Hawthorn Leslie No. 3437 

Isabel Isabel

Hawthorn Leslie-built saddle tank 0-6-0 locomotive 'Isabel' was our first steam locomotive purchase. Built in 1919 to an order (number 3437) from ICI foodstuffs she was delivered new to their Blackley (Manchester) dye plant that year. Isabel was to spend the whole of her working life at the plant and withdrawal from service finally came in 1969.

During her time with ICI she had a fairly uneventful career, the only known incident occurred during the General Strike of 1926. Whilst being driven by a team of enthusiastic amateurs she ran away, demolished the locomotive shed doors and wrote off her sister engine which was standing in the shed! It is rumoured that this is where she gained the flat spot on her wheels which she still carries. After withdrawal 'Isabel' went straight in to preservation at the fledgling Somerset and Dorset Trust Site at the former Radstock Station site. However restoration to working order was to wait a few more years.

When the Radstock site closed and the Trust relocated to Washford on the West Somerset Railway in 1975, Isabel followed and she was to wait until 1998 for restoration to working order to be commenced. Not wanting to rush the process it wasn't until October 2005 for Isabel to be revealed to the world in all her restored glory. Used for shunting the S&D Trust yard she certainly turned a few heads!

Shortly after this in 2007 the locomotive changed hands and travelled north to the Cambrian Railways site at Llynclys Junction. Little used she was soon made available for sale again and in early 2010 she became our first steam locomotive.

She arrived at North Weald in 2012 and was soon out and about on test. Still very poorly, though, she was sparingly used and in August that year she was found to have a growing number of leaking tubes and mechanical faults. Although there were three years left on her boiler ticket the decision was taken to withdraw her from traffic for a complete overhaul. This commenced in 2014 and was undertaken "in-house".

Over the following years, our volunteers have refurbished many worn parts and replaced life expired components. In July 2017 she passed her initial steam tests, following which it was "all hands to the pump" to reassemble the locomotive.

Having received a new 10 year boiler certificate on the day before, Isabel returned to service at our Steam Gala in September 2017, working a number of trips with a brake van between North Weald and Ongar.

Now back in traffic, the locomotive will be used during some special events and low season services.

Facing: Epping
Current Status: In Traffic