When Bartlow was in Malaya - The Virgin Soldiers

Bartlow (Stour Valley) station on 21 September 1968 and looking towards Haverhill. Black Five No.44781 and Stanier coaches had been prepared at Cambridge but taken to Bartlow for much of the preparatory work to be undertaken. Here can be seen men painting the coaches into Malayan Railways red and cream livery over which, below the waist and midway along the bodysides, was applied the MR logo. A very good job indeed was done in making these coaches appear Malayan and once the conversion work at Bartlow was complete the Stanier stock was difficult to recognise. One scene, however, showed an underframe of very obvious LMS origin while in others LMS-style seating, apparently reupholstered and complete with seat number discs, was visible as were several shots clearly showing torpedo ventilators on the roofs. Work has yet to start on the locomotive and it appears to have arrived at Bartlow still bearing its smokebox numberplate but apparently without shedplate. What became of the numberplate, if that is what it is and not a painted-on number, is not known. Painted-on smokebox numbers were quite common in the final days of BR steam but no photographs of No.44781 on her last day in service are clear enough to determine if this was the case. Four Stanier coaches are visible in this view and the from the writer's memory, which may not now be reliable, all were open thirds or more accurately by this time open seconds. If correct then regulations presumably required use of a brake vehicle of some description. Ahead of the camera stands the derelict shell of Bartlow Junction signal box. The retained stub of the Saffron Walden branch can be seen curving away into the woods on the right. The branch platform was to the extreme right but is out if view in this scene. Note that the points are set for the branch; it is not known if something had already been down the branch or if the points were still set from when the Saffron Walden branch demolition train departed a few weeks previously. No.44781 and train had arrived from Cambridge and was positioned as required in the Stour Valley platforms. This move had been performed by diesel shunter D3611, which went on to become 08 496 and spent its entire working life based at Cambridge. The appearance of No.44781 at Bartlow was the last time a steam locomotive was seen on the Stour Valley and Saffron Walden branches, excepting the
Marks Tey - Chappel section of the former.
Photograph by Tim Stephens

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