Baxter

Baxter first saw the light of day in 1877. He quickly – instantly, in truth, found employment at a quarry in Betchworth, Surrey.

For no obvious reason he was given the rank of Captain in 1947.

In 1960, aged 83, Baxter was retired. He joined the staff of the Bluebell Railway in Sussex, but they didn’t find much use for him.

In 1982 he was given a bit of replacement part surgery which kept him going – and going. Then, in 2010 he had more major surgery. He was aged 133 by then – a truly venerable age. And he’s still going and still gets odd jobs to do at the Bluebell Railway.

This post is about how some of my family and I encountered Baxter and fell hugely in love with him. You’ll have guessed by now that the elderly Captain Baxter is not a person. He’s a little steam railway locomotive. But don’t switch off. Baxter is very cute and most of my family members who loved this little loco are female. Baxter has that cuteness.

Now I’ve been visiting the Bluebell Railway from time to time since it opened in 1960. I have known Baxter since then, but I have never seen him turn a wheel until a visit on March 23rd this year. When we parked our car I could see a tall funnel moving around in the yard and I knew it was Baxter. I hastened to the station to see this old chap.

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That’s Baxter. He’d finished clearing the yard for the day and was heading off to Horsted Keynes from Sheffield Park.

There he is, all red and delightful.

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The family arrived and we went on what might be called an ordinary train to East Grinstead. Baxter was at Horsted Keynes, attached to a brake van or guard’s van.

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We had no time for him then.

Nor had we really on our return journey although Baxter was still there, at Horsted Keynes. That’s him behind my cousin.

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I will say our train was stopped at the time. Leaning out of train windows is dangerous when the train is in motion.

We dined at Sheffield Park and then took a train back to Horsted Keynes. A loudspeaker announcement advised us that we could take a ride in the brake van behind Baxter. Our grandfather had been a guard, spending his working life in such vans. We did it. And by heck it was worth it.

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Baxter was being prepared.

As we set off, standing on the open balcony of the van, Baxter decided we needed a shower.

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The girls loved it.

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And that could have been grandad sitting in his van with the stove keeping him warm and the big brake wheel in the middle. Actually, it was brother in law.

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On return journeys Baxter had to push us, so we stood right at the front looking over the route ahead.

Here’s a film to give the idea.

And here’s the crew at work on Baxter.

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After a wonderful little trip Baxter was prepared for his next turn.

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Now Captains are obviously gentlemen who do their best to keep the ladies happy. For my cousin, a dream was fulfilled. Baxter let her on the footplate.

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She certainly looks thrilled.

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By now Baxter was very much ‘our’ engine.

Here’s to the next time.

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One Response to “Baxter”

  1. sed30 Says:

    Reblogged this on sed30's Blog and commented:
    A lovely engine.

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