With a collection of locomotives dating from Victorian times to the 1960s, there's plenty to discover.
After our amazing American interlude last week, it's back to our regular scheduled programming. This is the final part of our look at the history of the 0-6-2T wheel arrangement in G.W.R. service. In order to do so, we need to take a look at the Swindon version of this ubiquitous design. The 56XX class. The tale of these 200 machines begins at the grouping which ended in 1923. This is where the vast majority of the engines described in parts 1 & 2 eventually became G.W.R. property. Great - I hear you all cry - clearly they inherited a whole bunch of engines that were perfect for the jobs at hand.
No 5689 at Westbury shed, summer 1961. Photograph by Mike Peart
Well, no. Not really. There are a few issues with this. The first of which is that by 1923, the standardisation programme set up by George Jackson Churchward in the 1900s was in full flow. Standard locos built from standard parts, designed and manufactured by the G.W.R. was the order of the day. Churchward's successor, Charles Benjamin Collett, was trained as a production engineer. He was really good at it too and so relished continuing Churchward's vision. It made economic, practical and engineering sense.
Into this was dumped literally thousands of engines from makers all over the country. Classes of ten or less machines were commonplace. Pairs of engines weren't unusual. Fine for a little railway with a small fleet. Not good for the vast G.W.R. loco fleet. This non standardisation was bad enough but when the boiler inspectors took a look at them, many were condemned on the spot. Why spend money trying to make good the wear and tear caused by the Great War when your company was going out of business anyway? So the G.W.R. inherited a large fleet of engines where very few of the parts are interchangeable and they are, in many cases, in a deplorable mechanical condition. Not a great start for Mr Collett...
Flax Bourton Excursion train 5689 from Treherbert to Weston-super-Mare. Photograph by G H Soole
Despite all the failings of the individual machines, the principle was still sound. An 0-6-2T had high adhesive weight* which meant it could both put the power down to the track to haul the heavy trains. It can also use that weight to effectively brake against those huge loads while going downhill through the somewhat dramatic Welsh geography. They were short, meaning they can go round the tight curves also needed because of the aforementioned geography. You didn't get a lot of coal or water space but as you weren't going long distances, who cares?!
The first job was to look at the prime examples. They looked no further than the Rhymney Railway. Whilst many of their neighbour's engines were somewhat elderly, theirs were relatively modern. The basis of the 56XX design was the ‘R’ Class engines of 1909. Collett's designers started with the Swindon No. 2 boiler. This unit was in use on several classes including the vast majority of the large prairies. Around this was wrapped the same coal bunker, water tanks and cab as used on the 42XX Class 2-8-0T machines.** A brand new cylinder block and inside valve gear was designed. The need was dire so the engines went into immediate production. Problem solved, right?
Well, no. Not really. Legend has it that the first issue came when the prototype tried to move under its own power. In the rush, a fairly major design oversight lead to large chunks of the valve gear bending into something a bit more ‘pretzel like’ than is ideal. VERY hasty redesigns were done and the whole matter hushed up. Quite successfully too. For example, the drawings for the new parts were done in December 1924 but were labelled as having been done in August of that year. Naughty... Well that's definitely problem solved, right?
Drawing from the GWT Archive
Well, no. Not really. Swindon was doing massive upgrades to its locomotive fleet at the time. Don't forget that the things like the first Castle Class express passenger engines and the like were coming out and the sudden extra burden of really badly needed engines weren't going to make that any better. As a result, production was split into two batches. The first 100 (Nos. 5600 to 5699) were built at Swindon but the second 100 were split 50/50 between Swindon and Armstrong Whitworth & Co. of Newcastle. Quite unusual for the G.W.R. We must be in very firm ‘problem solved’ territory now, right?
Well, no. Not really. The last few were completed by Whitworth's in October 1928. Plenty of engines to run the mine railways of Wales were now in place. Then, in 1929, the Great Depression started. This unequalled economic downturn had the effect of causing a huge number of the pits in Wales to close. This meant that we have all these engines built for a task that then halved in size. Oh dear... This lead to two things. Firstly, having got all these lovely, new, standard engines, the obvious thing to do was to scrap or sell large numbers of the remaining Welsh engines. One of the reasons they are so rare today. The second thing to do was to find the 56XXs work elsewhere. They migrated like a flock of 62 ton birds(!) to other parts of the country. The West Midlands was a regular haunt and they eventually found themselves all over the G.W.R. network. Didcot shed itself was home to three of the beasts after nationalisation. These supposedly ‘Welsh’ engines found work all over the place and on passenger as well as their intended goods workings. Swindon's problem child eventually found its feet and became that most Reverend Awdry of things - a really useful engine!
