DR1202 OG Photo Caption
DR 1202
(In Original Form)
  • Number: 1202
  • Dark Railway 'Mountain' Class
  • Designer: Beyer Peacock
  • Build date: 1933 (Rebuilt 1934)
  • Configuration: 4-8-2
  • Arrived on the DR: 1933
  • Scrapped: 1946

Dark Railway Number 1202, known by railway enthusiasts as "Big Bob", was an experimental steam locomotive which once worked on the Dark Railway.


In 1932, the Dark Railway was struggling with an operational problem. The railway's industrial hub was located at Merecombe Industrial Estate, which was positioned on a steeply graded three mile branchline leaving the main railway line at Manston Fore Junction. On this branch, the railway passed through the 1/2 mile Gasworks Tunnel, which burrowed underneath the city's gasworks on a gruelling 1 in 35 gradient which continued for a further 1/2 mile once cleared of the tunnel. Being steam worked, this tunnel and incline caused many problems for the railway, with instances of roll back, near suffocation of locomotive crews, and inability for longer, heavier trains to crest the incline without several locomotives in use, both as pilots and bankers. There was instances of up to four locomotives being required on some trains, which of course was dangerous for engine crews and highly expensive to operate.

Because of these problems, an idea was formed by the railway's owner at the time, Lord Theodore Dark. Considered quite unusual and introverted, Lord Dark decided that a large, single unit steam locomotive would be required to work the incline, with his design brief being for a large boilered 4-8-2 configuration engine able to haul loads of up to 1000 tons unassisted through the tunnel and up the incline.

A great emphasis was made on the wheel arrangement: Lord Dark had been inspired by the two 15inch guage 4-8-2 'Mountain' types of the nearby Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, 'Hercules' and 'Samson', and wished to utilised this unique arrangement in his locomotive, feeling that it would be good for publicity purposes in addition to it's haulage capabilities.

The locomotive's design brief was submitted to two private builders for tender: The North British Locxomotive Company, of Glasgow, and Beyer, Peacock and Company, of Manchester. North British considered the specification to be 'foolish' and 'impractical' for a line the size of the Dark Railway, but never-the-less submitted a heavily modified design for Lord Dark's consideration. This would have been for a two cylinder 2-8-2 'Mikado', with a working pressure of 220 psi, conventional Walschearts valve gear and capable of hauling 700 tons unassisted on the level.

Beyer Peacock's design differed significantly to North British's ideas. Perfectly happy with the challenge, and eagar to please a perspective future customer, Beyer Peacock designed a four cylinder compound 4-8-2 'Mountain' type, with a large parallel boiler working at 300 psi, supplemented with a high pressure steam circuit, and fitted with experimental valve gear of the company's own design, patented by Beyer Peacock employee, Arthur Peniston. Interested in the experimental nature of the locomotive design, Lord Dark ultimately handed the contract to Beyer Peacock for construction of what would become known as 'DR 1202'.

The engine itself was constructed quickly at Beyer Peacock's works, with Lord Dark commissioning the locomotive for around £15,000, which, at the time, was a justifiably large amount of money to spend on a one off prototype. Completed in March 1933, and paired with a 4,000 gallon Great Central-style tender, No DR 1202 was delivered to Galen Junction Motive Power Depot later that month. As delivered, the locomotive was painted Black with White and Red Lining, with 'Dark Railway' written on it's tender in full.

After inspection, the engine was deployed to Merecombe Industrial Estate for operation trials, where a lengthy coal train of approximately 1,000 tons had been prepared for haulage tests. Arriving at the estate, the locomotive was coupled to the coal train and ordered to attempt the climb to Manston Fore. However, surprising everybody, when the engine began moving, the couplings between the tender and the first wagon sheared off, such was the awesome power of the locomotive! Once the coupling was repaired and strengthened, DR1202 hauled the train out of the yard and easily managed to reach Manston Fore, proving that Beyer Peacock had successfully reached the Dark Railway's specified deesign brief. However, this success was short lived...

