One of the largest events for railway enthusiasts every year, around 17,000 visitors attended the National Model Railway Exhibition on 19/20 November 2012.

Gertrude in the Hall

Gertrude on display in Hall 5 of the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

As part of the Warley Model Railway Club’s NATIONAL MODEL RAILWAY EXHIBITION hundreds of visitors stepped onto the footplate of Gertrude, while a historic display of her life, and of where she worked in industry – the Alfred Hickman ironstone quarry at Sydenham, near Adderbury, and the Stewarts & Lloyds steelworks at Bilston – could also be viewed, along with photographs and video of Gertrude’s preservation activities with Exmoor Transport.

Les Driver, Andy Richards, Shaun Robins and Jim Pounds, the leading lights of the November 2006 to August 2009 big-push to complete Gertrude’s restoration, were on hand to talk about the 1918 built engine and the activities of Exmoor Transport and Exmoor Associates, as were Mike Selby and Jenny Driver.

Also attending were representatives of Porthmadog’s Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Gertrude’s current base, Sarah Westmacott, Gertrude’s owner, and it was also a pleasure to meet David Maidment, the founder of the Railway Children charity, and people who had worked for S&L while Gertrude was in use there, as well as some that had helped the Westmacott family with her early restoration.  A complimentary stand acted as a meeting place for former workers of the Bilston Steelworks, where Gertrude served between 1925 and 1959.

Steps to Gertrude

There was a constant queue for footplate access

Part of the Sydenham Ironstone Quarry/Bilston Steelworks double-sided display, which covered about 18 metres, as provided by Andree Hickey, the former Welfare Officer at S&L Bilston, her husband Eddy, both sitting, and Andrew Kennedy of Oakwood Visuals and Steam Days magazine. The display boards were supplied by the Welsh Railways Research Circle.
Exmoor Transport, the present custodians of Gertrude, have been thanked by the Warley Model Railway Club management for providing a great chance for local families to step onto the footplate of this former Oxfordshire and Black Country engine, and for providing such a complete exhibition area for enthusiasts. Even one or two forums have seen specific comments -

“The extensive display around narrow gauge loco Gertrude, explaining its history and where it worked, was excellent and made far more sense than just having the loco there without setting it in context.”
- Steven Oakden

On the way to the exhibition it should be noted that with Porthmadog bypass construction work potentially compromising the Gelerts Farm rail to road loading point of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, the nearby Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway stepped in to ensure that Gertrude would definitely get to the NEC by taking her across Britannia Crossing and along The Cob in Porthmadog to enable the rail to road trans-shipment to be carried out at Minffordd. Duncan Milner performed the road move, and generously allowed an extra day in his schedule so that Gertrude could visit Bilston for the first time since 1960; our engine was greeted by Lord Bilston, himself a former Stewarts & Lloyds employee, and the Express & Star newspaper attended.

The photo-call was at the Springvale Social Club, once part of the Stewarts & Lloyds premises, but now one of just two surviving buildings from the 1979-closed Steelworks. The original ‘S&L’ gates to the former steelworks’ sports ground exist on either side of the Midcounties Co operative owned premises, and we are grateful to all those that allowed us to take this opportunity for Gertrude to relive some of her history.

Gertrude at Bilston

Gertrude at the former S&L site at Bilston

At 4.30pm on the Sunday of the exhibition, Pete Waterman picked out the winners of Gertrude’s Grand Prize Draw, run on behalf of the Railway Children charity – this was appropriate as Pete’s Garrett locomotive was in fact the very first load pulled by Gertrude in preservation, and as our locomotive was withdrawn in 1959, and the first move was in 2009, that was quite a moment!

Railway Children

Exmoor Transport are delighted to announce that Gertrude’s appearance at the NATIONAL MODEL RAILWAY EXHIBITION has resulted in £518.20 being raised for the Railway Children (Registered charity 1058991).
The total is made up of 501 raffle tickets sold, added to the contents of three Railway Children donation boxes on the engine and on the associated Exmoor Transport display area.
This Prize Draw would not have been possible without the generosity of our friends in the railway fraternity, prizes being donated by the WELSH HIGHLAND HERITAGE RAILWAY, ARRIVA TRAINS WALES, JONATHAN CLAY, THE STATFOLD BARN RAILWAY, HORNBY HOBBIES, THE LEIGHTON BUZZARD NARROW GAUGE RAILWAY, STEAM DAYS magazine, and OAKWOOD PRESS & OAKWOOD VISUALS. Thanks are also due to the Warley Model Railway Club and Pete Waterman, and of course to everyone who purchased tickets.

Finally thanks to William Shelford (LBNGR archivist)and Andrew Kennedy (Oakwood Visuals) for use of the photographs. A few more photos can also be found in our Warley 2011 Gallery.