The earliest amusement park miniature railways in the UK and which operated during the 1900s, were operated by locomotives similar to this one, supplied by the Cagney brothers in New York. It is thought that our one was among those manufactured in the Cagney brothers’ Jersey City workshops and that it dates from c1910.
Our engine spent the earlier part of its working life in the United States; from the 1940s, it operated with two similar engines at the miniature Lancaster and Chester Railway near Fort Mill in South Carolina.
This railway was the brainchild of Colonel Elliott Springs, owner of the nearby textile mill, and was where the loco acquired its number 44.
Among the vice presidents of the L & C Railway was the striptease artiste Gypsy Rose Lee, who was photographed with the engine during the 1950s. No. 44 was acquired at auction, ‘disassembled’, and arrived here in the UK in March 1999.
Restoration has been carried out by a team lead by Steve Bell, Arthur Jones and Frank Humphreys. The work required was extensive, including the manufacture of a new tender and boiler together with new axles to convert the locomotive from 16in gauge back to the original Cagney 15in gauge. The loco’s boiler was re-tubed by its makers, Bell Boilers, in December 2011, this work was sponsored by Rhyl Town Council.
Although this loco was never intended for use on tracks as long as ours, operation at Rhyl now for over ten years has shown us what a good little locomotive design this is. This must be why so many of them were built – around 1,300; much the most commercially successful miniature locomotive design of all time.