Tonbridge was begun early 1990s by Reg, now advancing in years. In 2000 he pointed out that if I built the tender completion might be managed before he departs to that workshop in the sky. Today at 96 very shortly he is still with although he lost his wife just before Christmas. Back in 2000 I enrolled on a 2 year Welding and Sheet Metal course at Medway College, where I found a CNC Punch Nibbler. Part of the course involved an exercise on this machine which I soon realized would be ideal for cutting out the body parts for Tonbridge’s tender. Reg had already built the chassis so the top was an ideal project for a senior student to help inspire those youngsters just embarking on their careers. Much noisy work punch nibbling 3mm steel plate and rivetting the parts together garnered a lot of interest from the College staff who were only too pleased to help me over any problems I had. I only went there to learn to weld so I could make some buffers!
The 17th July 2005 saw Aidan use his trailer to bring Tonbridge from Cranbrook to Birchley where it ran for 2 years before I expressed the opinion there was somthing not quite right with it. Mike Weedon “scrutinized” it and declared the lubrication not satisfactory, so I agreed he could make me a triple lubricator so each cylinder would receive its own dedicated supply. Came the day of fitting and revelation began when the running plates were removed to enable access for fitting. The outside cylinders were literally hanging off the frames with every screw loose and 2 missing. Every part Mike touched he found fingertight, thus Tonbridge’s temporary nick name was born. Before long it was obvious Tonbridge needed some TLC at Mike’s workshop, during which everything imaginable, and many more beside, was found wanting. 3 years later Tonbridge returned to Birchley, a truly transformed engine. As you know with 3 cylinders and working sanders, she is a joy to drive gently to the top of Bramble Hill with a beautiful 6 beats to the bar rhythm.
Text © Drummond Randall, photograph © Roy Harwood