There were, of course, several shortcomings with the design as built. The biggest problem arose from the unique Peniston Valve Gear fitted to the engine. Comprising of a large metal control rod, two counterbalancing spindle rings and two sets of rotary cams supplying valve timing to the inside gear, the entire assembly was overly complicated and difficult to maintain. It was found that the rotating counterbalances would often rotate freely whilst coasting down the long inclines either side of the line's summit at Manston Fore, causing unnecessary wear and tear on the gear and upsetting valve timings to both the inside and outside sets of gear, which would end up out of synchronisation. 

Another issue was with the boiler. Despite it's high working pressure, and the addition of a higher pressure steam circuit, it was found that the engine would often lose working pressure alarmingly fast when confronted with a steep incline and heavy load, often starving the cylinders of steam.  It was also determined that the complexity of compound operation was unnecessary, as the locomotive was incredibly overpowered to begin with, and, in compound working, wasted more steam than anticipated initially.

Finally, the locomotive's great weight and hammerblow began to cause structural problems for several bridges on the railway. Importantly, the rail bridge at Manston Fore, which carried the railway to Merecombe's motive power depot, was becoming weakened by DR1202. Therefore, after only three months in operation, DR1202 was banned from crossing this bridge, forcing all maintenance and storage to take place at Galen Junction shed, where facilities were limited compaed to Merecombe.

Lord Dark was incredibly unhappy with the mounting problems plaguing the locomotive, and, after only one year and four months in operation, it was decided that the engine would need to be modified in order to continue operation on the railway. Beyer Peacock, who were worried about any negative publicity that may come their way, offered to rebuild the engine to a more conventional design. Lord Dark agreed, and DR1202 was returned to Manchester for rebuilding.

This work included: Replacing the 300psi boiler and high pressure steam circuit for a 275psi boiler, rebuilding the front end to convert the engine from 4 cylinder compound to 3 cylinder simple expansion, and finally, replacing the troublesome Peniston gear for three conventional sets of Walschearts valve gear. DR1202 was returned to the Darrk Railway in September of 1934, still attatched to it's 4,000 gallon ex-Great Central tender, but now repainted into Unlined Green.

The rebuilt locomotive was a much better machine than when it first arrived on the railway. The simplification of operation was appreciated by runnng shed staff and crews alike,  noting that the new 3 cylinder layout gave better starting torque, despite the unavoidable inconvenience of having to oil three different sets of valve gear, one set being sandwiched between the frames. With the rebuild, a large, steam assisted reverser was supplied, making for a better working conditions on the footplate.

The reduction in weight and hammerblow allowed the locomotive to now access Merecombe and the Sheds there, making maintenance and operations far more acceptable.  Though spare parts still took time to source from Beyer Peacock, the engine's reliability has risen to an acceptable level that maintenance was much reduced and simpler to undertake.

From 1933 to 1936, DR1202 worked exclusively on Dark Railway metals, often working heavy coal trains from the Industrial Estate to Gaolen Junction before returning with an empty train. By 1936, however, the railway had gained certain running powers on the Southern Railway's network, and, after consulting with the Civil Engineers and Permeanant Way Departments, the huge locomotive was authorised to operate over limited routes of the Southern Railway, usually hauling through to Feltham Marshalling Yard unassisted. Unfortunately, at this time, another operational problem had come to light, but one that could be fixed easily.

On these longer runs on the Southern's network, the engine would use up water quickly, and often needed to stop to refill the ex-Great Central tender, causing some problems with pathing and timings. Fortunately, the Dark Railway managed to source a Maunsell designed high capacity tender and, with slight modification, was soon attatched to DR1202 in place of the smaller tender, which was duly returned to Beyer Peacock for use on other locomotives. This tender was later attatched to a Robinson designed 2-8-0, after accident damage cause this engine's tender to be scrapped.