No 6697's works plate
We are fortunate to have an example of this class in our collection. Rather pleasingly, it's one of the Armstrong Whitworth examples too, making it the only example we have of a G.W.R. designed engine not built by them or British Railways. What also makes it special is that No. 6697 was the only one of the nine now in preservation to be bought directly from British Railways. It did not therefore, spend a seaside holiday at the ‘Barry Island Retirement Home for Old Engines’.*** By withdrawal in May 1966, No. 6697 was one of the very last G.W.R. engines in day to day service. She was based at Croes Newydd shed that, due to a few border changes, actually ended up in the London Midland rather than the Western region of B.R.
No 6697 at Didcot Railway Centre on 8 July 2021
She was purchased by the Bristol Group of the G.W.S. and went to the then depot at Ashchurch. No. 6697 made its way to Didcot in 1970 and was a regular performer on the demonstration line. This was until the late 1970s when she suffered a collapsed flue tube in her boiler. She has sadly remained as a static exhibit ever since but there are a few silver linings to this. As she hasn't been restored from B.R. service, the water tanks are original. They are also life expired. They were in her service life. That why the lower section of them have a large piece of metal welded on top. This is a patch to make them watertight. This was common in service - look at old pictures - but as locos are restored, the evidence of this practice is removed. Who wants the ‘badly repaired’ look? These tanks are the real deal. She has also carried an unusual G.W.R. livery variant all this time too. The post WWII unshaded letters. Not glamorous things I grant you, but where else can you see it other than Didcot?
6697 inside the engine shed
Will she stay silent? Will she ever return to steam? There are no firm plans right now it has to be said but I have a sneaking suspicion however, that one day she will. Two reasons. Firstly, I really like rooting for the underdog. It's just how I'm wired up! Secondly though, despite all the trials and tribulations this class went through, with its difficult birth and all that history could throw at it, there are nine 56XXs in preservation. Count them. NINE of them! They are useful workhorses and tough survivors, pure and simple. I wouldn't bet against those kind of odds...
*The weight of the engine available for pushing down on the wheels.
**There was serious consideration given to using these machines in place of the 0-6-2Ts right up to the point where it was realised that they were too big for the lines they were supposed to work on!
***The now legendary Barry Scrapyard. Now there's an idea for a blog. Stay tuned folks.
S160 No 1891 awaiting repairs at Didcot in 1944 - Photo Olive Webb
In recognition of our visitor from ‘over the pond’ I thought we had better have a look at this most unusual of things. A foreign steam locomotive that is both active in U.K. preservation and of American origins. The bigger barrier to most foreign steam engines operating in the U.K. is their size. This is a classic example of the U.K. inventing a technology but paying a price as a result. The network is built with a small loading gauge for the track gauge. What does this mean?
The track gauge in the U.K. is 4’ 8½”*. This is the distance between the right and left rails on the track. Thankfully, this British invention is the same for over 50% of all railway lines the world over and is known as Standard or Stephenson Gauge. This clearly means that the wheels for even the biggest U.S. locomotive can fit on U.K. track. This isn't the issue, it's the space around the rails that is. As we invented steam railways, this ‘loading gauge’ was set for us a lot earlier, when the trains themselves were a lot smaller. This means that there is even today an issue fitting the larger rolling stock of other countries on U.K. railways and why we don't see many foreign steam engines in preservation in the U.K.
1604 again, when handed over by the US Army to the British railways at Paddington station on 11 December 1942
This was also an issue during the Second World War. The entry of the Americans in to the conflict meant that the already stretched British network would be stretched even further. More locos would be the answer and thankfully, despite their enormous loading gauge in the land of the free, they had already been thinking about this. American locomotives in the main (should that be Maine?!**) were just too big. The United States Army Transportation Corps (U.S.A.T.C.) had initiated an update of a design used in WWI from the Baldwin Locomotive Works. This became a design called the S159. Another updated resulted in the far less well known S200 Class. These were of a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement and would today be known as a Mikado but the anti-Japanese sentiments of the time lead to them being known as MacArthurs after the famous American general. There was an Indian broad gauge version of this machine to run on the 5’ 3” network there. Another was known as the S118, built to run on the Cape / Metre / 3’ 6” gauge of parts of what was the British Empire.
