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Sep 7th, 2011 | | Colour Services | Portfolio | 2 Comments

Locomotive Lamp

	  Baldwin Locomotive No. 15965 "LYN" built for the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, UK

Baldwin Locomotive No. 15965 "LYN" built for the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, UK

Occasionally I am asked to examine an object that falls outside the usual run of things. In this case it concerned the lamp from a late 19th century American locomotive that had been scrapped decades ago.

Extract from a 19th Century map of the route of the Lynton & Barnstaple railway (1898-1935)
Extract from a 19th Century map of the route of the Lynton & Barnstaple railway (1898-1935)

Lynton & Barnstaple Railway
The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway (L&BR) in North Devon, was the product of a long campaign which began in the 1850s to link the two towns, narrow gauge being seen as a way of overcoming the high costs of running a standard gauge line over the edge of Exmoor. After many years, and a number of abortive attempts to get the project underway, work finally commenced in 1895. The first train ran on Monday 7th March, 1898, with the official opening ceremony on the 11th May of that year.1

When it opened, the Lynton and Barnstable Railway was equipped with three Manning Wardle 2-6-2 tank engines. Two months later they were joined by a Baldwin 2-4-2 which had been built to a unique design by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, USA.

All four locomotives were named after three-letter Devon rivers – the others being YEO, EXE and TAW. The Baldwin was named ‘LYN‘ but was commonly referred to by the staff as ‘the Yankee’.

The line was initially well patronised with about 1200 passengers a week carried during that May, rising to 2100 passengers by August 1898. It was particularly busy during the summer season and for one week each September when the Barnstaple fair was held.

Unfortunately, the passenger numbers did not develop as many tourists preferred to use the many road services in the area and operator costs were rising. In July 1923 it was taken over by the Southern Railway, who carried out much-needed maintenance of track, buildings and rolling stock and reintroduced the pre-war timetable.2 It was a brave attempt, but by 1935 it was clear that it had failed and the last train ran on the morning of Sunday 29th September 1935.

The original LYN was a distinctive engine that was also the most powerful on the line . After the auction sale it was reduced to scrap with only the nameplates, a lamp and a water gauge protector surviving the scrapman.


The Lynton and Barnstable Railway Association
The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Association was formed in 1979; and a short section was reopened to passengers in 2004. This was extended in 2006; and there are plans to increase the length of line and services, to reconstruct most of the original railway and to link Lynton to Barnstaple again.

The 762 Club – a registered charity – has been formed to construct, own and maintain a replacement Baldwin 2-4-2 – also named LYN – for operation on the reestablished Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.

Lyn Baldwin © Steve Phillips 2011
Lyn Baldwin © Stephen Phillips 2011

Planning for the design and construction of the new Baldwin has been progressing steadily using original drawings and details with the inclusion of modern requirements. I was contacted by Stephen Philips in connection with research that he was carrying out on the original painted scheme of the LYN. This has culminated in an article that Stephen published in the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Magazine entitled LYN’s original Baldwin Paint Scheme3 and most of the following has been taken from that.

Inevitably the early black and white photographs have made it difficult to interpret the original colours of the paints applied. Several published histories of the L&BR have stated that LYN was originally painted black, relieved by a yellow line, however the origins of this description may well be traced back to the recollections of former L&BR staff who knew the engine in its original condition.

It is believed that the original builder’s photograph of LYN shows the locomotive, not in ‘works grey’ as had been thought, but finished in Olive Green base colour. The cab, domes, valve chest and lamps are varnished and appear darker, but the tanks and underframe remain unvarnished for the photo. After this photograph was taken the locomotive would have been broken down into its component parts, varnished and packed ready for shipment ‘in best foreign style’. Bright parts and those likely to rust on the long voyage across the North Atlantic would be coated in a mixture of white lead and tallow and packed in zinc-lined wooden crates.

The Olive Green used by Baldwin was a very dark shade, almost black in certain light. Lining (thin painted lines) in gold leaf would look yellow. Perhaps the ‘Black & Yellow’ description may not be entirely inaccurate and may simply describe how LYN appeared after a few years in service rather than how she left the factory.

