow. On the day of the move, the engine was marshalled in a small train behind a small 5 plank wagon (the Vickers Wagon), a flat wagon, and two box vans. A BR brake van brought up the rear. So, behind Class 08 diesel shunter Number 4152, (which was travelling backwards carrying the "Lakeside Harbinger" headboard) we set off into the drizzle at a very sedate pace. The journey as I recall was fairly uneventful. Myself, my father, and Phil Cousins travelled on the footplate of Fluff, with Ken Nuttall and a couple of his mates in the brake van. I do remember being stopped by signals approaching Dalton Tunnel, and being diverted into Ulverston yard to allow something a little quicker to get past. Otherwise we arrived unscathed in rather improved weather in Haverthwaite yard in the early afternoon. John Houghton (the first LRS Chairman) was there to meet us, and as soon as we were safely in the siding he set us to work with the jacks to get the wheels realigned so that we could reinstall the rods. As a result, we were able to drive around the yard by the end of a very successful day.
As for the engine's early use on the LHR, it was for a while the only diesel in the yard, which it shared with the 2 Fairburn tank locomotives, Black Five 44806, the 0-4-0ST "Caliban" from Courtaulds at Preston and a couple of Hudswell-Clarke 0-6-0 saddle tanks from Renishaw Ironworks. It was therefore the only quick and convenient form of motive power if any shunting was required. It suffered from a few shortcomings however. Firstly there was the shortage of horsepower. It was just capable of hauling a Fairburn up the yard, but only if a pinch bar was used to get the steam engine started. Its second drawback was its lack of power brakes which combined with the soft brake pads left over from far off days in a munitions factory, meant that stopping with a load when descending a grade was a fairly long (but exciting!) experience. Finally, its true Achilles heel was a warped clutch plate. This caused clutch linings to wear at an alarming rate, and I personally recall at least two occasions in a fairly short space of time, when I had to dismantle half the front end to get the linings renewed.
When all said and done I have very fond memories of Fluff as I suspect you may have realises from this letter. As for myself, I was an avid volunteer at Carnforth then Haverthwaite in the late 60's/early 70's along with both my parents, and was originally slated to be a fireman when the first round of qualified staff was being organised. Alas, I broke my ankle playing soccer just before the training was due to begin so missed my chance. "
Many thanks to Phil Norman who wrote this atmospheric description of Fluff and its vital role in the early days of the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.
İFurness Railway Trust