Wednesday, 23 July 2014

In Search of the lost Nutty

'Nutty' is one of a peculiar breed of specialised locomotives that Sentinel made in the 1920s for brickworks use. Their prime requirement was to be very squat in height; very, very squat (5'2" in fact)!
Nutty lookalike - Works number 7243 built in 1928
(Photo from Sentinel Drivers' Club collection)
Built as works number 7701 in 1929 to a 2' 11" gauge, Nutty was one of about five constructed using steam waggon components.

In order to reduce the height as much as possible, the engine was mounted horizontally and the boiler very near to the ground. It also made driving a remarkably intimate experience!
No room for foot-plate passengers!
(Photo from SDC collection)
Neither of the above photos are actually Nutty; however, the next one certainly is.
Nutty in August 1971 at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway
(Photo SDC collection)
The inner workings are clearly visible if you click to enlarge the picture.

I became aware of Nutty through conversations with curators of the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, Gwynedd, at the terminus of the Talyllyn Railway (where I can be found volunteering on occasions). Nutty is actually owned by the NGRM but it never seems to be found anywhere near the museum!

Although originally built to a gauge of 2'11", it was re-gauged to 2'6" some years ago and it ran on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway for a while. Since that time, I do not know exactly where it has been but I'm led to believe it has spent time at Railworld in Peterborough. In 2012, it made its way to the Leyton Buzzard Railway where it is on display at the Stonehenge Works station.

I visited the LBR on Wednesday 16th July 2014 and was made very welcome indeed. I wanted to poke my digital camera into Nutty's various nooks and crannies to assess its general state. I now have around 170 photos, not all are included here!
Nutty under cover at Stonehenge Works
Yes, it is chain-driven!
Side-on view
Cab internals showing the boiler
'Under the bonnet' view showing the engine beneath the water tank
Engine, water tank and boiler feed pump
Bijou accommodation for the driver!
There are clearly a number of components missing and regrettably I omitted to enquire if they existed. However, it was a good day out and many queries answered as to the construction of this strange locomotive.

Now who volunteers to restore Nutty, reduce the gauge by another 3" and run it on the Talyllyn railway?

See my Reference Material page for information sources.


  1. Don Newing, from the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn, contacted me with some more background to Nutty.

    "Nutty" is a 4-wheeled, vertical-boilered, chain-driven, locomotive, one of three built by The "Sentinel" Waggon Works Ltd. in 1927 (works number 7701) to 2 ft. 11 in. gauge for the London Brick Company at Farcett, Peterborough. It was named NUTTY after the driver and fitter "Nutty" Rowell who kept the loco in service for 30 years.

    It was donated to the Museum in 1964 and was initially loaned as a working exhibit to the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway where it was converted to 2 ft. 6 in. gauge.

    In the 1970s it was withdrawn from service at Welshpool and moved to Tywyn where it was kept in the slate built gunpowder store building and brought out on occasions. It was later moved to a temporary building behind the old museum.

    In 1991 a lease was agreed with Whipsnade Wild Animal Park for restoration for the Great Whipsnade Railway. The loco was dismantled and its boiler sent away for inspection at Wilstead. Work on the locomotive subsequently ceased in 1994 and the dismantled locomotive was moved to Railworld, Peterborough, where it was hoped that it could be put on display.

    In 1996 it was moved to an engineering works in Peterborough where re-assembly and cosmetic restoration were undertaken by Mark Lock, grandson of Nutty Rowell. Unfortunately, the offer to display the locomotive at Railworld failed to materialise and the museum began a search for an alternative site for Nutty. The outcome of the search was the current agreement made in 2012 to loan Nutty to the Leighton Buzzard Railway as a static exhibit for an initial period of 5 years.

    Many thanks Don.

  2. Hello Don you might be interested to know we have the original worksplate from 7701 coming up for sale in our March 2018 auction.

  3. Hi Mark Lock here Nuttys Grandson great to see this article I have files on Nutty. My apprentices at the time refurbished it but really wanted to get under steam again. I managed to get hold if the old blue print drawings.

  4. Mark Lock here Nutty grandson my apprentices refurbed Nutty would have been great to get to full steam. I have drawing blue prints. Great see this information. I am lease holder probably about 89 years to go.

    1. Hi Mark. Thanks for your comments. Have you any plans for Nutty?


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