With a collection of locomotives dating from Victorian times to the 1960s, there's plenty to discover.
It's cup of tea time again... Phil has put together a really great update on the progress with G.W.S. founder locomotive, No. 1466. If I had any ado, I've just run out, so without any of that stuff further, it's over to the man with the 0-4-2!
Photo, taken from the shed roof, of 1466 during a steam test in March 1968
Well, it's certainly been a very busy time since my last update. It's great to report that work to No. 1466's boiler is ticking along very nicely. We had the initial boiler inspection by British Engineering Services (B.E.S.) on the 10th August & we now have their approval with regard to all the boiler repairs needed. Work has therefore officially re-started on the boiler. However, it's taken a fair bit to get to this stage.
3 quarter side-sheet to be replaced on both sides - Credit Phil Morrell
Having found some areas on the boiler that required a further inspection, we decided to remove the copper inner firebox. This gave us a fantastic opportunity to inspect all the usually inaccessible areas much more thoroughly. Even though this entailed a little more work, it has given us a greater assurance that the boiler - once completed - will be in tip-top condition once finished and will be in service with us for many years to come.
Now - this is where things get interesting. Contrary to what the original plans were for the boiler repairs, these have now changed (somewhat for the better). After the removal of the inner firebox, a more thorough examination and non-destructive testing program was possible. As a result, more parts of the boiler were found that will need attention or replacement. After some careful thought and consideration. It has been decided and agreed with our insurers that we will now be replacing & fitting:
Alongside the originally planned:
Third bottom throatplate to be replaced - Credit Phil Morrell
As well as all that, the copper inner-firebox is currently out and appears at first glance to be in excellent condition overall. Hopefully the latest N.D.T. tests will conform that it needs only need minimal repairs. Defective rivets on the copper ‘box have been repaired in the past with patch screws (a sort of bolt type thing) - which are perfectly fine - but as we now have access to both sides, we can replace these with rivets as it was originally built. A few areas of copper welding will see this finished off and ready for service in the 21st Century.
Put that all together with the myriad of other jobs on the boiler such as refitting stays, rivets, boiler tubes etc (I could go on and on…), there is quite a large and substantial amount of work needed before our ‘kettle’ can hold water and steam once again. Now, you may be wondering, ‘Why the change of plan?’ Well, there are a few reasons really:
Delivery of new throatplate, material for mounting pads, backplate doubling plate and bottle ends - Credit Ryan Pope and Drilling all the applicable holes in the backplate - Credit Ryan Pope
Anyway, onto current work news. Ryan and his team are progressing very well with work to the new full backplate, to the point it's nearly completed; They've drilled all the holes ready for fitting the newly fabricated mounting pads for the Regulator, gauge frame & combination brake / ejector. The backplate has also been temporarily re-fitted to the firebox, whilst final fettling occurs - It has to be said, it fits beautifully! As I write this, work is commencing on the copper inner firebox and the preparation for the new throatplate section fitting, which was delivered recently. We are also finalising the selection of our steel & copper welding contractors with our boiler insurers.
Newly made gauge frame mounting pads ready for fitting and seal welding - Credit Ryan Pope
We are awaiting the manufacture and delivery of a number of new components.
These include the new rear boiler barrel section, all the reinforcing or doubling plates that go with it and the 2x ¾ steel side-sheets. These will all hopefully be delivered by South Devon Railway Engineering by end of the month. As you can probably tell, there's quite a lot of work going on and with all this work in mind - comes one inevitable drawback. It's the old factor of: "A lot of work = a lot of time" and unfortunately, we've had to face the fact that 1466 will sadly not be making its appearance back at Didcot this year. It's an inevitable consequence of the last few years world events along with a currently expanding work schedule as we have delved deeper into the boiler. Thankfully, we've nearly reached the point where the list of jobs stops growing and starts shrinking!
Backplate trial-fitting - Credit Phil Morrell” and Trial fitting of the new foundation ring on the new full backplate - Credit Ryan Pope
On a final note; Over the bank holiday weekend at Didcot visitors may have noticed we had small stand for 1466, showing current progress and what work was to come. I'd just like to say a big thank you to all the visitors that gave donations. It doesn't matter how big or small the donation. The recent increase in the scope of works has inevitably greatly increased the cost of the restoration, so we would be very grateful for any donations you feel you can make. In a restoration like this, every £1 counts and really can make a huge difference to enabling us to finish this fantastic, iconic, little GWR locomotive. If you're interested in donating, why not follow the link to our 1466 appeal?
Now - Did someone mention paint/livery? Well…
Until next time folks!
It seems our roving reporter has taken up my habit of leaving you all on a cliff-hanger! Which reminds me. We haven't looked at Pendennis Castle in a while and, as you might have noticed, quite a bit has happened. I guess I won't be putting the kettle on just yet...
The thrill of opening the regulator, the surge of steam through the cylinders, the blowing whistle and that first blast up the chimney as the might iron horse begins to gallop. Yeah - that’s where many people's understanding of living with these ferrous equines begins and ends but like any horse, they do need a lot of looking after. Including mucking out. My fellow Pendennis Castle Team member, Clive and I were tasked with giving a little T.L.C. to the oldest and smallest member of our running fleet, No. 1340 Trojan. So, just how do you wash out a steam locomotive boiler? Read on and find out.*
So, the first thing you have to do is empty the boiler. If you have a big engine, this can take a while but as Trojan is only small (awww, bless!), her boiler isn't that big. We started by opening the regulator valve. Why you ask? Well, if you don't, the air can't get in to replace the water very easily and it becomes very slow to drain.
