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Going Loco

BLOG - A closer look at our collection of historic locomotives

With a collection of locomotives dating from Victorian times to the 1960s, there's plenty to discover.


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14:48 Time for a design classic

Having struck me that we hadn’t had a chat about the Terrier last week, it has struck me again that despite the fantastic blogs that Phil is doing about the restoration to life of our founder loco, No. 1466, we really hadn’t looked at where these iconic little engines fit into the history of the G.W.R. Let’s fix that shall we?!

The class had seen its origins way back in the 19th Century. The job of working branch lines was an important one. At its height, the GWR network had many facets. The easy association with the G.W.R. in the public consciousness is with the Castles, Halls, Saints and so on.* These engines however, are what is known as ‘Red Route’ machines. This means they have high axle weights and were not able to go along the lightly laid rural routes. Not only did the locos on these lines have to be light but they were also small. The shorter the engine, the tighter curves in the track it can go round. They also tended to be tank engines. This meant that they maintained this compact package and could run just as well backwards as forwards without turning.

Great Marlow station in 1880 with 517 class No 522 built in June 1868 as a saddle tank. The locomotive was in service until October 1935.

What is also interesting about this lineage of locomotives is that, rather unusually for branch line engines, they have quite large driving wheels. This meant that while they were able to do all the little jobs on the branch lines, they also have the ability to put the pedal to the metal and go fairly quick! The first of these 0-4-2T passenger locos were the 517 Class. These were designed by George Armstrong. He was one of a pair of brothers (the other being Joseph) who ruled over the designing and building of steam locomotives for the G.W.R. in the third quarter of the 19th Century. This was still the era of the broad gauge and so Joseph worked at Swindon on the 7’ 0¼” gauge locomotives and George worked at the Stafford Road Works in Wolverhampton where he built standard gauge machines.

Box station with 517 class No 1157, built in December 1875 and ran until November 1935.

The first of the ;517 Class was built in 1868 and it was not a class in the same way we would think of it today. These engines came in both saddle and side tank form and with a choice of three different wheelbases.** There were several different boiler variations and the cylinders went from 15” to 16” over time. The configuration of cab roof and side sheets also changed. To complicate things further, they were rebuilt several times too. The final version having an enclosed cab, neat coal bunker and side tanks with 5’ 2” diameter driving wheels. Which should start to look familiar. The final upgrade made by George Jackson Churchward in the early 20th Century was the fitting of some of the class with auto working gear.*** These engines were very long lived. The first was withdrawn as early as 1904 but they soldiered on until the last survivor went in 1945 at 70 years old. Most members of the class racked up a total millage of 2.5 million miles. A terrific achievement for such small machines.

Swindon Works in 1904 with 517 class No 528 under overhaul. She was built in August 1868 and worked until October 1935.

By the 1930s, the surviving 517 Class engines were looking very tired but the design was still very relevant. In his finest tradition of being the great refiner of Swindon Steam, Charles Benjamin Collett took the design and basically built some new ones! There are a few differences between the two classes, but not much. A classic case of ‘If it 'ain't broke, don't fix it’! They were initially known as the 48XX Class and the first, No. 4800, entered service in 1932. It became the starting point of another 74 of these little auto fitted gems. There were also another 20 of the same design but without the auto working gear. These were known as the 58XX Class, and were built in 1933.


517 class No 1428, built in July 1877, and worked until October 1932. AND Trumper’s Crossing Halte on the Brentford branch with 517 class No 833, built in November 1873, enclosed with dummy coachwork to look like a railmotor. The disguise was fitted about 1906, and removed in 1911. The locomotive worked until March 1934.

They soon took the place of their elder brethren and became part of the landscape. So much so that the classic image of the country branch line in the U.K. is stereotypically represented by a 48XX Class and an autocoach. They also showed a clean pair of heels on the main line sections of their schedules. Speeds of 80mph are recorded, which must have been ‘exciting’ in such a small machine. There are even stories of 14XX Class locomotives with a single coach chasing and keeping up with the mighty Kings on express trains!

An auto-train headed by a 48XX 0-4-2T and let loose on the main line.

