I visited a private five inch gauge railway in Kent recently, built up and run by a group of friends over many years. One of the best set up places I've been to, engines stored in purpose built racks with a specially adapted forktruck to get them to and from the track and workshop - no lifting required at any stage. The gentleman who owned the track had got to an age and stage where a little thinning out was required - a case of too many engines and not enough hours in the day (I know the story...). Having spent years buying very selectively and acquiring some nice engines, time had come to move one or two on. So far, so good but, as always, there is always a catch. After showing me lots of rather good engines, at the end of the tour he unsheeted the jewel of the collection - a professionally-built Black 5, an absolute stunner, highly detailed and never steamed in its life.
At this point, all objective reasoning went out of the window (which is an unfortunate failing I have when confronted with beautiful bits of engineering!). Would he consider parting with the engine? Well, possibly, but he'd intended it would be one of the last engines he'd let go. Which is how, after much talking, I ended up buying just about everything else in front of it just to get this one engine - a few days later, with the car and my big plant trailer completely full, I was crawling home very gingerly round the M25. It was filthy weather all the way until, late that afternoon, the sun finally re-appeared and I could unsheet the trailer and get unloaded. A long, hard day's work but with the engine in front of me as I sit writing this, worth it!
As soon as the last of my big machinery is moved out of the workshop this Saturday, Bob and I will be heads down testing and servicing the rest of the engines in the collection - I hope to get pictures up over the next couple of weeks.