The next job is to open the blow down valve. This is conveniently located under the floor at the bottom rear of the firebox. The application of a large spanner later causes the floodgates to open.
You can see from the picture above that the water is a funny colour. This is why we are doing this in the first place. Just like a kitchen kettle, our giant kettles boil water and when they do so, sediment and minerals are left behind. In a kettle these are easy to deal with. Flush it down the sink! In a loco boiler however, they are trapped until we do a wash out as a boiler is a sealed pressure vessel. If you don’t do this, then the engine won't steam properly and it can eventually - if left to get bad enough - cause damage to the metal plates that make up the boiler as they will get heated and therefore expand at different rates, causing twisting and leaks. The water isn’t all this colour, it’s just the first bit from the bottom of the firebox.
Eventually, the water subsides and you can then get to opening the boiler up. There are two types of ‘plug’ that we can take out to help us flush it through. The first are known as boiler plugs. Pictured below, they have a tapered thread to provide the steam seal. Trojan has 10 of these plugs. 3 in the cab, 4 at the bottom of the rear of the firebox and another three in the smokebox. The larger engines in the collection have many more of them!
The other type of plug are the mud hole doors. These are elliptical pieces of metal that have a seal or joint around the outside of them. Trojan uses fibre joints but other engines use a lead joint. They are screwed in place with a strong back or bridge and a nut on the end of a stud. They only go in and out of the hole one way so it's a bit like one of those Christmas cracker wire puzzles! Trojan has two of these, located at the bottom front of the firebox. Again, the larger the loco, the more of these they have.
One thing I haven't mentioned is that each plug or mud hole door is fitted to an individual hole. You mustn't mix them up. We have a wash out diagram for each engine and on this, it maps out where all the plugs and doors are and assigns them a letter or a number. We have special wooden trays with numbered slots in and as they come out, the plugs go in the corresponding hole for later. The doors will have their letter chalked onto them and will also be placed on the corresponding side of the engine.
So, now we have the boiler open, we flush it out. You will need a few bits of equipment. First we use a water pump. We are trying to blast the sediment out of the boiler. Mains pressure won't cut it! This is a small unit driven by a little petrol engine. We use old fire hoses to connect it all together.
At the other end of the fire hose, we have replicated the tools used to flush boilers out. The valve will turn the water on and off. We can screw into the valve a range of different nozzles. Some have a flattened over end to give a spray and others have a sealed end with a hole in the side. These ones direct a jet at 90 degrees to the pipe. Excellent for washing down the water side of the inner firebox and tube plates.
So, we start at the front, highest point and work down. We use both types of nozzle in combination and the aim is to flush the sediment backwards and down towards the open mud hole doors and wash out plug holes in the lower firebox. Here, Clive is making a start in the smokebox - the furthest from the lowest point in the firebox.
As we do so, the water at first comes out in the ‘tomato soup’ colour...
...but it will eventually run clear. You then move onto the next hole and repeat...
We then tackled the plug holes in the top of the firebox. You can see that these old hoses are a little less than fully watertight but as they get bashed about and dragged around they are more than good enough for our purposes. You are going to get wet doing this anyhow...
We then swapped over and Clive drove the pump and I drove the valve and nozzles! This is where you get up close to the proceedings under the loco! This is the rear of the firebox...
...and this is the firebox front mud hole doors. There's a lovely little fountain down there to enjoy as well! That particular hose might well be getting a bit past it perhaps.
Once you get to the bottom of the boiler and it all runs clear, you have completed the washing part of the wash out. You do however have to close all the holes back up otherwise it won't hold water very well, let alone pressure! We clean all the components that we put back in. Before and after on the plugs below.
New joints go on the mud hole doors and they are refitted. The plugs get a layer of wash out plug grease on them and are replaced as well. You have to be careful doing these up as a taper thread is a bit tricky and unless you know what you are feeling through your fingers, it's easy to not fit them properly.
Shiny plugs, all refitted! Normally at this point, you would fill the boiler and test steam it to check your work but Trojan needs a small repair that will be done during the week, so we didn't do that today. What we did do was put the tools away and the kettle on...
We aim to do this every 15 steamings on every engine in our running fleet. Sometimes we are one or two steaming days under or over but it's a good target. We were lucky today and the weather was on our side. We did get wet but it wasn't cold so a cup of tea later and we were back in the fight so to speak! It's less fun in the winter but it's got to be done. Thanks to Clive for his help with the washout and I hope that was interesting for those who haven't seen it done before.
*Please excuse my snaps taken on my iPhone as we went on - you are all spoilt by the wonderful photographic skill of Frank. Me? Not so skilled in that department...
The rebirth of the Saint class is a tale that has many twists and turns but it starts way back in the society's history. The glaring gap created by the lack of a Saint was a huge one. It really needed filling if the Society was to fully tell the story of the development of G.W.R. steam locomotives. However, back in those pioneering days, some weren't sure if a boiler overhaul was possible in preservation, yet alone the building of entirely new locomotives.
The idea of backdating a Hall to reverse what had happened to Saint Martin (No. 2925 and later No. 4900) was clearly feasible but could a preservation society achieve it? To ensure that the dream was kept alive, No. 4942 Maindy Hall was rescued from Barry Scrapyard in the early 1970s. When faced with the rest of the project, it was a different matter. You have to remember that at this point, preservation was still in its infancy. The thought of manufacturing brand new wheels of the size and scope required was utterly daunting. So, for now, ‘Saint Maindy’ languished behind the engine shed...