So why do I keep referring to them as the 48XX Class? Well, that goes back to the immediate post World War II period. During this time, the G.W.R. was experimenting with powering its engines by burning oil instead of coal. While this experiment was abandoned for a host of reasons, it did affect our little locos. One of the classes converted was the 28XX Class 2-8-0 heavy freight engines. In order to distinguish between the coal and oil fired engines, they were going to use the numbers in the 48XX series.**** Right where the 0-4-2s were. In preparation for this, they were all renumbered into the 14XX series. The renumbering of their 2-8-0s never happened but, having gone to the trouble of sorting out the 0-4-2s, they weren't going to change them back any time soon...

West Ealing station with 14XX class locos passing each other, No 1438 pushing its train and No 1426 pulling, on the last day of steam working on the branch line to Greenford, summer 1958.

Even such fine machines as the G.W.R. 0-4-2s couldn't resist the onslaught of the diesels. The 58XXs went early on as their lack of auto working gear made them less useful. The final one of them went in 1961. The first of the 14XXs went as early as 1956 and the last went as late as May of 1965. Pretty much the end of steam traction on the Western Region of British Railways. This ended nearly a century of service from this basic design. Happily, 4 of the 14XXs were preserved to represent this important facet of locomotive design. No. 1420 lives with our friends on the South Devon Railway, No. 1450 is privately owned and is based on the amazing Severn Valley line. No. 1442 has never run in preservation, being preserved in the Tiverton Museum in Devon as a representative of their local ‘Tivvy Bumper’ train service. Which leaves us with No. 1466. Which has an amazing story about its journey into preservation.

Hemyock station in 1962 with No 1442, built in April 1935, at the head of a mixed train of milk tanks and a passenger coach. Now preserved at Tiverton Museum. Photograph by Mike Peart.


No 1445 at Slough engine shed in the early 1960s. Photograph by Mike Peart. AND Tiverton station in 1962 with No 1450, built in July 1935. Now preserved on the Severn Valley Railway. Photograph by Mike Peart.

Which is a tale for another time...

If you would like to contribute to the appeal to restore No. 1466, please feel free. Thank you!


*Famously, the Kings had double red circles due to their high axle weight. This restricted them to just 14% of the network or 522 miles.

**The distance between the first and last driving axles.

***See my blog of 24th July 2020 called ‘Auto Working Wonders’ for more information on this amazing system.

****They couldn't use the 38XX numbers as there were already members of the later 2884 Class Collett update of the 28XXs 2-8-0s in there. No. 3822 at Didcot is an example of this.


A Priceless Pooch


No 2678 at Didcot on 17 October 2021 and No 2678 with Pendennis Castle at Didcot on 23 October 2021

I have a slight admission to make. I have been very remiss in my reporting of our latest visitor to Didcot. The wonderful little 0-6-0 Terrier No. 32678. A.K.A. No. 2678.

A.K.A. No.14 Bembridge. A.K.A. No. 78 Knowle. I intend to rectify this immediately so without further ado...*

No 2678 at Ashford Loco Depot on 6 July 1946, in a weathered version of the Southern Railway livery she now carries during her season at Didcot Railway Centre. Photograph by Ben Brooksbank.

The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (L.B.S.C.) was founded in 1846 and supplied rail transport in the areas mentioned in the name! They were good with the publicity in those days weren't they? They were a forward thinking railway, being an early adopter of electric traction for its commuter services. Their main locomotive works was in the titular Brighton. Although this site was quite hemmed in, it still managed to build 1,200 steam locomotives in its time as well as a number of prototype electric and diesel locomotives towards the end of operations there in 1962.

No 32662 in Eastleigh Works on 5 August 1964, being restored to go on display at the Butlin's Holiday Camp in Ayr. The locomotive is now preserved at Bressingham Steam Museum. Photograph by Ben Brooksbank.

In 1870, a new locomotive superintendent was appointed at Brighton. This was William Stroudley - and he was quite desperately needed. For a relatively small company, the L.B.S.C. at the time were operating no less than 72 separate classes of steam locomotives. Clearly this was untenable and highly uneconomic. The company's finances had also been fairly dire, coming close to bankruptcy in 1866. However, sound management had started to reverse this trend and beginning in the 1870s, revenue from commuter traffic was beginning to figuratively and literally pay dividends.

