1363 is a member of the 1361 class of short wheelbase locomotives designed for hauling heavy loads around exceptionally tight curves.
The 1361 class of five engines was built to replace almost identical but worn-out Victorian locomotives. Their design was based on the 1392 class of the Cornwall Mineral Railways, and they were the last saddle tank engines built by the GWR who, unusually for such small machines of this type, fitted them with outside cylinders. They remained virtually unaltered throughout their long working life.
1363 is the oldest genuine Great Western engine at Didcot. It spent most of its working life at Laira (Plymouth), being used in the docks, often to power the ocean liner expresses between ship and mainline station. Because of this it is fitted with full vacuum brake and steam heating equipment.
1363 also spent some time after the second world war on similar work at Weymouth; there trains ran along public roads and for this it was fitted with a warning bell, the mounting holes for which can be seen on the left side running plate, just ahead of the cab. It was named "Viking" for a while there.
After withdrawal from BR Service 1363 remained to become Laira's last steam locomotive, eventually being bought by a group of GWS members and presented to the Society. It trundled in steam to Totnes in August 1964, where it was restored to full working order. In May 1969, 1363 moved to the Society depot at Bodmin, where it received a new front buffer beam, fabricated on a submarine depot courtesy of the Royal Navy. Upon closure of the Bodmin Depot it again moved, this time to Didcot where, after several years in use, and then on static display, it is now under overhaul.
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