Status: Restored to working order
Location: Wansford: By IRPS workshop near Nord Express
There are now only about a dozen pump trolleys left in existence in the UK. Of those only 3 or 4, including our one, are operational. The star of many American Western Films, they used to be a common sight in the 19th and early part of the 20th Century. Pump trolleys were originally used by track workers to get to remote locations on little-used lines. They were light enough so 4 big men could lift them on and off the track as required.
Our pump trolley was built in 1907 for the Great Eastern Railway. It was found by the Rev. Richard Paten, one of the Railway’s founding members, in an outhouse in a pub in the Fens. For many years, the locals had used it as an easy means of travelling from the village to the pub, taking it off the track at either end! By the time it arrived at the NVR it had been hidden in the barn, and forgotten about for many years. In 1982 the trolley starred in Jim’ll Fix It for the BBC.
By 2007 the trolley, which had previously been rebuilt using soft wood, had fallen out of use and was displayed simply as a static exhibit.
In 2007 the International Railway Preservation Society was asked to restore the pump trolley from a static exhibit to operational condition for the opening of the Sheffield International Rail Freight Terminal (SIRFT). The trolley was restored thanks to a generous grant from Helios, the property development company building the yard.
As most of the wood was rotten and unusable the decision was taken to completely rebuild the trolley. To extend its longevity, hardwood was used for the restoration. Whilst more expensive, it will last a lot longer than the original soft wood, so should save money in the long run.
With freight returning to the railways since privatisation the demand for a depot has increased again. When the depot was opened, the pump trolley spent the day giving rides to the dignitaries and other invited guests at the yard.
The trolley is the current Guinness World Record Holder for the furthest distance travelled on a pump trolley. On 1st June 1997 a group of members from the NVR, along with representatives from the British Heart Foundation set a world record of 125.5 miles in 12 hours with this pump trolley.
The attempt consisted of a relay of 3 teams of 4 over a 2 km stretch of track. The section between Orton Mere and Peterborough Nene Valley was chosen as it is the flattest section of the line. With a sustained average speed of over 10 mph this was no easy feat.
In June 2010 the trolley took a starring role in ITV’s long running soap Coronation Street. Filmed on the East Lancashire Railway, Bury, the plot centred on a sabotaged wedding train, a stranded bride and a conveniently located pump trolley. The episode aired over the August bank holiday weekend, and you’ll be relieved to know that the bride made it to the wedding!
The trolley has also been the star of a Barclays advert to promote tracker mortgages.
In December 2010 the pump trolley and two panels of track were taken to a London studio for filming. With the metalwork temporarily painted blue, and with a large amount of CGI around it, the trolley yet again showed its film star qualities.
All images Copyright Barclays © 2011
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Pump Trolley experiences and hire are run by volunteers from The Night Mail Group at The Nene Valley Railway. All funds raised are used to support the restoration of our historic railway vehicles and the developement of The Night Mail Museum at Ferry Meadows Station.