Wednesday 18 November 2020

Nystrup Gravel's Fowler

The early narrow gauge diesel locomotives by John Fowler of Leeds have always fascinated me. When I through my research discovered that Nystrup Gravel had a 1934 Fowler diesel loco I traced a Fowler for my then 1:35 scale version of the gravel company. I currently have a 16 mm scale Fowler in progress with an estimated delivery date sometimes in the first half of 2021 if Covid-19, Brexit and I don't know what isn't messing things up. I keep my fingers crossed!

The Fowler at Nystrup was probably originally meant for a customer in the tropics using Imperial measurements. The gauge on the loco was in fact 2 feet (610 mm) while Nystrup Gravel used 600 mm gauge. The Fowler was consequently slightly 'over gauged'. There is no indication from archive scources that the loco ever derailed more than any of the company's other locos.
Not too long after it had arrived, the Fowler was photographed in the mid-1930's outside Nystrup Gravel's brick loco shed outside Nystrup. Later the loco would receive the number 11 on the cab sides, large jack on the running board, lights and the drivers' modifications to the cab to keep out wind and cold. Photo: Beldringe Local Historical Society.

When the Fowler arrived in Nystrup it was tested and used as a central attraction in PR activities by the then new director Holm at the gravel company. The local press, politicians and administrative staff from local government was invited to Nystrup as often as deemed necessary by the director. Besides having access to parts of the company's archive that policy has enabled me to trace the company history in the pages of the local newspapers. The article below (dated January 17. 1934) is just one example.

The article begins: “Yesterday Nystrup Gravel’s new British diesel locomotive arrived on a heavy load trailer. The new locomotive is necessary because of the rising production following the many government projects initiated to fight unemployment…” The journalist continues describing the loco:

“The new diesel locomotive is a marvellous example of British engineering and technical proficiency. In its glorious coat of green paint it completely outshines the gravel company’s smaller gasoline locomotives

The visiting press was invited for a ride: “Anyone interested was treated to a tour in the locomotive’s spacious cab and could feel the mighty power of the engine vibrating in every lever and cab floor. The cab allows a flow of fresh air and provides a great view for the driver, something the workers will no doubt appreciate during shunting.”

No doubt the journalist hadn't much experience of loco driving in the cold Danish climate. Only on warm summer days did the drivers appreciate the cab designed for much warmer climates. Most of the year they were freezing despite trying to close the cab with a variety of tarpaulins and wooden boards. The floor vibrating with "the mighty power of the engine" also failed to please the workers for some reason. 

Nevertheless the Fowler was one of Nystrup's primary locomotives for a number of years. It was out of service for most of the German occupation of Denmark 1940-1945 due to lack of spare parts. As soon as parts were available again it was back in service, being in use at least until 1959.

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