A POPULAR children’s railway is under investigation for an alleged safety breach.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is probing a ‘dangerous’ incident at Kirklees Light Railway at Clayton West.
The railway, which offers Thomas the Tank Engine themed rides on its miniature steam locomotives, is under investigation after a train’s boiler overheated.
The RAIB report says a key last resort safety device, known as the fusible plug, had activated as the train travelled to Shelley.
The plug, used in most steam engines, melts when temperatures reach dangerous levels releasing noisy steam to alert the crew of the impending danger.
The melting of a plug is a sign the boiler could easily explode.
But the RAIB report says while the train’s crew noticed there was a problem they failed to spot that the fusible plug had melted.
It says they stopped the locomotive short of its destination at Shelley with a low water level but failed to diagnose the problem, increasing the risk of an explosion.
The Branch’s preliminary examination found the flow of water to the boiler was restricted owing to a valve being nearly closed.
The report says: “The train crew and the railway’s responsible officer were unable to diagnose the problem and, after some delay, the fire was dropped.
“By the time that the decision was made to drop the fire, parts of the firebox and boiler had been exposed to the fire without water behind them for several minutes.
“During this time there was an increasing risk of a dangerous failure of the boiler.”
The RAIB is now set to examine the sequence of events leading up to the incident, the way in which the incident was managed, the railway’s procedures for locomotive maintenance and preparation and its system of training and assessment of operational staff.
Following the conclusion of its investigation it will publish a report, including any recommendations to improve safety.
The report will be available on the RAIB website.
A spokesman from Kirklees Light Railway: said: “On Sunday, July 3 while working a passenger train, the Kirklees Light Railway’s Kitson Meyer Locomotive Hawk experienced a low water incident with its boiler.
“During the incident damage was sustained to the locomotive’s inner firebox.
“The incident was reported to both the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).
“The paid and volunteer staff of the KLR are co-operating fully with the RAIB and ORR inquiries into the incident.”