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Closed 13/03/2024
Ravenglass Railway Museum Trust

Synolda Locomotive Overhaul Appeal

Our flagship 15 inch gauge steam locomotive Synolda of 1912 returned to steam in 1980. More than 40 years on from the last restoration this frail engine was in need of boiler and mechanical repairs to enable it to steam into the next 40 years.
raised of £12,500 target
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Closed on 13/03/2024
RCN 505295

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Synolda was the first of three 15 inch gauge Class 30. locomotives built by the famous model company Bassett-Lowke Ltd to a design by model engineer Henry Greenly. It is the identical sister of the second Class 30. Sans Pareil which ran on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway from 1915 until its scrapping in 1927.

(When new on the Sand Hutton Miniature Railway, York c1914)

Synolda was built in 1912 for the private estate of Sir Robert Walker at Sand Hutton, York, and named after Sir Robert's wife. A powerful and swift loco, Synolda could haul loads of over 8 tons and on-test was timed at 30mph! When the Sand Hutton railway was rebuilt to a larger gauge in the early 1920s, Synolda was sold and ran at a public miniature railway in Southend. In 1942 the loco moved again to Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester, where it was renamed Prince Charles and for a time in the 1960s carried Wild West fittings.

(As Prince Charles at Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester, early 1960s)


The Zoo closed in the late 1970s, by which time Synolda/Prince Charles was stored out of use. In 1978 the owners donated the loco to the new Ravenglass Railway Museum in West Cumbria where it was repainted in the same Narrow Gauge Railways Ltd. blue livery which its sister engine, Sans Pareil, had carried during its life at Ravenglass. Through Synolda the Museum has been able to provide a working reminder of the R&ER of the early twentieth century and for 40 years has been in demand for special historical trains and even TV appearances. The little blue engine has been an extremely popular exhibit; when on display in the Museum it has been made safe for children to climb on the footplate and grasp the controls of a real steam locomotive!

(BNFL Apprentices celebrate returning Synolda to steam, 1980)

Apprentices from British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. restored Synolda to working order in 1980, and since then the loco has steamed at Ravenglass for special events and education groups and acted as an ambassador visiting 15 inch gauge railways across the country.


Bassett-Lowke locomotives like Synolda were lightly-built scale models. Today 107 year-old Synolda is frail and requires careful conservation and restoration work to preserve its original parts and to keep the locomotive safely operating. Rather than permanently retire the engine to static display in the Museum we aim to keep Synolda in working order to enable it to be steamed for demonstration and educational use as well as continuing to act as an ambassador to other miniature railways.

(Peter's Railway author Christopher Vine using Synolda as a 'How does a steam engine work?' teaching aid, 2017)

What's Next - update May 2023

Synolda has been overhauled by the R&ER Engineering Workshop, John Fowler & Co (Leeds) Ltd. and Ravenglass Railway Museums Restoration Volunteers.

We are thrilled to say that we are almost at the end of the third and final stage of the project, thanks to the overwhelming support and generosity of our supporters. We now have just one more job to get this fantastic little blue engine back in steam and on the tracks here at Ravenglass. That job is to have the new tender painted which will both protect it and also make it a true part of Synolda, looking the part when she is out on the railway.

Due to rising costs since the start of the project, we are appealing once more to the public to help us complete the tender and so our donation page is active and awaiting any donations, large or small that people can offer. To complete this painting is a specialist job requiring the right materials and the best people- unfortunately we will not find these on offer at the local DIY stores. If you can help, the museum will be forever grateful.

Progress So Far - Stages 1 & 2

The full programme of work has been enacted in three stages. We are pleased to say that we have now completed Stages 1 and 2 and are now into Stage 3, thanks to the generous donations received here:

- Stage 1 - work on the boiler and steam passages

- Stage 2 - work on the locomotive wheels, bogies and valve gear.


As the work has been carried out clues about Synoldas history have been uncovered. Not to mention a full repaint in glorious Narrow Gauge Railways blue.

Synolda has remained in the museum for display during times where work was not being carried out.

(Boiler inspection by British Engineering Services, 2017)

As a Museum artefact, any restoration work is being conducted in accordance with the Guidelines for the Care of Larger and Working Historic Objects issued by the Association of British Transport and Engineering Museums being sympathetic to the loco's historic working life. This includes protecting original components as well as modifications made during its operation at Belle Vue Zoo.

Stage 3

Stage 3 of the overhaul, focuses on the locomotives tender and improvements to its braking system. The team, in discussion with the museum trustees, has further evaluated work needed with regards to the tender. If you have been following Synolda's story you will recall there was a decision to be made on restoring the original tender versus creating a new one.

There was much to consider before making the final decision, including the originality of the tender, the known history of its component parts and if modifications are needed could these be done in a way that does not compromise the originality of the tender. With all of this in mind, the decision was made to construct a new tender for use when the locomotive is in operation.

Synolda's current tender will remain on display in the museum, thus conserving as much of its original features as possible, with the new tender allowing the loco to run on the railway meeting all of the latest health and safety requirements.

(Open wide... R&ER Engineers inspect Synolda's firebox, 2017)

Having started with a fundraising target of £5000 four years ago, which was raised due to the work involved being greater than anticipated, we are pleased to say that we have now hit that £10000 target! However, we aren't quite there yet as costs have risen once more, the tender painting as described above is still outstanding. Therfore, we are continuing to turn to our supporters for any donations they may be able to offer. Once finished, we can ensure Synoldas continued operation for years to come.

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has donated for your generosity in keeping our little blue locomotive steaming. 40 years on from its initial restoration, we hope to ensure Synolda is fit to operate for the next 40 years and beyond!

We will continue to post further updates on Synolda's progress, and will close this page following the completition of the overhaul.

About the charity

The Museum tells the 150 year story of West Cumbria's Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway as well as local life and industry. Developing our museum and collections helps us engage visitors, educate school groups and raise funds to protect the railway's history to entertain and educate future generations

Donation summary

Total raised
+ £1,069.98 Gift Aid
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