The next move for the U.S.A.T.C. was to produce a loco that was truly built to the austerity demand of wartime. This engine had to be capable of operation on the British network until the invasion of Europe had begun. It then needed to be able to be quickly shipped to the continent. Thence operating throughout Europe on the war damaged networks there, supplying the troops as they moved forward. In order to make it as light on potentially compromised track as possible, a small wheel 2-8-0 design was chosen by the team of engineers lead by Major J. W. Marsh. The whole idea was to build something that would be reliable and dependable for as long as it was required. This was not thought to be long and wherever longevity could be reasonably sacrificed for fast construction and ease of serviceability, it was. Everything learnt from the previous designs was poured into this machine.
1606 at the head of an ambulance train which was handed over by the GWR to the US Army at Swindon on 24 March 1943
If you take a look at an S160 you will see that it is very different from standard U.K. railway practice. The foundation of a locomotive is its frames, and in most S160s they were cast structures. Here we almost exclusively used large slabs of steel with cast or fabricated spacers for our locomotive frames. American practice is to make a structure that is of an open ‘bar’ type. U.K. practice - even on our Austerity designs like the W.D. 2-8-0 and 2-10-0s - was to leave the majority of the boiler smooth and for ancillary systems to be hidden away. Not so over the Atlantic. Things are bolted on where it is convenient. Access is key and aesthetics are someone else’s problem. It has to be said that his generates a wonderful ‘industrial honesty’ type look all of its own, but you know what I mean!
The US Army medical team at the handover of the ambulance train on 24 March 1943
The suspension was set up so the leading and trailing driving wheel sets were independent of each other to enabling the engine to soak up the bumps in rough track. Rolled plate steel fabrications held sway over more time consuming castings where possible. The tender had insets in its sides that enabled the crew to see out easily in reverse. You could never know whether or not turntables and the like were still in operation in war torn Europe so being able to operate easily in reverse was a must. Not usual for a tender engine of the time.
These machines were produced in huge numbers - a total of 2,120 being built. The construction being split between the American Locomotive Company (ALCO), Baldwin Locomotive Works and the Lima Locomotive works who built 755, 712 and 653 respectively. They were 61’ long in total with the tender carrying 5,400 gallons of water and over 8 tons of coal. Two 19” diameter × 26” stroke pistons with 10” piston valves turned the eight 4’ 9” diameter driving wheels. With a boiler pressure of 225psi, this gave them a tractive effort of 31,492 lbf. They were a strong and adaptable workhorse.
2131 at Reading with a goods train, also a Star class 4-6-0 in the background, photograph by Maurice Earley
The first 800 examples were built between 1942 & 1943 and - here’s where the G.W.R. connection comes in - were delivered to Newport in Wales. The first 400 of those were assembled and prepared in the loco works of the big 4 railway companies and were sent out for what was termed ‘running in’ but in reality, they were being used to augment the home fleet of machines. They were distributed amongst the big 4 with the G.W.R. getting 174, the L.N.E.R. were loaned 169, The L.M.S. had the use of 50 and the S.R. used just 6. The second 400 were all prepared by the staff at the G.W.R.s Ebbw Junction shed and placed into storage in order to be ready for immediate shipment to Europe after the Normandy landings. Once deployed, those engines on loan were recalled to Ebbw Junction, refurbished and then sent on to Europe.
2131 at Reading again. Note the USA lettering on the tender has been amended to read: “Uncle Sam’s Army”, photograph by Maurice Earley
While the design was indeed easy to build, it wasn't necessarily perfect straight out of the box. The axle bearing lubrication was inefficient if not properly looked after - something easy to foresee in wartime conditions - and this lead to damage of the bearings. It was also found that the brakes on the locomotive were described as ‘less than satisfactory’. Not comforting going downhill with a 800+ ton freight train at your back... The most dangerous flaw however was in the water gauge design. The ‘Klinger’ type gauge was prone to giving false high readings if not fully opened in the correct manner. This is dangerous as it can lead to water no longer covering the top of the inner firebox. This causes the metal to soften and if it all goes really wrong, the boiler to rupture or even explode. These explosions are highly energetic and cause a great deal of destruction. In just ten months, 3 of the engines loaned to the U.K. suffered collapsed firebox crowns due to this problem. In one incident in November 1944, No. 2403 claimed the life of a G.W.R. fireman.
