Could the Carmyllie Pilot steam locomotive be back on track after four decades?

The Carmyllie Pilot carried some of the last trains to run in Angus before it was finally withdrawn from service in August 1966.

On happier duties, she worked the first passenger service on the recently reopened Strathspey Railway between Aviemore and Boat of Garten in July 1978.

She was rescued from the cutter’s torch and is now being restored to her former glory by a group of enthusiasts, having made more comebacks than Frank Sinatra.

The Carmyllie Pilot was born in Crewe in 1950

In 1946, two years before the nationalization of the railways, Henry George Ivatt, chief mechanical engineer of the London Midland and Scottish Railway, introduced a new modern light tender locomotive.

Early engine testing revealed problems with poor steam.

These were corrected by installing a modified chimney with a tapered internal bore to improve draft.

The LMS built 20 new-design engines which were given numbers 6400-6419 between 1946 and 1947.

A further 108 engines, numbered 46420-46527, were built by British Rail after nationalisation.

Carmyllie Pilot, locomotive number 46464, originated in Crewe in 1950 and was the last of a batch of five to be built before production moved to Darlington.

The Carmyllie driver at Arbroath Yard with Sandy Whyte pictured right who was one of the regular drivers of the locomotive.

She cost £8,932 to build and was awarded to the Scottish Region of British Railways along with her sister locomotive 46463.

Both engines were based at Dundee Tay Bridge shed, but were assigned, in turn, to Arbroath.

How did she get her name?

46464 could be found, on several occasions, working on the Carmyllie freight service between Elliot Junction and Redford.

It is thanks to this that it became known to locals as Carmyllie Pilot.

On August 2, 1952, she carried the very last passenger train from Brechin to Forfar, when she had to intervene at the last minute to replace another failed engine.

Driver Carmyllie pulling the passenger service train from Forfar to Brechin on August 2, 1952.

This was to be his only visit to Brechin, and indeed the only recorded visit of an engine of his class.

She was briefly posted to Kittybrewster in 1955.

She worked on the Buchan line to Peterhead, Fraserburgh and St Combs, replacing the regular engine, 46460, known to locals as Baby Elephant.

The original Carmyllie Pilot boiler was changed when the engine was purchased in 1961.

The Carmyllie driver at Elliot Junction in Arbroath on a train tour organized by the Stephenson Locomotive Society and the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society.

She now carries the boiler of 46465, which spent its working life first in Cambridgeshire and then in Derbyshire.

She was damaged in Dundee in 1964

Dr. Richard Beeching’s infamous report in March 1963 spelled the death knell for over 2,300 stations and approximately 6,000 miles of track.

At Dundee Tay Bridge shed 62B in June 1966 looked a little tired at work about two months before it was retired in August of that year.

Country stations and branch lines are removed in the name of progress and steam locomotives are scrapped.

Sometime in 1964, the Carmyllie Pilot was damaged.

She was apparently slid sideways by a B1 in the Dundee shed and sent to Inverurie Loco Works for repairs to the LHS crossmember and foot plate.

Indeed, it was surprising that it had been repaired and not withdrawn at this point, as by this time steam locomotives were withdrawn from service in large numbers, and any faults usually meant one last trip – scrapping !

After repair, she returned to Arbroath and pulled the last train through the Carmyllie branch, May 19, 1965.

The Carmyllie pilot with the train crew and Carmyllie staff on the last day of operation on May 19, 1965, when he slipped away in silence before the line was finally closed.

The Carmyllie Light Railway is officially closed to all traffic after 110 years of operation.

She was finally retired in August 1966 after only 16 years in service following British Rail’s decision to replace steam with diesel.

She had been somewhat neglected in the last few years before the withdrawal.

Rescued from scrap and stored in a shed in Dundee

Unlike her twin engine, she was saved from scrap by local railroad enthusiast Ian Fraser of Arbroath.

Mr. Fraser overcame the council’s opposition and built a motor shed for his steam traction engine and garden railway on the grounds of his home in Arbroath.

He had worked as a locomotive engineer with the LNER at the Darlington, Doncaster and Inverurie locomotive works and after his retirement eventually purchased several engines including the Carmyllie Pilot.

She was presented to Dundee Corporation after purchase.

The original intention was to display the engine, but it was stored in a shed in East Dock Street between 1967 and 1975 before being loaned to Strathspey Railway where it carried the first regular passenger train on 22 July 1978 and remained in service. there for several years until it suffered accidental damage to the combustion chamber.

Operating the first passenger service train on the newly reopened Strathspey Railway from Aviemore to Boat of Garten on 22nd July 1978.

Mr Fraser wished to have the locomotive closer to home and after much correspondence with Dundee District Council the locomotive was returned to Mr Fraser and left the Strathspey Railway on 30 November 1989 to return once more in Brechin.

Sadly, Mr. Fraser passed away in 1992.

In the late 1990s repair work was carried out to prevent further damage to the boiler, before a group of enthusiasts got together and, in July 2000, signed a deal with David Fraser, son of the owner of origin.

The dream of a return to steam after 42 years

The Carmyllie Pilot Company Ltd was formed by Robin Taylor, John Yule, Max Maxwell, Ian Hopley and Iain Smith to restore and subsequently operate 46464.

Mr Smith, chairman of the Cupar and District Model Railway Club, became interested after seeing a picture of the locomotive crossing the River Eden to St Andrews.

The image was taken in 1952 by WJV (Bill) Anderson who was arguably one of the most inspiring and influential railway cameramen of the steam age.

John Yule, Robin Taylor, Iain Smith, Ian Hopley and Max Maxwell.

“I caught the steam bug after a few visits to Lochty Private Railway in 1980, where I met the late Davy Murray who was also a good friend of Ian Fraser,” said Iain.

“He gave me the task of cleaning out the smoke box of a steam engine and I rode home looking like a miner who had just left his shift!

“After learning to drive I worked at the Caledonian Railway in Brechin where Max Maxwell guided me in the art of pulling and driving a locomotive.

“I learned many tasks I didn’t know I could do and helped run a few steam locomotives on the Brechin line at Bridge of Dun between 1982 and 1998.

“It was around this time that I met the other three members of the Carmyllie Pilot team who also had a love for steam and the rest is history.”

Work is underway to restore the Carmyllie Pilot to its former glory.

In March 2002 the engine was dismantled and moved from the Caledonian Railway to a private site at Bridge of Dun for a thorough overhaul.

The work included the manufacture of new steel running plates, a roof for the tender and a roof for the locomotive, using the traditional methods of hot riveting.

In 2019, after carrying out extensive work on the boiler themselves, it was sent to Stockton on Tees for further major repairs.

The Carmyllie driver was returned to Strathspey Railway in February 2020.

It is hoped that the boiler work will be completed shortly and tested in the coming months.

Iain at Boat of Garten in July 2018 when their Ivatt class 2MT 46512 wore the Carmyllie pilot’s smokehouse plate and cabin number to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the opening of the railway in July 1978.

Iain said: “What makes this project all the more special is that we carried out most of the repair work ourselves where possible, in tents in a field using our own funds.

“That really drives it and we now hope the Carmyllie Pilot will finally return to steam in early 2022 after a 42-year hiatus.”

People can follow the restoration story on Facebook.

Already subscribed? Login

[Could the Carmyllie Pilot steam locomotive return to the tracks after four decades?]


Jose P. Rogers