Steam locomotive Bittern first exhibit to be housed at former Hornby factory site

The Bittern

The classic Gresley Class A4 Pacific locomotive, Bittern, will arrive in Thanet on June 2 for storage and eventual public display.

Bittern is a sister locomotive to the world steam record holding “Mallard” and will be housed at the newly prepared facility in Margate operated by Locomotive Storage Ltd.

Locomotive Storage operates a storage and maintenance business for classic railway locomotives and heritage rolling stock.

Photo John Horton

Its main depot facility is in Crewe but the company also bought the former Hornby site at Westwood in February 2017.

Since then the main warehouse has undergone extensive engineering works to prepare for the arrival of the first railway vehicles. Seven railway tracks have been laid in the warehouse, with access loading docks to facilitate the unloading and loading of locomotives and carriages. It is expected that up to 30 items of rolling stock will eventually be housed there.

Bittern weighs 102 tonnes and its tender weighs 30 tonnes unladen (before coal and water). They will travel from Crewe on a convoy of low-loaders and Bittern will be the first steam locomotive exhibit in the new facility.

Locomotive Storage Limited is working closely with Hornby, whose Visitor Centre continues to occupy part of the Margate site.

The choice of the Thanet site for development of the Locomotive Storage facility was influenced by the obvious link with Hornby.

Operations  from the site between 1954 and 2015 were firstly as a new factory for Hornby’s rival, Tri-ang Railways, and then when Tri-Ang’s owner, Lines Brothers, bought Hornby’s parent, Meccano, under the merged banner of Tri-Ang Hornby.


  1. Bittern is a steam locomotive and not a train as described in this report and Margate was the home of Triang Railways and not Hornby, Hornby was bought over by Triang in the 1960s and later the factory in Margate was used by a new company calling itself Hornby.

    • The confusion of locomotives with trains is a common offence committed by the lay media. It is just one of many hair-raising media howlers.

    • Tommy,it drives me nuts when people call steam locomotives as trains. There are loads more as well, THE Flying Scotsmen is one of the worst.

  2. Steam train Bittern? Does the writer not know English? Bittern is a steam engine or steam locomotive. A train is comprised of an engine plus coaches or freight wagons.

    • Yer ok lets all start commenting on how clever we are about locomotives and trains lets just thank kathy for her report and i think she realises her mistake

  3. Excellent news, I wish every success to the Enterprise….I hope this is the first of many locomotives to be located at the Westwood Site ….
    Will there be engineersand other craftsmen required to maintain the exhibits ?

    • I doubt it. It is only for storage, so the items themselves will not be “exhibited” as such. I believe that it is not going to be a visitor attraction.

  4. We all know what it’s called….let’s celebrate the fact that the old building is being put to a good use and not torn down for housing and he’s I am a steam engine fan.

  5. Kathy cannot be expected to know the finer points of railway jargon, as she is writing for a general readership.
    Bittern is an LNER class A4 ‘pacific’ steam locomotive.Pacific is term used to denote its wheel arrangement.The A4 pacific’s were a development of the previous A3 Pacifics of which Flying Scotsman is the sole remaining example.Many were named after birds, but others were named or renamed after former colonies or notable persons (Dwight Eisenhower).
    The first of the class was named Silver link as it was designed to be used on the Silver jubilee train (celebrating King George 5th’s 25 years on the throne), which itself was a light weight train designed to show that steam power could out perform the German Flying hamburger diesel powered train, which it did on almost all counts.
    There were 35 A4’s built and 6 survive.
    Sir Nigel Gresley designed the A4 ( one of them carries his name).The streamlined designed was influenced by the ideas of Bugatti and the design featured concepts from other notable engineers such as Andre Chapelon.
    Bittern has had a chequered history in preservation, and keeping her under cover is a good thing.The use of the old Rovex factory is a positive and novel use of an old factory building.

  6. Will you be publishing a date when bittern will be arriving so that we can see it before it goes under cover

  7. Can you help us out can you vist this site when locomotive are there please looking forward to a vist many thanks Tim

    • I am told: “The roads around the site are open to the public however I am not able to give a time of arrival. We will be opening to the public in due course, but not on the day of arrival. “

  8. Just a pity it has to come by road. There WAS a perfectly good railway line running up to the site and on through to Ramsgate, with hindsight a great opportunity for a heritage line or even a tram link.

    • The line through Westwood closed in July 1926 and has been slowly disappearing ever since. It is doubtful it could ever have been used as a heritage line.

  9. the old line has now mostly been built on and the last remaining building at star lane has now been pulled down

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