The raw material, 4942 at Barry scrapyard in 1974
The impetus was regained as a result of one of our other ‘mission impossible’ projects - No. 6023 King Edward II. This was so labelled because there was ‘no way anyone was ever going to get to the stage where you could make a new set of wheels for it’. In true G.W.S. fashion, the naysayers were proved wrong and the first large set of standard gauge driving wheels in preservation was recreated. With the amount of new build schemes around today, we forget just how momentous this was. Without this step, other projects such as the County, the Patriot, the Grange, the A1 and the P2 might never have seen the light of day. It proved it was possible.
The first big test of ability to manufacture a new wheelset was to replace the one from 6023 which had been butchered at Barry scrapyard
So, perhaps you would like to turn a Hall into a Saint? Ok - here's the recipe:
Ron Hows machines an elbow joint for the inside admission main steam pipes
Welding repair at the front of the boiler, before the new tube plate was fitted & Welding new plate into the outer firebox side
I'm making light here of a very serious and complicated job. This was no ‘kit bash’ as you might imagine it. Swindon standardisation is all well and good until you find out that many standard bits are individually ‘fitted’ to a specific locomotive. It took as long as it did because it was that complicated. The achievement of Peter Chatman and his team is not to be underestimated.
The new 3,500 gallon tender tank begins to take shape
The name was chosen from a whole slew of suggestions made during a competition held by the G.W.S. There were a whole host of excellent suggestions including Lady in Waiting, Lady Diana, Lady of Lourdes, Saint Dai, Maindy Court, John Betjeman and my favourite of the paths not taken - Phoenix. The winner was of course Lady of Legend and it really sits well with the loco! The number that was selected was No. 2999. The previous loco in the series was No. 2998 Ernest Cunard although it could have filled any of the other gaps***. The triple nines do look rather good though, don't they?!
As the first 4-4-2 Saints had 3 figure numbers and were sometimes renamed, it is planned that when she runs as an Atlantic, she will carry the next available number in that series - No. 191. A second competition resulted in the name Churchward being selected. A fitting tribute for the great man himself. The Atlantic conversion is not a simple one and there are still a great many of details to be thrashed out and components made to make it happen. It will also require a boiler lift so it is unlikely to happen in this first boiler ticket.
Ready for the Atlantic option, the name and number plate
Lady of Legend has fast become a firm favourite with the general public, her incredible journey from wrecked Hall to its gleaming, lined out splendour is a classic of the preservation age. The engine had an amazing debut at Didcot and amazed all that saw it from the go. The visit to the Severn Valley enabled the locomotive to work out the remaining bugs and give it a proper shake down with a more substantial load over an extended period. She will be out and about again in the not too distant future. Stay tuned for details... No. 2999 fast became an integral piece of Didcot history - despite only being completed in 2019! To see this wonderful ‘Lady’ with her large wheels loping along in a seemingly effortless manner is a real sight to behold so make sure you get to see her in action. You won't regret it!
Lady of Legend goes golden during a Timeline Events evening photographic session, 10 July 2021
*The famous telescope at Jodrell Bank had used Castle bogie wheels as part of the turntable mechanism but these were found to be damaged beyond use sadly.
**We still don't have the set of rods. It's to do with where the knuckle joint is. On a 4-6-0 Saint it's between the leading and middle driving wheels. You can't reuse the rear rod as it won't fit and has the knuckle joint on it too. If anyone is feeling generous we won't say no...
***The other gaps were between No. 2955 Tortworth Court and No. 2971 Albion and then from No. 2990 Waverley to No. 2998 Ernest Cunard.
Last week we had a look at the origins of the amazing Saint class engines. This week we will continue our march toward canonisation with the life and times of the ‘real’ saints. Without further ado...
The last Saints we looked at were the ‘Scott’ series. They were still in some ways experimental as a number were built as 4-4-2s and the Standard No. 1 boiler was still going through development at this stage. The second production series is where No. 2999 got her name - the Ladies. These gained the names of famous historical or fictional ladies. For example No. 2904 was Lady Godiva and No. 2902 was Lady of the Lake. They appeared in 1906. Notice that the numbers of these beasts are in the 29XX series. The Scots and the prototypes received 29XX numbers from 1912 but these were mostly out of chronological order being from Nos. 2972 - 2990. Only No. 100 William Dean was correctly positioned in the sequence at No. 2900.
2906 Lady of Lynn
There are two claims to fame with the ‘Ladies’ The first is that they were the first to be fitted with a (then) modern superheater. No. 2901 Lady Superior was fitted initially with a design by the German engineer Wilhelm Schmidt*. Experiments at Swindon led, unsurprisingly past two earlier designs(!), to the Swindon No. 3 superheater which, in time, was fitted to the whole class. This final design also had a lot in common with the American design by Coles.
2908& Lady of Quality at Cardiff, about 1922
The second claim to fame is hotly contested by modern railway historians, so, pinch of salt territory here. Legend has it that in May 1906, Churchward's future successor - Charles Collett - supervised a test run of No. 2903 Lady of Lyons. She was fresh out of the works at Swindon and in an uncharacteristic move from Collett (who was by all accounts quite conservative in most things) let the crew take her leash off. It is said that as the loco screamed down the gradient between Little Somerford and Hullavington the engine topped out somewhere around 120mph! If this is true, it predates the record set by L.N.E.R. A4 Pacific No. 4468 Mallard by over 30 years! Sadly, there was no official recording of the event and as the loco wasn't fitted with a speedometer, timings past mile markers from those on the footplate was the only way of determining speed. Not the most accurate and certainly not good enough for an official record. Amazing if true however...
