Down among the warehouses and scrapyards of Barking can be found a most curious sight – a steam train. Not working anymore as is obvious from its condition, and indeed when it worked, would never have worked on a British railway, as it’s from Finland, and built to Russian track gauge.

This is the VR Class Vr1, number 794, a powerful little locomotive for heavy loads and built between 1913 and 1927.

In use until 1974, the class of steam trains had the nickname of Kana — or in English — Hen.

Quite how it ended up in Blumsom’s timber yard in Barking is a curious and incomplete story. Although taken out of use in the 1970s, a lot of wood-fueled trains were kept in good working order as part of Finland’s reserve in case of a Russian attack on their oil supplies.

With the ending of the cold war, the reserve of locomotives no longer needed, it seems that in 1989 a batch of them were sold to a UK firm, who may have been planning to use them for a Wild West theme park in Cornwall.

The theme park never happened, so the collection was split up and sold off.

This particular locomotive ended up at the Epping Ongar Railway along with three others, and in 2008 was sold to Blumsom, who installed it in their front yard and it’s now a bit of a local landmark.

Considering that this class of locomotive spent many of its final years shunting timber cargo around Finland, it’s fitting that its retirement home is a timber yard.


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  1. Pete martin says:

    Interesting to know its still there. The batch of steam locomotives were offered by the Finnish Government and bought by a UK Company. At the time, there was a competition between France and the UK to construct a Disney World theme park, and the proposal was to incorporate these locos into the theme park railway. Several coaches were also purchased, but France won the competition and Disney World Paris went on to become the chosen venue. The locos and coaches ended up at a yard in Suffolk, where one was restored and returned to Finland as a working machine. The remainder of the collection was sold off, but several survivors were for a time at the Epping Ongar Railway, but where they disappeared to subsequently is unknown. One was sold to a West Country venue, but don’t know what happened to that. The loco at Blumsons in Barking apparently had its wheels connected to an electric motor and interested customers could have a demo of the wheels and motion going round!

  2. Alan Simpson says:

    One of the other ex-Epping Ongar Railway Finnish locos is at Fengate Farm in Weeting, Norfolk. I saw it there last summer and the owner confirmed where it had come from.

  3. Lovely to read this we are looking into repainting the steam train and writing more information on our website.

    It was purchased from a friend as a landmark. I am so pleased it is enjoyed by many.


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