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Remembered Today:

Railway locomotives on torpedoed ship wreck


NigelS
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I mentioned a recent thread in 'Skindles' (for those that don't indulge, it's one about the possibility of a Victorian age railway locomotive being walled up in a disused railway tunnel in New York) to a railway enthusiast friend. Not having heard about it before, he was obviously interested, but also mentioned two other rare 'lost' railway locomotives (Grenville & Torridge) which are of GW interest as they went down on the Gotterdammerung (apparently, a German cargo ship seized in 1914) when she was torpedoed at the entrance to the Bristol Channel while on route to Normandy in 1917. I haven't been able to find any previous mentions on here of this, and have been unable to find very much elsewhere on the Web. (The most detailed information available, which tells of the discovery of the wreck & dates back to October 2001, seems to be Here ; Scroll to WRECK OF THE GOTTERDAMMERUNG)

As there doesn't appear to be anything significant since, it can only be assumed that the dream of raising the locomotives - it did seem to have the potential of being a very expensive project - was dead in the water (sorry, I couldn't resist that :P ) & came to nothing.

Is anything more known on the locomotives themselves, attempts or investigations into the possibility of them being salvaged since 2001, or the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Gotterdammerung? As a supplementary to this: just how much German shipping was seized at the start of the war by Britain, and how much, if any, British shipping was seized by the Germans?

NigelS

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If they're anything like the two locomotives on the SS Floristan which wrecked on the Isle of Islay in 1942, there won't be a lot left to raise. They've virtually rusted away to nothing. Mind you, the Floristan's a shallow wreck so I guess it might depend how deep the Gotterdammerung is lying.

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Have you searched out and contacted local dive clubs? They may have more current information on the wreck and the locomotives.

This reminds me of an episode of Deep Sea Detectives where John Chatterton and Richie Kohler (the fellows who found and identified U-Who) investigated a pair of ancient, intact steam locomotives sitting perfectly upright, side-by-side on the ocean floor off the coast of New Jersey.

-Daniel

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The problem with a steam locomotive that has been submerged for a long period of time is that the Boiler (a pressure vessel) would be totally compromised and all of the Running Gear would be "frozen" (rusted) in place.

Take away the value of the boiler and the Running Gear .........and, you have a pile of rusted scrap metal.

Love to see any images of the locos on the sea floor or in a wreck.

Regards, Peter

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Indeed, in either circumstance I don't think we have 'fixer-uppers'... :)

I will see if I can find stills of the locomotives I mentioned. I have the episode on DVD so maybe I can capture a still from that.

Daniel

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Slightly puzzled

1.Gotterdammerung is not listed on U Boat Net which has all the ships known to have been attacked by U boats in WW1 and WW2. Was she renamed?

2. When was she sunk? The account in your Irish Sea link suggests shortly after was was declared but another account says "The locomotives were sunk while being shipped to France in 1917" and "Grenville" and "Torridge" were working on the Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway when they were requisitioned by the Government in 1916."

3. If she was torpedoed at the mouth of the Bristol Channel, which separates South Wales from Devon and Somerset, how come she's lying off the North Cornish coast? Did she travel further before sinking?

4. Where does en route to Normandy come from? Locos shipped to ROD in Northern France would not have gone that route. Locos were shipped to Normandy but in WW2 after the D Day landings.

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Even more puzzled

Gotterdammerung is not on the list of German ships, seized on the out break of war, published in the London Gazette 1st Sept 1914. Funny name for a merchant ship anyway, did it belong to the Ring Line?

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And fishier still (do they have red herrings off Cornwall?)

The locos were held by the Ministry of Munitions at Avonmouth in 1917 and Gresham was sold to an unknown owner and seen in Oxford in 1920 !

[Kingsley was not scrapped until 1937]

Bideford, Westward Ho! & Appledore Railway by Greg Martin has details and page references to Industrial Locomotives of South Western England. IRS Handbook H. Page H27 and Industrial Locomotives of Dyfed & Powys. Page 181

Other sources suggest that an unnamed ship carrying rails, sleepers bits of rolling stock etc shipped from Avonmouth was torpedoed of the North Cornish Coast.

Of such are legends made

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Further - the history of Torridge is

3. "TORRIDGE"

2-4-2T. outside cylinders. Hunslet 715 of 1900

To: BWH&AR, Devon

To: MoM Pembrey (NFF No.18) Aug 1917 as "3" "TORRIDGE"

To: Sold or scrapped after Sep 1918

Industrial Locomotives of Dyfed & Powys. Page 181

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Centurion appears to have torpedoed this one.

People seem to be fascinated with submerged, walled up or otherwise bizarrely disposed of locomotives. It must be a freudian thing.

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Centurion appears to have torpedoed this one.

And can be forgiven for his did it belong to the Ring Line? quip :P

So, with strong links to Norse mythology, the clue is in the alleged ship's name and the story looks like just that another 'urban' - or should it be be nautical? - myth, which probably explains why there is so little information around! There's no listing of a Gotterdammerung on the 'Wrecksite' either.

I'm sure the guy that mentioned it said he'd read about it in a railway enthusiasts magazine, so I'll ask if he can shed any more light on the story next time I see him.