A USA locomotive with a northbound train of tank wagons, photographed at Kennington Junction by RHG Simpson
Despite these shortcomings, the S160 was the right machine in the right place at the right time. As with much produced in America for the war effort, it might not have been perfect but it was available in inexhaustible quantities, and that is often how you win a war. Once the conflict was over, they often stayed in service for their host nation until no longer required and scrapped. They served in Europe, Africa, Asia and North and South America. Many of them remained in service long after their short intended expiry date would have you believe. A number were constructed after the end of hostilities and they were a popular source of motive power the world over. There was one example confirmed working in China at a coal mine until as late as 1997!
Our visitor is No. 6046 from our friends at the Churnet Valley Railway. This example was built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Baldwins and never came to the U.K. during the war. She was exported directly to France in 1945 to help in post war reconstruction efforts. Despite the fact that the French National Railways scrapped the majority of their S160s at the end of their usefulness to them, No. 6046 escaped and made its way to Hungary. There they were known as the M.A.V. 411 Class and she became No 411.144. She spent an unglamorous working life on the industrial lines of Hungary before being withdrawn. She was intended to be kept as part of Hungary's heritage fleet but was accidentally sent for scrapping. In an eleventh hour rescue, a British pilot called Martin Haines purchased her and brought her to the U.K. She was purchased from her long term home at Tyseley by Greg Wilson and moved to the Churnet Valley Railway where her restoration was completed in 2006. A damaged cylinder block caused her to require major repairs in 2014 and this was carried out back at Tyseley. Some of No. 6046’s sisters even spent time at Didcot during the war so it is great that she is here for you to see - if only briefly - in our anniversary year. She is the first of her kind ‘on shed’ in 75 years!
No. 6046, like her fellows in the U.K.***, are superb ambassadors. But not just for the Churnet Valley Railway. She is a lingering reminder of the valiant efforts and great sacrifice made to protect and regain freedom for Europe by the people of the United States. Despite the politics and events that the intervening time since World War I and II has bestowed upon history, a common bond was formed between the actual people of our nations. It is so important in a time when history is not always well interpreted that the actions of the heroes of all nations are honestly recognised and remembered. No. 6046, No. 3822 and No. 5322 are tangible reminders of that history. The defeat of tyranny that they represent is a shared heritage that both nations can and indeed should be rightly proud of.
The Celebrations to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Great Western Society will get underway at Didcot Railway Centre with a gala weekend featuring six locomotives in action on Saturday 31 July and Sunday 1 August including our special guest, S160 Class No. 6046.
Tickets on sale: bit.ly/DRC-60Gala
*The modern standard is to write this as 1,435mm around the world except with the last imperial measurement hangers on - the U.S.A. Who still use 4’ 8½”. The difference? 0.1mm.
**Geography Vs. English joke. I'll fetch my coat...
***No. 5167 and No. 3278 Franklin D. Roosevelt are also at the Churnet Valley Railway. No. 1631 is at the Great Central****, No. 2253 (named Omaha in reference to the American landing beach in Normandy on the 75th anniversary) is on the Dartmouth Steam Railway and No. 5820 is at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.
****The mortal remains of Nos. 2138 & 2364 are also held here as a source of spares for No. 1631.
We continue our look at the G.W.R. and it's absorbed railway 0-6-2 designs in recognition of our esteemed visitor from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, No. 29. Last time we took a look at a whole host of different absorbed 0-6-2 locos and the railways that ran them. This comes to a close this week and will just leave us with the Swindon built examples in part three. Onwards!
Brecon and Merthyr Railway 0-6-2 saddle tank No 23 built by Vulcan Foundry in 1894. She received the GWR No 1692, and was withdrawn in July 1925
The Brecon & Merthyr Railway
This line originally connected Brecon to an ironworks at Dowlais. Further connections to Merthyr, Talyllyn, Pant and Merthyr followed. Then in conjunction with our next railway, The Rhymney, it made its way to Newport. It became part of the G.W.R. In July 1922 and slowly dwindled away as part of the National Network until the final pit closure in 1980. This railway's 0-6-2s feature a design first for our little tale - they were saddle tanks. The water tank being of a saddle shape that fitted over the top of the boiler. They were ordered from the Vulcan Foundary in August 1863 and were delivered to the railway in May of the following year. Unlike many of its fellow Welsh 0-6-2s, the two machines each had vacuum brakes for passenger working. The first two had a roof but no cab sides (must have been lovely in winter...) but a second pair received full cabs. They ran all over the B&MR system and out onto other lines with excursions. Swindonised after absorbed, the last of them was withdrawn in 1928.