Stroudley started a programme of standardisation and modernisation. His first design was known as the Belgravia Class 2-4-0 passenger locomotives. The last of the 6 of these machines worked until 1902. Not bad, but his next design was to be a more humble 0-6-0 tank locomotive with almost superhuman staying power. The original task for these engines was to haul commuter trains on the very congested lines in and out of London. They were diminutive little engines at just 27.5 tons. As built they had 150psi boilers and 2x 12” diameter, 20” stroke cylinders that drove a set of 48” diameter driving wheels that were spaced to give a coupled wheelbase** of just 12’.

No 2678 during a Timeline Events photo shoot at Didcot on 20 October 2021.

While their tractive effort was just 7,650lbs, this was more than enough to cope with the short commuter trains that the L.B.S.C. was timetabling at the time. Their small stature and sharp exhaust bark brought to mind in many the feisty little dogs in the terrier breeds. Despite being officially known as the A (A1 after 1905) Class, they shall forever be known as Terriers. I know all about this as my White West Highland Terrier called Max will testify. They are well named...

There were 50 locomotives built between 1872 and 1880. The idea of commuting was fairly new but really took hold at this time. The idea that you could live outside the city of London but work in it was helped in no small part by locomotives like the Terriers. They in fact became victims of their own success fairly early on. The popularity of the commuter services became such that the trains got larger and larger and eventually beyond the capabilities of the Terriers. You can't keep a good dog down and these locomotive were good machines, so good that they became jacks of all trades.*** They were powerful for their size, adaptable and reliable. They were to be seen doing both freight and passenger branch line trains, shunting and so on.


No 2678 with the branch line train on 24 October 2021, in Didcot Halt and No 2678 with the branch line train at Didcot on 24 October 2021, with the transfer shed in the background.

Even so, between 1898 and 1905, 23 were withdrawn from L.B.S.C. service. This usually means scrapping but they were so useful that the majority were sold to other railways or used on the L.B.S.C. in departmental roles such as works shunters and so on. The survivors on the L.B.S.C. were also found to be ideal candidates for conversion to auto train or push-pull working. This again extended their lifespan.

Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway No 4 was a Terrier that had been bought from the Southern Railway in 1937. The WC&PR closed in 1940 and the GWR acquired the locomotives. No 4 became GWR No 6 and was withdrawn in 1948. This photograph was published in the Great Western Railway Magazine in 1940.

Starting in 1913, 12 of the surviving engines were updated with new, larger boilers by Stroudley's successor, Douglas Earle Marsh. This increased their weight to 28.2 tons and as such were designated as the A1X Class. Another four were rebuilt after WWI. By the time of the grouping that absorbed the L.B.S.C. into the Southern Railway (S.R.) in 1923, they only had 15 Terriers left. The weird thing was though, that due to the fact that some of the others went as running locos to other railways absorbed into the S.R., the number of Terriers received was actually 24!****

Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Railway No 2 Portishead was a Terrier that had been bought from the Southern Railway in the 1920s. She became No 5 after the GWR acquired her in 1940. This photograph was taken by Ben Brooksbank from a moving train at Taunton on 16 July 1949, showing No 5 shunting, and a 2251 class 0-6-0 No 2267. No 5 was withdrawn in March 1954.

Their light axle loading saw them find use on lines such as the Kent and East Sussex, the Hayling Island line in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. They continued to make financial sense on the lines that were simply uneconomic to electrify so they soldiered on. Their numbers were dwindling however and by the time of nationalisation in 1948, just 14 were left on the main line railways. Continuing their roles much as they had done for the S.R. When British railways withdrew the last one after the closure of the Hayling Island line in November 1963, No.32636 (formerly No. 72 Fenchurch) was the oldest locomotive then in service with them. The engine had worked for 92 years. Quite the record.

No 32670 at Newhaven on 7 October 1962. The loco is now preserved on the Kent & East Sussex Railway as No 3 Bodiam. Photograph by Ben Brooksbank.

Happily, 10 of these fascinating little locomotives have survived into preservation. People like the Terrier Trust from the Kent & East Sussex Railway, who have very kindly loaned No. 32678 to us have been rightly captivated by them. The inclusion of No. 55 Stepney in the Reverend Awdry's Railway Series of stories sealed their place in the cultural memory for all time. It is a privilege to spend some time with such a venerable machine. They so typify the plucky underdog that you can't help but like them. This is to undersell them however. They are well designed and well built machines that gave nearly a century of service to the nation. The initial investment that they represented in the 1870s must have been repaid time and time again. The right machine in the right place, at the right time. Charming but dependable, all in one bundle. Sounds a lot like my dog!