I don't think it's just railway locomotives that generate such stories; I also seem to recall several about walled up and buried cars over the years (Parry-Thomas' aero engined 'Babs', recovered from Pendine Sands some decades after it had been interred there following his death while attempting the land speed record, was genuine enough though)

NigelS

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Yes, you are right Nigel, the interest extends to buried cars, "Bluebird" is a of course a classic retrieved from water and I suppose the "genre" extends towards ship burials like Sutton Hoo. Buried war-planes also get the juices flowing.

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It's probably quite safe to extend this fascination to anything man made whether it's buried in the ground or submerged underwater, be it ancient, WW1, or even more recent. ^_^

NigelS

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I have today found a few examples of bonifide shipwrecks from WWI with steam locomotives as cargo. Sadly I do not have them at hand as I am in the midst of a commuting nightmare (on a train, of all things) and cannot access the info until my car gets considerably less crowded. Off the top of my head one ship was one of U60's kills so if you want to have a look for yourself in the meantime, feel free. :)

Daniel

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It's probably quite safe to extend this fascination to anything man made whether it's buried in the ground or submerged underwater, be it ancient, WW1, or even more recent. ^_^

NigelS

I suspect that Lord Carnarvon would have agreed.

Plenty of buried (or submerged aircraft) also not to mention Al Capone's vault (as well as at least one WW1 tank alleged to be buried in England and others on a ship in the Med).

However I do have a recollection of a story of a ship carrying locos to Normandy to replace some of the those totalled by the RAF's Typhoons on the French system being sunk. I wonder if the stories sort of merged.

BTW a ship called Gotterdammerung ought to be in a space opera - something like a Votan class super dreadnaught from the decline of the Albrechtian interstellar empire.

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Hi Daniel,

Tks for the link to the images of the two locos. Absolutely loved them.

Having been inside (the cab) and under the steam locomotives on the Melbourne (Australian) heritage steam railway, Puffing Billy, I recognise a significant amount of the wrecks.

You made my day and yes, I will be forwarding the link to one of my steamie mates.

Peter

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Home again after a harrowing commute, and access to my detailed info:

The 2866 ton St Chamond was built in 1913 by W Gray and Co at West Hartlepool for the Soc Anon des Chargeurs de l'Ouest. As far as I know it was her owner when she was mined and salvaged in the North Sea on 3 September, 1915. It was still her owner when she was torpedoed and sunk by U60, just over a mile off Clodgy Point, St Ives, on 30 April 1918. The St Chamond of Nantes was 314ft long with a beam of 46ft, which gave enough room for five (some divers say they have counted seven) 75 ton railway locomotives as deck cargo when she left Glasgow for St Nazaire. The locos and British rolling stock were part of a drive by the Allies to prevent French railways collapsing under the huge movement of men and munitions for the 'Big Push' in 1918 against the German Army. Several WW1 wrecks with railway engines on board have been found by British divers over the years. A recent discovery at 65m is an unidentified World War One wreck carrying steam engines. Also off Cornwall, it was, however, carrying much bigger locos, 35ft long compared with the 16ft tank engines on the St Chamond, which is in 27m at 50 14.50N; 05 29.54W.

From:

Wreck Site

And:

The beaches at St. Ives, such as Porthmeor, are noted surfing areas in Britain, and the rough surf is no deterrent to avid shore anglers. The area has some scuba diving, including the wreck of a transport with a cargo of locomotives, sunk in World War I by a German U-Boat.

Travel Info

I think this is referring to the same ship.

Here's some more info and pictures of that wreck (and the locomotives):

Wreck Pics

Here's info on the St. Chamond via uboat.net:

From:St. Chamond

The WWII ship I referred to earlier who also sank carrying locomotives was the SS Thistlegorm:

SS Thistlegorm

-Daniel

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If the locos on the 'unknown wreck' are larger than those on the St Chamond then there is no way they are connected with the BWH&AR, 2-4-2 tank engines. From the wheel arrangement on the St Chamond I think those engines are not tank engines but a standard tender loco used by ROD in France (some were later purchased by the GWR)

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I'd agree, Centurion, but the dive report said that the locos were 4-8-0s, a type I don't think was ever used by a British railway. The GCR 8K (LNER O4/1) locos that were adopted as the ROD standard were 2-8-0s but I'd be willing to bet that they are that class and the diver made a mistake. What a pity there is no shot of the firebox or splashers, which would have been characteristic.

Keith

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ROD standard were 2-8-0s but I'd be willing to bet that they are that class and the diver made a mistake.

That's the assumption I'd made

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Daniel, Great stuff! thanks.

So it looks likely that the 'Gotterdammerung' in the original link (who knows why the wreck was thought to be so named) could well have been either the St. Chalmont or another unidentified wreck containing locomotives off the north Cornish coast. The claim that the Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway locomotives 'Grenville' & 'Torridge' were aboard a torpedoed ship may be totally unfounded, (although possibly its track may have been) and possibly just wishful thinking by Mr. Eastman.

NigelS

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Daniel, Great stuff! thanks.

So it looks likely that the 'Gotterdammerung' in the original link (who knows why the wreck was thought to be so named) could well have been either the St. Chalmont or another unidentified wreck containing locomotives off the north Cornish coast. The claim that the Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway locomotives 'Grenville' & 'Torridge' were aboard a torpedoed ship may be totally unfounded, (although possibly its track may have been) and possibly just wishful thinking by Mr. Eastman.

NigelS

It appears that even Grenville was a mistake - there was no loco of this name - it was Gresham [Grenville is the shop assistant who has to get his cccccloth]

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