History of locomotive 427 “The Buffs”

This 36 ton diesel (Army Number 8221) loco was commissioned in 1961 and used by the Ministry of Defence at Donnington in the Northern region. According to an ex-army loco driver Eddie Cole (in this picture), similar locos (for example 8216) would be driven by the Army at Bramley on 40 miles of track. There were two trains in the morning and two in the evening. The first carried mostly civilian personnel and the second carried military personnel.The locos were Army green with red buffer beams but had no wasp striping at first. When wasp striping did come, it was painted on the buffer beams as well. The badges, now fore and aft on 427, were originally on both sides of the cab where it now says 427. 8216 did not have vacuum brakes but occasionally pulled 300 tons of ordnance. Each loco had four weeks on and one week off and in the latter, the loco was thoroughly cleaned, including the engine. These locos were always difficult to start and were routinely incited to action by pushing into the air inlets a poker round which was wrapped paraffin-soaked flaming rope. The loco was kept running all day. There were some little running tricks – for example if the loco refused to reverse they would close the throttle, and hit the reversing lock with a broom handle. According to Eddie Cole, 427 does not have the original coupling. The original was a lighter 3 link type. A shunting pole, with a pigs-tail hook, was used for manipulating the couplings. This pole lay on the two brackets above the buffers.

Brought to the EKR by Ken Elkes in 1991, 427 was eventually taken over in March 1998 by the 33-group, later called the South East Locomotive Group (SELG). In a dedication ceremony in November 1998, it was named The Buffs in honour of the then Royal East Kent Regiment based at Canterbury. The Buffs had been so named in the 1800s because of the khaki colour of their uniform. The guest of honour was Major Geoff Giddings who had been in the 9th Field Squadron of the Royal Engineers, training at Crowborough in the 1930s and who had been involved with the Longmoor Military Railway. For the dedication ceremony, in which Mrs Giddings cracked a bottle of champagne on the locomotive, a large badge commemorating the 9th Field Squadron had been placed on either side of the bonnet. The 9th Field Squadron had their last Old Comrades reunion on 7 October 2000.

After running at the EKR, there was a move in 2004 to sell 427 in order to buy two Class 33s. 427 was therefore bought by Alastair Dussart (AJD) in 2004 in order to keep it at the EKR where he had been a member since 1994. Prior to this he had been a member of the Canterbury Model Railway Club for several years. AJD ran 427 at the EKR as a shunting loco and to support the passenger service. When AJD died in 2007, it was taken over by a group comprising Georges Dussart, Clive Wallace, Ron Norris and Richard Coffey. Graham Collins took over from Richard in 2008. 427 was out of commission for several years but is being brought back into service and is re-dedicated to the memory of AJD.