Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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La'al Ratty steam engine facing longer layoff after workshop fire

One of the locomotives caught up in a fire which ravaged the workshop of the La’al Ratty five months ago is expected to be off track for a further year.

The La’al Ratty engine shed after the blaze

The popular River Esk was in the middle of a major overhaul when the workshop burnt to the ground at the end of March.

Although parts of the train were saved as they were able to be pushed out of the workshop by staff during the fire, other parts were damaged or destroyed and their repair or remanufacture has to start again.

The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway team say that it is likely to be more than a year before the Esk runs again. It took 10 fire crews four hours to control the blaze in the engineering workshop, but business carried on as usual at the popular attraction.

Ratty volunteer Owen Ryder, who has been helping with the repair work, said that steam engines might seem less susceptible to fire as they are made of metal, which doesn’t easily burn, but there are other effects which damage them.

“The most apparent damage to the components is corrosion, not helped in this instance by the fact that it was sea water used to put out the fire and salt accelerates corrosion,” he said.

“Not only do many components look like they’ve been at the bottom of the sea for several years, but [the] joints will not work if the dimensions are changed by corrosion.”

He added that some loco components have been damaged due to the intense heat, which also twisted steel joints in the workshop. Further damage was caused by the workshop roof collapsing.

A call has gone out for members of the railway’s Preservation Society to help assist staff repairing the fire-damaged workshop. The railway’s museum is also set to undergo a revamp.

The attraction is looking to engage with younger visitors and could use new technology to explain the history and heritage of the site.

The plan is to extend the existing museum building and use the extra space to house artefacts currently not displayed.

The project is likely to cost £500,000 and funding is still sought from various bodies.

Anyone able to help with repairs should get in touch with chief engineer Stephen Farish on 01229 717171 or by emailing


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