BRITAIN’S only operational roundhouse engine shed for railway locomotives is playing host to a very special £110,000 restoration project.
The Locomotive 2521 Firefly is undergoing tender, loving attention at the Barrow Hill Roundhouse railway centre museum from enthusiast Richard Prestidge and about a dozen volunteers determined to revive the sleeping beauty.
Richard (29), of the Chesterfield Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Ltd restoration group, took on the 1952 Firefly on loan from the National Coal Mining Museum on a 20 year lease so it can roll out as a proud regional tourist and educational attraction.
He said: “It will hopefully stay in Chesterfield and be an ambassador for the area and travel around representing Chesterfield’s rich railway and steam heritage.
“If you think that rail pioneer George Stephenson came from Chesterfield there isn’t anything significant to serve as a monument for this area and that’s where we hope the Firefly will come in.”
Restoration on the Yorkshire Engine Company standard Type 1 Tank Engine, which started in 2002, is being run alongside other projects at the Barrow Hill Roundhouse by others including the National Museum of York and The B1 Locomotive Trust.
It is one of only three remaining Yorkshire Engine Company steam engines with the others based in North Yorkshire and Buckinghamshire.
The Firefly was originally built at Meadowhall in 1952 to work at Scunthorpe steelworks but was sold to the National Coal Board and worked at Clipstone Colliery, Mansfield, as a mining engine.
Mr Prestidge added: “When it was first built, the Firefly was at the forefront in its field.
“But sadly steam engines on main lines were stopped in 1968 and even though private collieries, steelworks and scrapyards continued to use engines they were phased out in the 1970s.”
The Firefly has six driving wheels and could pull 50 tonnes in its heyday and retired from service in 1972 and moved to Barrow Hill in October 2002.
Restoration work has so far included improvements to the cab platework, the bunker, the tank, window frames and a new wooded cab floor and work is due to start on the chassis and axle boxes.
Mr Prestidge, a Newbold secondary school teaching assistant, has put together a fantastic team of volunteers who give up their time for free to work on this labour of love.
But the team is appealing for companies and benefactors to sponsor the on-going project and for willing volunteers, including the inexperienced and those with any applicable skills from fundraising to engineering and draughtsmanship, to get on board.
Mr Prestidge said: “We’re hoping local supporters and companies can be encouraged to sponsor us so we can meet expenses including a substantial insurance policy.
“We’re also offering opportunities for school children, budding engineers or apprentices to practise their skills with us.
“My dad was a railway engineer and I have been interested in steam engines since I was just months old and I became a volunteer when I was 16 years-old and I‘ve never looked back. The more support we get, the quicker we can complete this project and give Chesterfield something special to be very proud of.”
Volunteers including retired teacher Nigel Gotteri (64), of Dronfield Woodhouse, and Nick Webster (23), of Walton, Chesterfield, both have a passion for locos.
Mr Webster said: “This engine is an important part of our heritage and it feels great to play a part in the revival of something that once made our country great.”
Those interested in volunteering or sponsoring the project can call the group on 07980 156022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Chesterfield Locomotive Action group originally took on the restoration project but it was handed over to the Chesterfield Locomotive Carriage and Wagon Ltd group in 2009.
The Barrow Hill Roundhouse is open at weekends between 10am to 4pm and entry is free, apart from special events, and donations are welcome.
Forthcoming special events include the Model Rail Live event, on September 17 and 18, the Steam Gala, on October 14 and 15, and the Santa Steam Trains in December.