2927 Saint Patrick
The next series of engines also has a claim to fame in that it's where the ‘Saint’ name comes from. Nos. 2911 - 2930 were out-shopped in 1907. These engines gained the curves at the front bottom edges of the cab and at the transition between the running plate and the buffer beam. Amazingly to 21st century eyes, the straight framed version, which Lady of Legend was built to replicate, was considered ugly by some! The ‘Holcroft Curves’ as they are sometimes referred to took hold and became standard on most G.W.R. designs until the end of steam traction. The last batch are known as the ‘Courts’ and were named after famous mansions. For example, No. 2942 was named Fawley Court. These had all the upgrades that Churchward's experimentation could provide as built.
2929 Saint Stephen
The class was built as passenger locomotives - their 6’ 8½” diameter driving wheels can attest to that. The 77 engines built became revolutionary and began to influence both the future direction of G.W.R. developments and the wider British scene. They were free steaming, efficient and fast and the crews thought highly of them. The one issue with the design started to become apparent as the traffic levels on the network began to dramatically increase. More passengers meant longer and heavier trains and as a 2-cylinder design with big wheels, their tractive effort was always going to be limited. Churchward had designed the 4-cylinder Stars to rectify this issue but by the time that Collett replaced him and his Castle class machines were on the scene, the writing was on the wall for the Saints. The first was withdrawn as early as 1924 and their numbers slowly but steadily declined until the last four survivors were lost in 1953. Not a bad innings at all really but despite extinction, there were two ways that the Saints were going to continue.
2940 Dorney Court
Firstly, we need to go back to that first Saint withdrawn in 1924. It wasn't scrapped however. It was No. 2925 Saint Martin and this engine holds a special place in history as it was rebuilt by Collett. He removed the large wheels and replaced them with 6’ diameter ones instead. A new cab and a few other upgrades resulted in the first of the 49XX series. This was the prototype of the Hall class and it was so good that it effectively gave birth to over 250 of its type. This design was also adapted on the drawing board to become the lightweight 78XX Manor class, the slightly more powerful 68XX Grange class, Hawksworth's (Collett's successor) 6959 Modified Hall class and, finally, the 10XX County class.
4900 Saint Martin, the prototype Hall, originally numbered 2925
As if that influence alone wasn't enough, the headhunting of William Stanier from the G.W.R. to the London, Midland & Scottish Railway meant that it influenced other designs such as the Black 5 which holds a similar success and position of veneration on the L.M.S. as the Halls do on the ‘Western’. The G.W.S. has been quoted as saying that: “They represented one of the most important steps forward in railway traction of the 20th century and are now acknowledged to have had a profound influence on almost every aspect of subsequent steam locomotive development". But there were none left. All that influence and fame had come to naught. So what are we going to do about it? Well, let's build one...
See you next time!
2943 Hampton Court at Old Oak Common on 19 October 1935
*His nickname was, apparently, ‘Hot Steam Schmidt’. Make of that what you will...
Looking at the roster for the upcoming gala, I noticed that we hadn't done the blindingly obvious and looked at the Saint Class 4-6-0s! As Lady of Legend has become a legend ever since her first steaming, we had better find out what all the fuss is about, right? I guess the big question is why did a bunch of seemingly reasonable and sensible people embark on a seemingly impossible mission to breathe life into a class of steam locomotive that had been dead and buried since 1953?
No 100 as built in February 1902 without a name
Well, put simply, the Saint Class is one of the most influential steam locomotive designs the U.K. has ever seen. Let's put it in context shall we? The G.W.R. had only just got rid of the last of its broad gauge lines in 1892. This had been a source of some difficulty for the company as in effect they were running two separate systems and with this burden now gone, other matters could be attended to. The man to attend to them was someone who's name is highly respected and spoken in hushed tones wherever steam nerds gather - George Jackson Churchward.
No 100 simply named ‘Dean’ from June 1902
Born in 1857, he had joined the South Devon Railway as an apprentice but became part of the G.W.R. Later on. He had worked his way up to being the chief assistant to the then Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent, William Dean. The truth of the matter however was that in his later years, Dean was not a well man. More and more he relied on Churchward delegating more and more of his responsibilities to him. Dean’s retirement in 1902 meant that Churchward was given free rein to modernise the G.W.R. locomotive fleet and boy, did he do an amazing job!
No 100 named ‘William Dean’ from November 1902
Standardisation was the watchword. Too many of the existing fleet had parts unique to that class alone. Churchward's vision (which had begun before Dean's retirement) was to design a series of components that would allow many different classes of locomotive to be manufactured from them. He and his team scoured the globe for the latest technologies and techniques and a way forward was eventually forged. The first thing to do was to try out the designs with a series of prototype machines. These eventually included the 2-8-0 that became the 28XX Class, early Prairie 2-6-2 tank engines, and eventually the Moguls, Stars and the Saints.
No 97, the prototype 2-8-0 built in June 1903 with the same short cone tapered No 1 boiler as No 98
He pioneered the use of Belpaire fireboxes - which resulted in some very efficient boilers when paired with his tapered boiler barrel. This taper growing larger towards the firebox concentrates the steam production at the point where it is most efficiently done. Feeding the water into the top of the boiler to reduce stresses was another big move forward as was the adoption of superheating*. Not common in the U.K. at the time.
