The design style of this locomotive stems back to the first world war when Baguley (Engineers) Ltd of Burton-on-Trent from 1914 onwards produced petrol powered locomotives. These locos built in quite large numbers for industrial and military use had a large horizontal cooling tank above the engine and transmission in lieu of a conventional radiator, giving a boiler-like appearance. They were often mistaken as such so it was a simple step to add a dummy chimney and dome etc to produce, superficially at least, the appearance of a steam locomotive.
Production of steam-outline locomotives began in 1928 when Baguley received an order from the Lilleshall Abbey Woodland Railway (near Telford) who did not want the bother of operating a real steam locomotive, so opted for a petrol locomotive of steam appearance to run on their new 2ft gauge line.
The result was works No.1695 that left Baguley’s for Lilleshall on 4th April 1928 together with a set of coaches. (Part of this set survives at the OKLR today).
The 16hp engine it came equipped with soon proved underpowered for even the modest line at Lilleshall; nevertheless the customer must have been sufficiently impressed and returned to Baguley’s in 1929 for a larger locomotive. The result was No.1769 that was despatched on 16th May. This locomotive was equipped with a larger 20/25hp 4-cylinder petrol engine. No.1769 quickly relegated No1695 to spare
At the outbreak of war in September 1939 the Lilleshall railway closed, never to reopen. The railway hibernated until No.1769 was purchased in October 1952 along with the coaching stock for use at Alton Towers. No.1695 languished in its shed until 1967 when it was purchased by Teddy Boston and moved to his Rectory railway at Cadeby.
No.1769 worked on the Alton Towers railway in all of its forms until eventually in October 1964 the original petrol engine was worn out and was replaced with a 27hp Perkins diesel engine. Sometime between 1966 and 1969 it received the name “Altonia”.
Alton Towers, Approximately 1977. Credit Colin Edmondson.
The railway failed to open for the 1997 season and was eventually taken up. No.1769 “Altonia” languished on site until around 2002 when she was purchased by a private owner in Surrey. The wishes of her owner to build a line around his extensive gardens never materialised and the locomotive was again put up for sale in 2010.
Meanwhile two of the original Baguley Coaches had made their way to Tilford in April 1996. They have undergone a rebuild, with the braked coach receiving a roof canopy based on good tramway tradition.
In August 2012 an approach was made by the owner of No.1769 “Altonia” to see if we would like to borrow her on an indefinite loan. She arrived at the OKLR on Tuesday 21st August.
No.1769 “Altonia” is in full working condition and is used on the occasional special train pulling two of its original (1928) Baguley Coaches.