Were D3639 and D3649 exported to Guinea?

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Almost every listing of BR Diesel Locomotive disposals gives Class 10s D3639 and D3649 as being exports to Guinea in West Africa. Usually Conakry (also spelt as Konakry and misspelt as Conkary) is quoted as the disembarkation port in Guinea. Is there though any evidence to support this or was it that they were actually scrapped at the Doncaster yard of C. F. Booth during the winter of 1969/70?

‘The Railway Observer’ on pages 115-118 of its April 1971 Edition carried an appeal for details of information regarding the disposal of various locomotives. Included in the listing were D3621, D3639 & D3649 which had last been reported at Doncaster depot in July 1969.

It wasn’t until the July 1972 edition of ‘The Railway Observer’ that further information about the locomotives appeared. This being over a year since the initial appeal. On Page 246 it stated that in response to the earlier appeal 3639/49 from Doncaster were noted in Surrey Commercial Docks on 7th March 1970. The numbers were painted out but both had traces of the ones quoted. Boards attached to them indicated export to Conakry, West Coast of Africa.” Subsequent references in ‘The Railway Observer’ , page 49 in February 1974 and page 365 in October 1978 repeat this information as factual.

Who provided the original reference to the Guinea disposal of D3639 & D3649 has not been established. Regretably though the lag between appeal and disclosure is a hallmark of ‘Zulu’ fabrications. In addition, scrutiny of the what was originally stated does not fully tally with the reality of the time. “Surrey Dock” is, in this context it is believed, a generic term for “the Surrey Docks” (now known as “Surrey Quays”) located in the Rotherhithe area, on the South (Surrey) side of the Thames. By March 1970 the docks were already in serious decline, seemingly closing completely by the end of 1970. The actual “Surrey Dock” had already been filled-in by that date. Thus it’s likely that if the locomotivess were exported from Surrey Docks, it would have been from the deep-water “Greenland Dock”, this actually survives today. Also, if they were noted at the docks “with numbers painted over“, how sure can we be of their identities?

Subsequently references have appeared to D3639 & D3649 being used on the construction of the Chemin de fer de Boke railway. This was built to standard gauge and ran from the port of Kamsar to Sangaredi in the interior of Guinea, primarily for the purpose of transportation of bauxite ore. Completion was reportedly by 1973 and it originally used diesel locomotives for bauxite transportation that appear to be of a General Motors design. Whilst it’s certainly possible that the ex-BR locomotives could have been used in the construction of the railway and maybe the export date of 1970 tallies with the time it might take to build such a railway which was 84 miles long.  Why though if this was their intended use were “Boards attached to them indicated export to Conakry”. Why there and not Kamsar? Would road movement between the ports actually have been possible? Possibly they might have been unloaded at Conakry and moved on by another ship but why go to the trouble when they could have been offloaded directly at Kamsar which is further North then Conakry, the ship would have had to have steamed past Kamsar on its way down the coast!

It is now known from recorded observations that D3621, D3639 & D3649 were still at Doncaster Depot on 10th December 1969, 10th December 1969 and 26th November 1969 respectively. No subsequent sightings of any of these locomotives have been traced other than the afore mentioned “Surrey Docks” reference to D3639 & D3649. It is though recorded that all were sold to R. E. Trem and some disposal listings suggest they were despatched to C. F. Booth who at the time had yards in Rotherham and Doncaster. To date no dated sightings have emerged of any of the locomotives in either yard. Considering the frequency of visits made to the Rotherham yard at the time movement there would thus seem unlikely. However, unsubstaintated reports exist of locomotives of this description being seen in the Doncaster yard around this time which was not then normally associated with locomotive scrapping.

To conclude, whilst its conceivable D3639 & D3649 were exported to Guinea, possibly D3621 also, scrapping at the Doncaster yard of C. F. Booth during the winter of 1969/70 seems more likely. However, no evidence appears to exist supporting either scenario. If you do have any, or sightings of the locomotives after they were last seen at Doncaster Depot please contact Peter Hall.