A SMALL but significant piece of the once mighty Lancashire Coalfield is enjoying the easy life 20 years after being made redundant.

When Parkside Colliery closed in October 1993 it seemed like the end of the line would be the scrapman’s torch for Hunslet loco number 8975.

Built in 1979 the six-ton locomotive was named Newton by the National Coal Board and spent all its working life operating in the surface stockyard at the Newton-le-Willows mine.

Which is where former Sutton Rolling Mills employee Geoff Jones stepped in.

“I’d always had an interest in engineering and industrial archaeology,” said 66-year-old Geoff, relating how the yard workhorse was still at Parkside 12 months after the pit closed.

Geoff bought the loco having previously been given permission to store it at the Red Rose Steam Society’s mining museum south of the East Lancs Road at Astley Green.

It was moved from Parkside to Astley Green on November 7, 1994, the anniversary of his wedding to miner’s daughter Jenny (Bromilow) from Parr.

Restoration began immediately and in 2009 the loco was sent to the Hunslet works at Tamworth and its two feet six inches wheel gauge reduced to two feet to suit the track width at Astley.

Newton now earns its keep transporting track and materials during extension work on the museum’s narrow railway.

“It was going to be weighed-in for scrap, the generator, battery and fuel pump were missing but were soon replaced and the loco is now a valuable asset due to its electric starter.”

For the technically minded, Newton is powered by a four cylinder, 3.3 litres, 52 horsepower Perkins diesel engine. It is reputedly the last ex -NCB/British Coal locomotive from the Lancashire Coalfield to be preserved.

l Former Parkside workers with memories of the loco are invited to get in touch with Geoff at geoffreyjones@blueyonder.co.uk or call 01942 708969.