Just because people will ask if I don't show you all, here is Max the Westie (Awwww!). He differs from No. 32678 in three key ways.

1) He is in winter livery rather than B.R. Black.

2) He was not constructed in Brighton in 1880.

3) He does not weigh 28.2 tons.

Despite the obvious advantages of the loco, in comparison No. 32678 is rubbish at chasing squirrels in the park...

*What exactly is an ado? We say it all the time but how do you quantify it? Is there an ISI unit of ado? Is what I’ve written here 2 ados? Or just a single ado? Let’s split the difference and call it 1.5 ados...

**The distance between the first and last coupled axles. The shorter this distance, the tighter the curves that the locomotive can go round.

***This phrase has been modified in recent years to be: “A jack of all trades but a master of none, though oftentimes better than master of one.” Which is rather good I think...

****Two even became G.W.R. property via the absorbing of the Weston, Clevedon and Portishead Light Railway.


The Pioneer's Progress - Part 4

Well, the little engine that could start a preservation movement is still moving forward at a fair old pace! With a marvellous blog he is calling “Plate-Work Galore & Shipped off to the Navy!,*” we pull up a chair, take a sip of tea and listen again to the tales of project manager Phil Morrell. In the finest traditions of the performing arts, take it away Phil!

1466 at Staverton's yard, Totnes, after delivery in steam from Taunton shed to the Great Western Society on 18 March 1964. Standing by the loco, from left, are the local footplate inspector, young David Lemar and Joan Lemar - Photo taken by Peter Lemar who negotiated the purchase of 1466, and of most subsequent locomotive and rolling stock purchases on behalf of the GWS.

Thanks Drew! The past 6-8 weeks since my last update, have certainly been a very busy time and has seen a lot of work completed. It's also been a bit of a roller-coaster in-between a myriad of inspections by our boiler insurers & various Non Destructive Tests (NDT's). Nonetheless, work is progressing superbly well at WSR with Ryan & team, as 1466's boiler is starting to take shape once more.

As mentioned, various NDT's have taken place, including Die Penetration Inspection (DPI) and Ultrasonic (UAT) examinations on the platework of the copper inner firebox. The UAT examination (thickness testing) came back all clear and considering the age of the inner copper-firebox, there is very minimal wastage. However, during the further DPI examination (Crack & flaw detection) vertical cracking was found in two of the corner radiuses on the door plate – Now, at first it sounds bad. It's actually quite a common failure and thankfully it's not a huge issue to rectify. A path well trodden means no reinventing the wheel... As well as that, the following repairs already mentioned will need to happen to the copper firebox:

  • Numerous amounts of holes where ‘patch screws’ once were will be filled in, so we can return the 'box to all riveted as originally designed.
  • Building up various stay holes, where over years it has been deeply caulked.**
  • 9 tube holes will be built-up and dressed in to restore them to original specification.
  • 2 copper bosses will be welded into-place where the Fusible plugs are
  • 18ft of weld will be built up upon 2 areas of grooving, where there has again been deep caulking over the years against the lap seam*** edges of the tubeplate and door plate.

All these repairs will effectively see the inner firebox fit for service for a good 20-30 years and will (in theory) need minimal work apart from general maintenance in future years. We do have to get the copper welded however. More of this later...


The new Bottom throatplate fitted in place & welded & The new pair of 3 quarter side-sheets fitted and welded into place - Also the completed full backplate is now in place - Credit Phil Morrell

Now, on to the steel work. The newly manufactured 1/3rd bottom throatplate has now been fully fitted into place and also welded by our contractor Ian Massey. As well as that; All preparation work to the new full backplate has been completed with all its new mounting pads and new doubling plate fitted & rivetted. As I write this; work on the final fitting of the new pair of ¾ side-sheets is just shy of completion. All that remains then is to drill all the remaining rivet holes through the side-sheets, throatplate & backplate. Then we can rivet-up the whole outer firebox to form its complete ‘outer-shell’once again.

Once that's all done, we will turn to the replacement of the two old boiler barrel sections – work to remove the old ones will begin shortly. Thankfully we have been able to salvage the original steam dome. Due to its design and this part being above the waterline (where the steam collects) it is, for its age, in very good shape with very minimal wastage.