Large piston valves that moved over a long distance gave his engines huge efficiency advantages and he also hung his cylinders on the outside of the frames in his larger engines. This seems an obvious thing to do now, but look at other designs of the time and you will find that inside cylinders were the order of the day. He also eschewed the used of trailing axles on his larger engines so that as much of the weight of the engines was available to provide traction. Large bearing surfaces to reduce wear and casing the saddle that the smokebox fits to as part of the cylinder castings were also key to his developments.
No 98 as built in March 1903 with short cone tapered boiler
In order to perfect his planned 2 cylinder 4-6-0 locomotive design, Churchward built 3 prototypes. The first was No. 100 which was finished in February 1902 and was named Dean (later changed to William Dean) in the honour of the outgoing C.M.E. This was very much a proto-Saint. It had a parallel boiler barrel but the new Belpaire firebox. The Stephenson valve gear was slightly different, with the motion between the inside and outside being derived differently to the later production machines. The cylinders were 19” in diameter and had large steam ports to allow the locomotive to ‘breathe’ properly. The boiler pressure at this point was 200psi.
The second from March 1903 was No. 98 (probably to confuse future historians!**) and was named Vanguard in 1907 although this was changed to Ernest Cunard the same year. This is where the Saint Class really found its feet. This time the boiler pressure was up to 225psi, the valve gear had been perfected and indeed would stay broadly the same for the majority of 2 outside cylinder G.W.R. designed engines until the end of steam. Its brilliance was starting to shine through although the addition of superheating was yet to come.
No 102 ‘La France’ running on the GWR
The third prototype was No. 171 because, at this point consistency is for losers... It was completed in December 1903 and was yet further updated. At this point, Churchward wasn't yet entirely set on whether the engines should be A) a 4-6-0 or a 4-4-2 or Atlantic or B) if they should be traditional ‘simple’ engines or use something called compounding. This is where different size cylinders enable the steam to be used twice which is theoretically more efficient. To this end, he imported a trio of French compound 4-4-2s designed by De Glehn. In order to conduct a fair test, he converted No. 171 to be an Atlantic. The French locos were given the numbers 102, 103 and 104 and were named La France, President and Alliance respectively. This was quite a bold move for a British loco engineer but it paid dividends. Firstly, there are quite a few standard components that have the title ‘Swindon - De Glehn’. The bar framed bogies being a good example. Modifying designs just enough to avoid patents and to make it work even better was a Churchward speciality!
No 103 ‘President’, one of the larger de Glehn compounds
We will end Part one with a quick look at the first of the four production runs of Saints that began in 1905. There were 19 built and numbered No. 172 - 190. They were named after characters in Sir Walter Scott’s novels such as No. 181 Ivanhoe. Out of the production run, 13 were built as 4-4-2s in the same way that No. 171 had been converted. This meant that changing them to become 4-6-0s if needed became easy. It was needed. The adhesion of the 4-6-0s asserted itself and they all (including No. 171) were converted to this form beginning in 1913. The trials also showed that over the shorter distances travelled in the U.K. (France is a much larger place!), that compounding really didn’t offer a huge advantage and indeed the extra complexity cost money to build and maintain too. The die had been cast...
No 178 ‘Kirkland’ built in April 1905, running as a 4-6-0
Well, that will do for the first bit. Next time we will get into the rest of the production series, their working lives and the influence they have had. We will finish off with Part 3 telling you about the amazing project to return a Saint Class to the world that resulted in the wonderful No. 2999 Lady of Legend. Stay tuned folks!
*Superheating is essentially passing the steam back through the hot gasses coming from the fire to give it more energy and delay it condensing back into water. We’ll look at it sometime...
**I am joking here - someone will complain if I don’t point that out!
18000 parked by the turntable
We are quite often asked what the weird diesel up near the turntable is all about and that's a long answer. It's not a diesel, it's a jet train is usually the one I begin with, which usually raises a few eyebrows. In principle, I'm right. The original design of this engine did use a gas turbine engine - essentially the same as a jet engine. Except it isn't. So, let's untangle this little mystery and find out why the G.W.R. was messing about with something that sounds like it comes from a Gerry Anderson series rather than immediately post WWII Britain...
Let's define the technology shall we? Most non-steam motive power on the railways fall into four main types. Mechanical transmission is the same as it is on a road vehicle - the mechanical force from the engine is transmitted to the wheels through a gearbox. Railcar No. 22 and our 0-6-0 Hunslet No. DL26 are examples of this. You can also use a diesel engine to drive a hydraulic pump and use that pressure to drive the wheels. Our Class 14 No. D9516 ‘Teddy Bear’ is driven this way. The post steam Western Region was rather fond of this method of traction but it fell out of favour in later years. Pure electric motive power is exactly as it sounds. The electricity is taken either from a rail or rails on the ground or a wire above the track and this is used in traction motors which are mounted next to the wheels. Where there isn't an electrical supply but you want electrically powered wheels - and why wouldn't you, you get maximum torque (turning force) from a standing start - you need to generate your own electricity on board the locomotive. The classic way of doing this is using a large diesel motor to turn a generator. Our Class 08 No. 08 604 Phantom is powered this way as are the vast majority of modern non-electric locomotives.
