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The tank on rails

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The last surviving armoured train used to pull munitions to the front line in World War One has been painstakingly restored a century later.

Volunteers at Greensand Railway Museum Trust in Bedfordshire have spent the past decade bringing the historic Simplex 40HP LR2182 back to full working order as part of a £20,000 project.

The 8ft high, 10ft long locomotive, which resembles a tank, was fitted with full armour plating to protect it from enemy fire.

Its petrol engine made it more discreet to use close to the front line than larger, noisier steam trains, which were easier for the Germans to spot and shoot at.

The eight-tonne train was manufactured in 1917 by the Motor Rail & Tram Car Company of Bedford, at the request of the War Department of Light Railways.

It only had room for one driver who was perilously perched right beside a petrol engine which could ignite at any moment.

The plating would have offered some protection against bullets and shell fragment but it would not have withstood a shell exploding nearby.

The driver had to rely on small vision slits to see out of the train and it would have been extremely hot inside the steel chamber.

Only 34 armoured trains were made, which operated on thousands of miles of 2ft gauge light railways laid down to take supplies the final ten miles to the troops in the trenches.

Following the war, the machines were put to heavy industrial use where they were allowed to fall into disrepair before being scrapped.

LR2182, which had been languishing at a scrapyard in Barrow, Cumbria, was destined to endure the same fate until an enthusiast stepped in and saved it in 1971, paying £150.

The train has subsequently had several homes before falling into the hands of the Greensand Railway Museum Trust who have restored it at Leighton Buzzard Railway, Beds. (Daily Mail)


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