The speed of LYN’s construction suggests that she probably received only one coat of varnish before being shipped, with a second applied at the Pilton depot when the paint was touched up following reassembly. As has been mentioned elsewhere green paints tended to weather towards blue for example, and repainting would be required after only a few years’ service. Tallow was used by Pilton engine cleaners before the Great War to impart a time consuming ‘fish-scale’ patterned waterproof coating, but the inevitable effects of sulphurous coal smoke, oil and dirt build-up would over time darken the finish. LYN was repainted circa 1903, although it is likely that she had been patch-painted prior to this.

Roof Detail

Roof Detail

This close up shows gold lining along the edge of the roof. The vertical edges are varnished Olive Green, whilst the upper roof is finished in matt mineral brown. Of the latter, Stephen says:

In 1881 Baldwin changed the cab roof colour from grey (lead colour) to dark reddish brown (mineral brown), which was used on all engines made after that date, including LYN. Mineral Browns or, as they were also known, Metallic Browns, were pigments containing more or less sesquioxide of iron with a portion of inert materials such as alumina, silica and traces of lime and manganese. These ores were found in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, and also in Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama. Prince’s Mineral Brown metallic paint was widely used in the Baldwin factory and was specified by many railroad companies. As well as being used to preserve wood, the mineral mixed with linseed oil and a dryer made an excellent coating for iron and steel. Baldwin was known to paint walking surfaces and areas not visible to the public, like running board and tender tops and insides of bunkers, tool boxes and footplating with this paint. This was because these areas would be subject to more use and punishment than other areas and need frequent repainting. These mineral painted areas generally could not be seen from an observer on the ground. Barns and freight cars in America were traditionally painted reddish brown (Freight Car Red or Barn Red) because the ferrous oxide pigment was cheap and very hard wearing. Another form of red-brown paint of a similar colour was used on the roofs of wooden cabs in the form of asbestos-based fire resistant paint made by H.W. Johns. This paint would resist the sparks from the smoke stack.

LYN in front of the Loco Shed

LYN in front of the Locomotive Shed

Here is an early view of LYN in front of the original locomotive shed, showing side and front end details. Note the front of the water tanks are not lined. Several components were left ‘bright polished’ including side rods, cab grab rails, steel steam chest covers, slide bars and front frame braces. Apart from the black smokebox and stack, mineral brown roof and varnished wood window frames, virtually everything else seen in this photo from rail level up was painted standard Baldwin Olive Green.

The colour of the lamps on LYN has long been a subject of debate. It is known that the Southern Railway painted loco lamps red, but prior to that the information is less clear. Baldwin supplied LYN with three paraffin lamps, having 8 inch bullseye lenses and coloured slides for red, green and white light.

American signal lamps were typically painted black, with silver applied to the lens hood. LYN’s builder’s photograph seems to show them painted black, while a study of later ones appears to show LYN’s lamps repainted in a lighter colour (possibly red) some time before the Great War.

Cross section of Paint Sample under Plain Light (x250)
Cross section of Paint Sample under Plain Light (x250)

It appears that the lamp had been stripped as only four or so schemes of vermilion paint could be found. Each of these had been applied over an undercoat of red iron oxide and the first two schemes were varnished.

Unfortunately, without knowing more about the history of the lamp since 1935 and being unable to compare the stratigraphy with other elements from the locomotive it is not possible to suggest a date for the first of these schemes. It could be that Southern Railway stripped the lamp in 1923 when they took over the railway.

Cross section of paint sample under UV Light (x250)
Cross section of paint sample under UV Light (x500)
Note the fluorescence of the two varnished layers

Lynton & Barnstaple Railway

A magnificent book containing many hundred meticulous measured drawings of the locomotives, passenger carriages, goods and service vehicles and the infrastructure has recently been published by Stephen D. Phillips in conjunction with Michael J. Bishop. It truly is a magnificent work and is the result of twenty years research by someone who is a professional technical illustrator and graphic designer. I would encourage anyone who has an interest in locomotives or engineering to get hold of a copy. Details HERE.

1 Taken from A History of ‘LYN’ & the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway.
2 The Southern Railway gave LYN a number: E762.
3 Summer 2011 – issue No. 95.

A clip of the original Lynton & Barnstaple Railway:

If you are interested in colours such as those mentioned Papers and Paints can be found here:

View Larger Map


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Comments (2)

Jon GwinnettNo Gravatar » 22. Apr, 2016

Fascinating, and I wholeheartedly second the recommendation of the Phillips book, a real labour of love.


PatrickNo Gravatar » 22. Apr, 2016

Agreed. It’s such a good book and I am not a railway person. I thoroughly enjoyed it.