18000 on her first visit to Paddington
In the pioneering post war years however, anything was possible and was usually made so. The jet engine was a novelty at this time and was the next big thing. Well, said many a person, why can't it power other things than aeroplanes?* Now, as much fun as it would be to see a set of four Rolls Royce Olympus engines strapped to a locomotive and to have it howl off down the track like a Vulcan bomber, there are a few issues with this. Not least of which is the thrust coming out the back of them!** you wouldn't want to be standing at a station if this imaginary monster came through at full chat. Blasted and roasted all at once!
18000 photographed at Paddington by Brian Wright
The handy thing about a jet engine is that it has turning fan blades. Rather than relying on the thrust, why not use the turning motion instead? This became the gas turbine engine. Some aircraft use this idea to mechanically turn a propeller. This is known as a turboprop. Several Royal Navy warships have used a similar idea with a gas turbine turning a gearbox to drive them forward too. Railway locomotives however already had a good idea. Electrically powered wheels. So, why not get a gas turbine to turn a generator which supplies electricity to the motors?
This occurred to the G.W.R. in its post war document called ‘Next Station’. This was the company's look at how they were going to move forward after the war. It was a bit of a moot point after the election of the 1945 Labour government as nationalisation of the railways was almost certain but it makes for interesting reading. One of the things that was identified was the need to move away from steam traction in the mid term. At the time, despite experiments with diesels on the L.M.S. being ongoing, the problem the G.W.R. faced was that no single engine diesel locomotive of time could match the 40,000lbs tractive effort of the 60XX or King Class steam locomotives. This seemed a retrograde step to the management, so the upshot was that both Metropolitan Vickers and the Swiss company Brown Boveri got an order for an experimental gas turbine powered locomotive.
18100 at Paddington in very clean condition
The first of the two locomotives ordered was No. 18100. This was the Metropolitan Vickers machine. Obviously, the Second World War had been a stumbling block and this caused it to not be delivered until 1951. This was arguably the less complex of the two. Although larger and heavier it did not have the refinements of the Swiss machine. It was gas turbine operation only - No. 18000 had a small diesel engine that it could use to avoid starting the noisy turbines until needed. There was one main turbine that powered three main generators which in turn drove two traction motors each. The biggest drawback for this prototype was the fact that it was designed from the outset for pure power. It had a tractive effort of 60,000lbf! 20,000 more than a king class locomotive. One of the ways it achieved this was by the use of aviation kerosene (jet fuel). This very refined fuel is of course expensive.
18100 hauling the Merchant Venturer
Despite being ordered later in 1946, the Brown Boveri machine was delivered in 1949. This locomotive was a very different machine. Although it didn't match the outright power of either No. 18100 or the Kings, it was nearly the equivalent of a Castle and therefore for experimental purposes it was a good analogue for comparison to existing machines. This also led to its famous nickname, Kerosene Castle(!), despite burning a heavy fuel oil rather than that used by No. 18100. The power plant was far more advanced, having a heat exchanger to recover lost thermal energy from the exhaust. It had 6 wheels per bogie like No. 18100 but only the outer pairs were powered. It also had the aforementioned auxiliary diesel engine to alleviate noise pollution where possible.
Both these machines were of course prototypes and prototypes of what was for the time a very emergent technology. Their complexity wasn't their best asset. Add to this the fact that they were trying to operate in a dirty steam locomotive environment. They took a great deal of maintaining to keep them running and numerous failures are recorded. When operating well however, they put in some fine performances. Overall, they were reasonably successful on that measure and could have therefore warranted further development. This unfortunately fails to take into account the fact that these locomotives are hamstrung by two major drawbacks.
18100 at Swindon Works
The first of which is the noise. They were, understandably, quite noisy! In densely populated areas of Britain this is not a great idea. The bigger drawback is that they are very fuel hungry. A jet or gas turbine is at its most efficient when producing power at high outputs for long periods of time. The constant variation of power caused in railway operation means that the turbines in railway locomotives don't get to sit at that optimum level of power output. No. 18100 was withdrawn from service in 1958 and saw further use by being converted into a purely electric locomotive. As such it was used to test overhead electrical equipment and train staff on the then newly electrified west coast main line. It didn't last long in service and was withdrawn again in 1961 - this time permanently. It hung on until finally being scrapped in 1972.
No. 18000 had a very different life post withdrawal at the end of 1960. After being in store at Swindon for four years, it managed to find a new home on the continent. Here, the mechanical gear was removed and a single new traction motor fitted. This could be moved up and down to increase or decrease the pressure it exerted on the rails. The idea was to have No. 18000 (now named Elisabetta in recognition of its English service!) powered by another locomotive and the former engine bay now housed scientists, engineers and their recording equipment. As they went along they recited the interaction between the wheel and the railhead and this important data is still being used today***. The experiments ended in 1975 and No. 18000 was put on display outside the Mechanical Engineering Testing building in Vienna in 1975.
18000 being towed across to Didcot Railway Centre in July 2011, with the now-demolished cooling towers in the background
She returned to the U.K. in the early 1990s as an exhibit by the Pete Waterman Trust who still own her. She toured various locations including the Railway Age Museum in Crewe, Barrow Hill Roundhouse and a short stint at the Gloucester & Warwickshire Railway as part of the G.W.R. 175 celebrations in 2010. It came to us in July 2011 and has been with us ever since. She has sadly deteriorated since then - it has spent the greater majority of its life sat around outside - and has paid the price. Fortunately, our non-operational locomotive group has taken on the beast and a conservation plan is being drawn up to raise funds and repair her. As a prototype, one off survivor No. 18000 is unique and I look forward to seeing her restored one day in her original black and silver colour scheme. Still to this day, your blogger's favourite livery for non-steam traction!
