As long ago as 1973, founder members of the Western Locomotive Association gathered together to discuss the possibility of saving one of British Rail’s Class 52 “Western” diesel-hydraulic locomotives. The first withdrawals of the class had taken place in May 1973, hence the need to take action and, at a meeting in Bristol in January 1974, the “Western” Locomotive Association was formally launched.
After a year as a largely local group, with membership concentrated in the Bristol area, an advertising fund was set up.
With the aid of advertisements in the railway press, membership grew nationally, along with the popularity of the class in general.
The remaining locomotives were withdrawn by B.R. gradually through 1975 and 1976, while contributions were steadily flowing into the W.L.A.’s locomotive appeal fund.
In October 1976 the Association successfully purchased D1062 Western Courier and restored the locomotive to full operational condition in original maroon livery by May 1977, only a few months after the final demise of the class on British Rail. Meanwhile Richard Holdsworth, a businessman and WLA member, had privately purchased D1013 Western Ranger and this locomotive joined D1062 in the care of the Association.
Western Ranger was subsequently purchased by Roger Smith, also a businessman and WLA member in 1995, before the locomotive finally purchased by the Western Locomotive Association in 2004.
First operations took place on the Torbay and Dartmouth Railway in Devon during 1977 and 1978, followed by a move to the Severn Valley Railway at the end of 1978 which greatly increased the opportunities to operate the locomotives. Over the years a considerable amount of overhaul and maintenance work has been undertaken to ensure that the locomotives remain in peak condition.
D1013 is currently undergoing an extensive overhaul, including a complete re-wire, and is located in the Kidderminster Traction Maintenance Depot (Kidderminster TMD). D1062 remains fully operational on the Severn Valley Railway, also based at Kidderminster TMD.
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The WESTERN LOCOMOTIVE ASSOCIATION is a company limited by guarantee - Registered No: 3873466
Registered Address: 5, Prospect Place, Millennium Way, Pride Park, Derby, England DE24 8HG. Charity No. 1115058