The following letter from Colin Pealling (a former owner of Sgt. Murphy) was published in issue no. 7 of The Industrial Railway Record (the journal of the Industrial Railway Society) way back in September 1965, when the approach to locomotive preservation by amateurs was in many respects different to what it is today:
“I notice on page 119 of RECORD 5/6 that Penrhyn Quarry’s SGT. MURPHY was thought to be for sale to Mr. T. Burdett, and also that it was “very decrepit”. Certainly she looks so, but she is in my garden now and the neighbours haven’t complained! Seriously though, the boiler needs retubing, but then it should be alright at the full 160 lbs pressure. The lower part of the smokebox tubeplate needs some attention and a new smokebox door is wanted – although the smokebox itself is in excellent condition. The firebox was new in 1938 and the tanks are sound, having been fitted new in 1945. There is nothing that can’t be cured, and a lot of the decrepitude is due to a surfeit of rust which is mostly superficial.
“SGT. MURPHY was taken out of service in 1947 at her routine “shopping” date due to the need for new tubes and tyres, the latter having worn thin during the War. An inside framer, Penrhyn had had a bit of a job to reduce her from 2ft to 1ft 10¾in gauge. Even now she is a bit on the wide side and I shall be happy when re-tyring restores the status quo. She left Penrhyn for Kingswinford at the unearthly hour of 11.15 pm on Saturday, 25th July 1964.
“The name, by the way, results from her being the first of the secondhand acquisitions, and Mr. Battersby couldn’t think what to call her. She was purchased just after the 1923 Grand National which had been won by a grey gelding called Sgt. Murphy. The story goes that a group of quarrymen were at the top of the main level incline watching her come up for the first time, and there had never been a six-coupled locomotive on the incline before, of course. The effect as she came over the top must have been for all the world like a horse clearing a fence, and one of the men is reputed to have remarked, “Here comes Sgt. Murphy!” Mr. Battersby soon heard about it, liked it, and the SGT. MURPHY nameplates were cast.
“Yours etc., COLIN PEALLING, KINGSWINFORD, STAFFS.”
The Editor subsequently added the following note to Mr Pealling’s letter:
“Vic Bradley [later compiler of the Industrial Railway Society Handbook,
Industrial Locomotives of North Wales] tells me that when he visited the quarry
in 1954 his guide was very reluctant to take him to the shed where SGT. MURPHY
was stored, and then refused to enter with him. It appears that many of
the older men were superstitious about this locomotive for it had once
overturned and killed the driver – the only one at Penrhyn ever to do so.
This is probably the reason why it was withdrawn for the comparatively trivial
reasons of “Tyres and Tubes”. The fact that it was very slightly overgauge
tended to make it unsteady compared with the Hunslets.”
(Article kindly provided by Nigel Wassell)