For further reading on this subject, your blogger can point you to no better a read than Kevin Robertson's book ‘The Great Western Railway Gas Turbines - A Myth Exposed’. ISBN: 0-86299-549-3. It's a really good in depth account of these two machines and a balanced view of their operation. Well worth tracking down a copy!
* A trip to the Science Museum in London will show a jet powered car built by Rover. It worked but it had its issues.
** The G.W.R. amazingly experimented with using a pair of jet engines mounted to a wagon to clear snow and ice from their track. It worked beautifully except for the fact that it also cleared the ballast from the track too. See the video on our Facebook page:
*** There are a few pictures and a detailed write up of the continental test program of No. 18000 on our website here:
P.S. Your blogger has built models of both these engines. The body shells both started life as resin castings from Silver Fox but have been very heavily modified. No. 18100 sits on the running gear of a Bachmann Class 47 whereas, No. 18000 is driven through a Class 37 mechanism from the same manufacturer. No. 18000 is part of my ‘Little Didcot’ collection where I am building all of the collection in 4mm scale.**** No. 18100 belongs to my good friend Ali Matthews who also happens to be a No. 4079 boilersmith!
****If these modelling efforts are of interest, please let me know and I will share a few more pieces of the collection.
S160 6046 at Didcot - 26 July 2021
Having had a look at the magnificent S160 as a result of the visit of No. 6046, it obviously turns attention to the other locomotives that served the U.K. in times of war. Now technically that’s all the U.K. locomotive fleet of course, but some machines became inextricably linked with military service either by design or circumstance. We had a look at the G.W.R. Moguls in the First World War in my blog ‘The Iron Warhorse’ from November 2020 so to find out about our old soldier, No. 5322, go and have a look in the archive. The list is by no means exhaustive and there will be lots not mentioned. Here are some of the greatest hits!
Dean Goods No 2578 fitted with pannier tanks for R.O.D. service in 1917
Dean Goods 0-6-0
The 2301 Class - more commonly known as the ‘Dean Goods’ was first built as far back as 1883. 250 were built between then and 1899. They were amazing workhorses, being in service until as late as 1957! They deserve a blog at some point but their wartime service is also quite remarkable. They served overseas in both world wars. 62 locos were requisitioned by the Railway Operating Division (R.O.D.)* for service in the Great War. 46 went to work behind the front in France and these machines returned to the G.W.R. in 1919. The remainder went to Salonika in early 1918. 5 of these were written off by wars end and nine returned to the U.K. The remaining two were sold to the Ottoman Railways and the last of them served until the 1950s.
A Dean Goods being moved across the Bosphorus in 1918, from Sirkedji on the European side to Haider Pacha in the Asiatic side, for use by the British army on the Chemin de Fer Ottoman d’Anatolie. Photograph by H F Prytherch
They were ‘called up’ again in 1939 - 108 being given their marching orders. 32 of these engines were veterans of the first conflict! This meant that a number of them had to be pulled off the scrap line as the G.W.R. were busy scrapping the class! They were all fitted with Westinghouse air brake gear** to enable them to pull the air braked rolling stock on the continent. 79 machines had been exported to France when the blitzkrieg caught up with the allied forces and the Dunkirk evacuation happened. The engines left behind were put to work on the French National network. 6 more went to Tunisia and then on into Italy. Post WWII, 30 were brought home but scrapped shortly afterwards. The rest went on to help rebuild Europe. A few found their way to China and one was still in service with the East German Railways in 1955.
Thankfully, one of these magnificent machines (not a war service engine) is preserved in the National Collection and No. 2516 is currently a resident with our friends at Steam Museum in Swindon.
These engines have their origins with the engineer John G. Robinson of the Great Central Railway (G.C.R.) They were first used in 1911 as the railway’s heavy freight hauler. They were known to the G.C.R. as the 8K Class, being an updated version of the 8A 0-8-0 with a superheated boiler and the new pony truck at the front. The design was very successful - so much so that at the beginning of the Great War, it was adopted as the standard engine for the R.O.D. New machines were built for the army and to help sustain the locomotive building industry - so much so that including the original G.C.R. examples, 666 engines were built in total. 311 were shipped to France and served there until about 1920.
ROD 2-8-0 running with her GWR number 3043 at Seer Green on 25 March 1950. Photograph by Ben Brooksbank
They continued to serve when they came home as they were used by many railway companies up and down the U.K. whilst they caught up with the backlog of overhauls caused by the war. They were eventually sold off to various places. They were often to be seen - the G.W.R. even bought 100 of them where they nominally became the 30XX class although not all of them survived long enough to receive their new numbers. They also had class members that served in WWII as well. The Army requisitioned 92 locos from the L.N.E.R. in 1942. They worked throughout the Middle East, some of them remaining in service post war with the local railways until as late as the 1960s. A few of the class even made their way to China where they were known as the KD4.
ROD 2-8-0 No 3040 at Oxford engine shed on 22 March 1950. Photograph by Ben Brooksbank
The class had a reasonable presence on British Railways until the late 1950s with the very last hanging on until 1966. Very nearly the end of steam traction in the U.K. A single G.C.R. built example - No. 63601 - was preserved as part of the National Collection. And that was that. Except it wasn’t. 13 had been exported to Australia for use by J. A. Brown & Co. on the Richmond Vale railway line. These engines soldiered on until 1973 and three of them still exist. Two are in storage awaiting restoration and the third is a static exhibit at the Richmond Vale Railway Museum. The two in store are WWI veterans. There were reports of three of the Chinese machines still in operation in 1990. Quite the record for this most humble of types.
