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.
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.