Josh Chivers taking the next white hot rivet out of the forge to be formed on the backplate and its doubling plate & Ryan Pope hitting down the white hot rivet just inserted by Josh-this is to secure and hold the doubling plate in position on the inside of the backplate - Credit Phil Morrell

A few of you may be wondering about the later part of the subtitle & It's an interesting story in itself. No. 1466 is again back on the move - Or - at least in part.

As I mentioned earlier, the locomotive's inner copper-firebox needs the attention of a specialist copper welder. I really do have to emphasise just how specialist copper welding is. It's a bit of a dying art and is also very tricky work to carry out. Finding coded copper welders with the right qualifications has proved to be a bit of a challenge in itself, as there are so few people that can still do the work. After some persistence, we managed to find a few, who kindly quoted and after thoroughly considering our available options, the decision has been jointly taken to send the copper firebox off on a little seaside holiday to Portsmouth for some TLC.

Our repairs will be carried out by a highly recommended company called Hythe Marine Services. A specialist in marine engineering, design and welding services who are based within HM Naval Base, Portsmouth - MOD (yes, you did read that correctly). Now, you're probably thinking… Have I gone mad? Quite likely - However, Hythe aren't strangers to heritage steam boilers, as they've previously carried out several jobs of specialist welding for the Bluebell and Watercress railways, to fantastic standard.

Trafalgar Gate, HMNB Portsmouth - Entry point to the main Naval base - Credit Phil Morrell

Originally, the plan was to be that the welding work would be carried out on site at Williton. But due to the nature of the work, its scale and the project deadlines, it's actually worked out more cost effective to move the copper firebox to Portsmouth and get the work done in one big hit at their base. Thursday 11th of November saw me visit Portsmouth Naval Base, with a copper firebox in tow. Just your average, everyday Thursday really...

It is hoped the repairs to the firebox will be completed and the 'box returned to Williton by the end of the year. Sometimes, it really does pay off to think outside the box - or in my case, have some great contacts with great recommendations. Many thanks to Chris Shepherd of the Bluebell Railway for this one! As you can probably tell, there's a great deal of work currently going on and it's progressing very well and at quite a fair pace too. The one really good thing is, we've passed the stage where the list of jobs keeps growing and is now - thankfully - shrinking!

Until next time folks!

Cheers Phil! Fantastic job by all concerned there. It's wonderful to note that our metal founder (not the four carbon based ones...) is in such good hands and speeding towards its resurrection. It's going to be exciting times at Didcot next year with No. 1466 and No. 4079 Pendennis Castle to come and experience. I don't know about you lot but I can't wait...

*This sounds like it should be the name of a 1950s musical film...

**This is where the copper is pushed into the metal stays, rivets and other holes in the boiler, to create a steam tight seal.

***This is where two metal plates are joined by placing one on top of the other. The caulking here is to stop the steam escaping between the two.

During a visit to WSR at Williton on 10 November to see progress on 1466, Jon Barlow is holding an enlargement of his letter published in the August 1961 edition of The Railway Magazine. This famous letter not only started the preservation fund for the locomotive, but led to the formation of the Great Western Society and ultimately to the unique GWR collection at Didcot Railway Centre. Behind Jon is the rolling chassis of 1466 and from left, Clive Hetherington, CEO of Didcot Railway Centre, Phil Morrell and David Lemar (who also appears, somewhat younger, in the March 1964 photo at the head of this blog!).

We are still raising funds to complete restoration of the boiler, and you can donate to this amazing project through the website:


Hidden Treasures

This blog is being published on 12th November 2021. Thus it is one day after the 103rd anniversary of the armistice at the end of the Great War and two days before Remembrance Sunday. We are in what we now call the season of remembrance.

Our two ‘Old Soldiers’ – Churchward Mogul No. 5322 and Heavy Freight 2-8-0 No. 3822 – still stand sentinel. One from the war to end all wars and the other from the war after that. Didcot&aposo;s mobile memorials to all those that served and sacrificed to maintain the freedoms that we enjoy today.

The ‘Old Soldiers’ are more than just preserved steam engines. They are poppies made of iron and steel. Poppies that the collection wears year round with pride. Poppies that serve as our reminder, lest we forget...

5322 and 3822 wearing poppies.