In 1938, Lord Theodore Dark passed away, with ownership of the Dark Railway, and by proxy, DR1202, being passed on to his son, Lord Otthaniel Dark, who took a great liking to the locomotive, referring to it as 'Big Bob', due to it's immense size. 

Things were uneventful for the engine until the outbreak of the second world war, when the Southern Railway found itself on the front line of hostilities once again. Due to the increase in traffic, the Dark Railway found itself loaning out DR1202 regularly as part of the war effort, being employed to haul heavy troop trains, long freight trains of raw materials and completed machinery, and, on at least one occaision, deputising for a failed Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific on a heavy passenger train. Despite being designed as a freight engine, DR1202 is recorded as performing remarkably well on this occaision, being only five and a half minutes late according to the schedule.

Upon the end of the war in 1945, DR1202 was set to return to it's previous existance on the Dark Railway. However, the years of heavy operation meant that the boiler was in desperate need of overhaul. Lord Otthaniel Dark, almost exclusively known by this point as 'Mr Dark', reluctantly pulled the locomotivee out of service and stored it at Galen Junction shed, with the intention of overhauling the boiler and returning the engine to service when funds became avaliable. This is because, at this time, the railway's income was being reinvested into repairing the railway's infrastructure after the events of the war.

Unfrtunately, a member of the railway's board of directors decided that the then out-of-service DR1202 should be disposed of, citing it's high maintenance costs, difficulty in sourcing spare parts and limited usefulness following the war. Unknown to Otthaniel Dark, the locomotive was quietly removed from the railway and scrapped at Eastleigh Works in November 1946.

The story goes that, when Otthaniel Dark discovered what had happened, he called a board meeting and unceremoniously fired every single member of the board, displaying his own anger and grief at what they had done to his locomotive, which was one of the only remaining reminders of his own father who had passed in 1938.

After this, the locomotive was largely forgotten to historians, with only a handful of photographs existing of the engine. However, in 1973, Lord Zeke Dark, who had taken over operations of the railway from his father, and Mr Caracus Smash, a respected engineer, began researching the history of DR1202, recovering photographs, notes and official works drawings of the rebuilt locomotive from Beyer Peacocks archives. 

The Dark Railway intends to build a full size, working replica of Dark Railway 1202 in house at Caracus Smash Limited, construction of which has already begun. It is planned for the new locomotive to retain the overall aesthetics of the original design, with slight modifications made to ensure effeciency and safety, as well as to bring the design up to modern day standards. It is expected that the replica will be completed by 1980, at a cost of approximately £300,000.

This means that we could soon see the sight of a unique 4-8-2 'Mountain' Class Steam Locomotive climbing Upway Bank with a heavy mineral train once again...​


When originally built, DR1202 was first painted Black with White and Red lining. Upon rebuilding in 1934, the locomotive was painted in Unlined Green with 'DR 1202' written on the cab sides, and 'Dark Railway' written in full on the tender. Several months later, the locmotive was lined out with Black and White lining and the cab roof was painted Black.

At the onset of World War Two, the engine was painted plain Black, initially retaining the markings on the cabsides and tender. This was removed during the war, but was reapplied at the end of hostilities, though only for a short time, as the locomotive was scrapped in late 1946.

The replica will eventually carry all of the liveries that the original rebuilt locomotive did.


DR1202 is not based on any particular prototype, but is inspired by the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway's own 15in gauge 4-8-2 locomotives, built by Davey Paxman in 1927. 

History VideoEdit

A full history of DR1202 can be viewed on the Dark DJ Productions YouTube channel.


The Dark Railway SeriesEdit



  • As DR1202 is a fictitious prototype, no model of the locomotive has existed in Train Simulator 2019, hence why the locomotive has never appeared in The Dark Railway Series. However, in March 2019, Dark DJ officially commissioned a model of the locomotive from Kris Wilson of Caledonia Works, meaning that the loco may be able to make an appearance in some form in the future.
  • It has been revealed that a working replica of DR1202, known as 'Rick', will be built at Caracus Smash Limited with a due completion date in-universe of around 1980.

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