L.M.S. 8F 2-8-0
This class really needs a couple of going loco blogs to justify their prominent place in history. Alongside the 28XX, the R.O.D. 2-8-0 and the 9F, the 8F really holds a place in the list of greatest British freight heavy haulers. The basics are that Sir William Stanier was ‘headhunted’ from Swindon to become the chief mechanical engineer of the L.M.S. in 1931. He set about modernising the fleet. They were essentially a heavy freight version of his successful Black 5 design. The first being built in 1935.
LMS 8F No 8400, the first of 80 of these locomotives built at Swindon Works in 1943 and 1944 and loaned to the GWR until the end of the war
By the time that WWII had started, the design had proved itself and it initially took the role that the R.O.D. 2-8-0 had during WWI. When this happened, the drawings for the loco went U.K. wide and they were built almost everywhere it was possible to build new steam locomotives! By 1946 852 had been built. All of the ‘Big 4’ railway companies built them as well as The North British Co. and Beyer Peacock. They did vital war work both home and abroad. They were in civilian use in the U.K. until the end of steam in 1968 but remained in foreign use until the 1980s. There are around 14 survivors world wide with two more visible on the wreck of the ship the S.S. Thistlegorm near Ras Muhammad in the Red Sea. In total, 23 were lost this way and those still on the Thistlegorm stand sentinel as a reminder of the massive losses of men and machines alike.
8F No 48431 at Didcot on 26 April 1962. Photograph by Mike Peart
WD 2-8-0 & 2-10-0
These machines were the U.K. equivalent of the American S160. Built to meet the same challenges of poor track, a lack of maintenance, poor fuel and ease of operation, they were designed by Robert Riddles - the guy who eventually became the person who designed the British Railways Standard machines. He took the design of the 8F and simplified everything.
The rare sight of a clean WD 2-8-0, ex-works at Swindon on 24 April 1955. Photograph by Phil Kelley
His mission was to keep the costs and production time as low as possible. If it wasn’t going to last long, what was the point in expensive things like copper inner fireboxes when steel will do? Why make the boiler a tapered shape when a parallel barrel will do? Why use the complex Belpaire shape firebox when a round topped one will do? You get the point!
The 2-8-0 version were built by two makers, The North British Locomotive Company and The Vulcan Foundry. Between 1943 and 1945 they built a staggering 935 machines. North British also built a 2-10-0 version of this machine using as many standard components from the 2-8-0 as possible. The biggest difference between the two (apart from the extra driving wheels!) was that the 2-10-0 had a wide firebox rather than the narrow version that fitted between the frames of the 2-8-0. The 2-10-0 wheel arrangement spread the load better on weaker track and was therefore better suited to jobs on secondary routes. This engine proved to be excellent study notes for Riddles who went on to produce the mighty 9F, the last great heavy freight steam loco built in the U.K. North British built a further 150 of these.
WD 2-8-0 No 90466 at Wantage Road on 26 April 1962. Photograph by Mike Peart
Again, the ‘W.D.s’ served all over Europe, the Middle East both at war and peace. The U.K. used 733 of the 2-8-0s and 25 of the 2-10-0s in post war Britain, the last being withdrawn very close to the end of steam. Despite this phenomenal record, not one of the B.R. 2-8-0 W.D.s survived into preservation. This matter was rectified when a single loco was repatriated from Sweden. This has been rebuilt to its original form and now fills the gap very nicely indeed with the great folks at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway! The 2-10-0s fared better with 8 being preserved around the world, 3 of which are in the U.K. including the famous blue painted No. 600 Gordon with our friends at the Severn Valley Railway.
U.S.A. S100 0-6-0T
We had better not end this special without mention of the other American austerity design. These feisty little engines were built as shunters (switchers in American parlance) by Davenport Locomotive Works of Iowa, H. K. Porter of Pittsburgh and Vulcan Iron Works of Wilkes-Barre. They follow the same route (pun intended) as their bigger S160 sisters so I won’t repeat it here. With one exception. Some of them eventually found a working home in the U.K. The Southern Railway bought 15 of them and they famously worked the company’s Southampton Docks network. A few more ended up in industrial service in Britain too. Around 100, in various states of preservation or storage are still extant the world over. 4 of the original Southern Railway examples and 2 imported from the former Yugoslavia are here in Great Britain. Remarkably, at the time of writing, a few are still worked commercially at the ArcelorMittal steel plant in Bosnia - Hercegovina.
A batch of six USA S100s being hauled out of Cardiff Docks by ex Rhymney Railway 0-6-0T No 604, in December 1943
There are several things that are amazing about these stories I have told you today. Firstly, that the engines existed in such massive numbers and that so few of them survive today. The second is the outright longevity of some of these machines that were essentially designed to be disposable. Working lives of 60+ years were not uncommon. Finally it is the fact that they were initially used as tools of war but eventually became tools of peace, enabling the reconstruction and recovery of many a nation worldwide. The ending of tyranny and the building of the modern world with all its advantages and freedoms is a pretty darn good legacy all in all. So if you see one of them, pause and spend a moment to reflect on what it stands for...
*The R.O.D. was formed in 1915. It was the branch of the Royal Engineers, tasked with operating railways (no, really!). They worked both standard and narrow gauge equipment in the First World War.
**Ten of these were also fitted with pannier style water tanks along their boilers to extend their range, thus becoming tank tender engines. I think...