We at Didcot try to show you as much of the collection of preserved vehicles as possible but inevitably, there are a few exceptions to this. Down in the depths of the carriage storage shed, there hide some real gems that in many cases are unique in preservation. They are safe where they are but in some cases in need of a lot of restoration work. This means that they might not be seen for a very long time. Some however just don't have anywhere to be displayed at the moment. Others are running vehicles awaiting their next turn. But whatever the reason, just what is in there? Well, here's the beginning of what will no doubt become an occasional series that highlights some of what I call the invisible collection.

Restored vehicles inside the carriage shed. Behind them are the long-term restoration projects.

One of the most significant vehicles in there at the moment is the last survivor of a group of coaches called The Centenaries. These are exactly as it sounds. The G.W.R. celebrated its centenary in 1935. The idea was to mark this by building two sets of thirteen coaches that reflected the very latest in design, comfort and engineering and yet still reflect the tradition of craftsmanship and style of Swindon works.

These were based on the previous ‘Super Saloon’* designs. This means that they were WIDE. They took full advantage of the space around previously broad gauge track of the company’s lines and were 9’ 7” wide at the edges. So wide in fact that they had to angle the end doors in slightly to prevent a huge overhang while going around corners! The types of coach built were as follows:

  • 6 brake thirds (guards compartment and third class seating) Nos. 4575 to 4580
  • 6 full thirds (third class seating only, no guard’s compartment) Nos. 4581 to 4586
  • 6 brake composites (guards compartment and a mix of first and third class seating) Nos. 6650 to 6655
  • 4 composites (a mix of first and third class seating, no guard) Nos. 6658-6661
  • 2 first class restaurants Nos. 9635 and 9636. The restaurant coaches sat 24 first class passengers and also accommodated the kitchen and pantry which served them.
  • 2 third class diners Nos. 9637 and 9638. They were marshalled next to the first class restaurant coaches in the train and could seat 64 third class passengers.

They entered service on the 8th July 1935 and were used almost exclusively on the Cornish Riviera Express or (as it was known simply to railwaymen) The Limited. This was one of the G.W.R.'s premier services. It began way back in the 1860s as the fast service between London and Plymouth & Penzance. This was in response to the London South Western Railway's competing service. Their route was 15 miles shorter but the fact was that the G.W.R. schedules were more ambitious and that they also had the motive power to back it up. It started to make the Great Western service famous.

The Cornish Riviera Express composed entirely of Centenary stock, behind a King class locomotive.

In 1904, a new faster service with limited stops (hence the nickname!) was introduced. It left London at 10:10hrs. and arrived at Falmouth at 17:10hrs. A reduction of nearly half an hour over previous timings. A competition in Railway Magazine lead to the naming of the service and the two winners (who were paid the then handsome sum of three guineas**) jointly suggested The Cornish Riviera Limited and The Riviera Express. These were artfully combined by the G.W.R. publicity department to become The Cornish Riviera Express.

The train kept pace with technology and was accelerated when the engines got more powerful or improvements to the route occurred. It was the province of such famous locomotives types as the City Class 4-4-0s, the Star, Castle & King*** Class 4-6-0s and the Britannia Class Pacifics in the steam era. It continued in one form or another into the diesel age behind Warships, Westerns, Class 50s, Class 47s, HSTs and even today the tradition continues in the hands the Class 802 IET of the new G.W.R. The train was at its fastest under the HSTs, taking just 4hrs 56min. The IETs (which could probably do just as fast as the HSTs to be honest!) are limited to the current timetable of 5hrs 6min.

A third class compartment in a Centenary coach.

The Centenary coaches were solely associated with the Cornish Riviera Express right up to the beginning of WWII. The only change of note up to then being that the large, single Beclawat type lowering windows**** to a smaller, more conventional arrangement of two fixed panels and a smaller opening section. After the Second World War, they were dispersed into the wider coach fleet and were seen on a variety of services. The interior that is in No. 9635 today is the one that was fitted by the company Hamptons in 1947 when the restaurant coaches were updated.

Centenary third class restaurant car No 9637.

They were eventually withdrawn in the early 1960s. Sadly, No. 9635 is the only one of the 26 coaches that survives. It was purchased for preservation in 1963. It was first based at Ashchurch in Gloucestershire under the ownership of the Dowty Railway Preservation Society. It then moved to Toddington and was based on the Gloucester and Warwickshire Railway until it was offered for sale in 1989. It was then bought by the Great Western Society and moved from Toddington to Didcot.

