One Last Ride

I have mentioned before my delight at finding old documentaries uploaded for free on YouTube. One which has stuck with me for a long time is episode 10 of Monster Moves, in which a South African Class 15F tender engine is rescued from a breaker’s yard in Bloemfontein and returned to its birthplace in Glasgow.

As expected from this sort of program, every setback is milked for the drama. First, the lorry meant to move the engine to Durban turns out to be too small, so it has to be towed on rails by a diesel engine. Then the wheels all have to be re-lubricated so they don’t catch fire, then ten empty flatbeds have to be hauled behind for breaking capability, then the line is blocked by a stalled lorry, then the diesel breaks down just shy of the dock, then the ferry is diverted, then a giant floating crane is needed to lift the 100 tonnes aboard, then after arriving in Immingham another giant crane is needed to lift it off again, then the lorry trailer has to be redesigned for the narrower track gauge, then the load might be too high to get under British motorway bridges, then the long trailer struggles to navigate Glasgow’s tight corners. All of this is accompanied by a gloriously over-the-top orchestral Western song.

No. 3007 now resides at the Riverside Museum. It is a little disheartening to think that she can never actually run again – her track gauge being too narrow and her loading gauge too wide – and that the other old locomotives at the same depot probably won’t be saved. Many in the comments section also allege that South Africa’s rail infrastructure has deteriorated severely since 2006 and been hit by widespread looting during lockdown. All this makes the film’s ending a little bittersweet.

This was not the only rail-centric episode of the series – they also covered the relocation of two Gresley A4s from North America to York and the retrieval of two Stanier 8Fs from Turkey.

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