There is something about the time capsule in this coach. If you go inside, the kitchen is pretty much as built. The only two things changed were the fuel used to power the stoves - oil gas to propane - and an electric fan substituted for the Venturi type ventilator originally fitted. Although this could never be used for the public again, as it in no way meets current hygiene standards, the fact that it is all still there is quite impressive given that I'm writing this in 2021! Although this coach has been on display in the past, it has been rotated into the store for a while. It does need some restoration but it isn't in the really rough state that some of the residents in there are in thankfully! It will be a great project when it's time comes and it rightly holds a very important place in G.W.R. preservation.

Centenary diner No 9635 inside the carriage shed.

When I have shown people the store in the past, I have likened it to a time machine. Outside, time passes at the normal rate but it goes very slowly inside however! It is really dry inside the shed, it is therefore doing one job really well. Slowing down the decay of these wooden bodied vehicles to a barely appreciable rate. This gives the G.W.S. Carriage and Wagon Department the time they need...

I'll tell you some more tales of the invisible collection another time.

*See the blog Luxurious Saloons? Super! of 11th June 2021 for more information.

**About £3.15 today...

*** The Kings were too heavy to go over Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge into Cornwall. Smaller locomotives had to take the train for the last bit!

****These Beclawat windows were fitted to the HST coaches and so have only just left service on the G.W.R.!


Wye were the Kings at Chepstow?

So, you have rebuilt an ancient railway bridge, now you need to know whether it will fall into the river when you put a load on it. That was the conundrum facing the Western Region's civil engineers after they had finished a reconstruction of Brunel’s historic bridge over the river Wye at Chepstow, exactly 59 years ago on 5 November 1962.

Fortunately, there were plenty of recently-withdrawn steam engines hanging around at the time, so they grabbed a couple of the mighty King class weighing in at 135 tons apiece and parked them on the bridge. Then sent in some intrepid engineers to determine how far the bridge flexed under the weight, and an equally intrepid photographer to record the event.

6011 and 6018 testing Chepstow Bridge on 5 November 1962

No 6011 King James I and No 6018 King Henry VI were the two engines selected for the Chepstow bridge test. During the second half of 1962 all 30 of the King class were withdrawn, to be replaced on the principal Western Region expresses by the new Western class diesel-hydraulics being delivered from Swindon and Crewe Works.

However, the Kings were still given outings on special trains. Just over a week before the Chepstow bridge test, No 6000 King George V and No 6018 King Henry VI hauled two special trains on Friday 26 October, chartered by Richard Thomas & Baldwins Ltd. These trains carried guests from London to the opening by the Queen of the new Spencer steel works at Llanwern. While the guests enjoyed Kings at the head of their trains, the Queen and Prince Philip had to make do with two mere Hymek class diesel-hydraulics to haul the Royal train.

6005 and 6000 at Newbury Racecourse on 27 October 1962, the last occasion when the race specials were hauled by Kings

The next day, Saturday 27 October, was the final occasion that Kings hauled the Newbury Race Specials from Paddington. No 6000 King George V, No 6005 King George II and No 6011 King James I did the honours on this occasion.

6018 on the Eastern Region during the 1948 Locomotive Exchanges

6018 commemorating the jubilee of the Cornish Riviera Express on 1 July 1954

No 6018 King Henry VI had a habit of popping up when things were happening. In 1948 she represented the Western Region during the Locomotive Exchanges. In 1954 when Western Region celebrated the half century of the Cornish Riviera Express No 6018 was the locomotive in the press photograph taken at Paddington with the special headboard. The same year she was timed by O S Nock at 102½ mph descending Dauntsey Bank at the head of The Bristolian, and caught in the act in a photograph by Kenneth Leech.

6018 hauling The Bristolian at 100 mph in 1954

Finally, she was the last member of the class to haul a special train during her Western Region career. In April 1963 she was taken out of storage, put back into running order, and on the 28th of the month hauled the Farewell to the Kings railtour from Birmingham Snow Hill to Swindon Works and back to Birmingham. After that the end in the scrapyard was inevitable.

Ted Abear remembers No 6018 King Henry VI with affection: “She was known to Old Oak Common men as ‘The Sewing Machine’. She was a runner, one of Old Oak's best.”

6018 at Didcot with the Farewell to the Kings railtour on 28 April 1963



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