The close working relationship with the Rhymney system meant that as an upswing in coal traffic began in the early years of the 20th Century, the companies bought locomotives that were very similar. The order went to Robert Stephenson & Co. Ltd. This time a total of eight eventually saw service on the line by 1914. They were a more ‘traditional’ 0-6-2 side tank engines that had a tractive effort of 24,510lbs. Also Swindonised in batches after being absorbed, these machines lasted much later into the 20th Century, some being withdrawn and scrapped by British Railways. They were also vacuum braked but spent a good deal of their time on coal workings from the Rhymney area to Newport. The Rhymney also had a series of 0-6-2s that had 5’ wheels, giving them the ability to run passenger services at reasonable speed. The last of these useful machines finally went to the great shed in the sky as late as 1955.
Rhymney Railway No 64 built as a 2-4-2 saddle tank in 1891 by the Vulcan Foundry and converted to an 0-6-2 in December 1911. One result is that the running plate has decorative curves above the middle and rear driving wheels, while the newly-installed front driving wheel retains the straight running plate. This locomotive was allocated the GWR number 150, but never carried it, being withdrawn in March 1923
The Rhymney Railway
The Rhymney was one of the larger of the independent railways of Wales. The 51 miles of track went from The London & North Western Railway outside Rhymney to Cardiff in the South. It was founded in 1858 and, like the vast majority of the other railways we have discussed, ended in 1922 as part of the grouping. The Rhymney had a really interesting version of the 0-6-2. Not only were they saddle tanks but the were outside framed as well. This means that the locomotive wheels are inside the main frames of the engine. These machines had their coupling rods in the outside of the frames on extended axles. These were the ‘57’ Class and were built by various contractors between 1890 and 1900. Boiler improvements and an updated cab were to be noted throughout their production run. In 1906 they became known as the ‘K’ class. 5 of their 2-4-2s built in 1891 were also rebuilt so that they were also essentially ‘K’ class as well. A boiler explosion on No. 97 caused by an improperly assembled safety valve meant that they engines all had them replaced by a more modern design from 1909. They had a range of different braking systems. Some even had Air Brakes - very unusual for UK steam. After grouping the engines were slowly reduced in number from 1925. Before the last went, 6 were rebuilt with pannier tanks making for an even more unusual sight! The last going in 1934.
Rhymney Railway ‘M’ class No 108 built in 1904. This became GWR No 49 and was withdrawn in April 1938
Rhymney Railway ‘AP’ class No 36 running as GWR No 79 entering Rhymney with a train from Cardiff on 1 August 1953. This was one of the locomotives designed for passenger working and built in August 1921. She was withdrawn in July 1955. Photograph by W Potter
The first 6 of their inside frame, side tank 0-6-2s were delivered to the railway in 1904 by Robert Stephenson & Co. these were known as the ‘M’ Class. These were disappointing and were not efficient producers of steam. A series of experiments to improve matters eventually worked and a tractive effort of over 24,000lbs was achieved. The ‘R’ Class were designed as a result of the experiences with the ‘M’s and these worked straight out of the box. Also using a range of suppliers there were a total of 12 were built. The same range of braking systems were applied to these machines as were the ‘K’s, depending upon their assigned duties. A larger wheeled (5’ diameter) passenger version came along in 1909 and these were given the class letter of ‘P’. As the driving wheel diameter had been increased, the tractive effort was reduced to 22,060lbs but enabled faster running. The last of this important group of 0-6-2s was the ‘A’ class, began to be delivered in 1910. These were intended for short freight trips and heavy shunting work and this was reflected in their smaller wheels and loco only brakes. Some were delivered or modified with a more modern boiler and became known as the ‘A1’ Class. No, not Flying Scotsman! There was also a passenger version of the ‘A’s too with the same 5’ driving wheels. This group of classes were very long lived in some cases and for non-standard pre-grouping designs they faired very well. Swindonisation helped to stave off the cutters torch with the last of these engines making it into the mid 1950s as part of the B.R. fleet.
Taff Vale Railway ‘O2’ class No 85, now preserved on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. This locomotive was built in May 1899 and received the GWR No 426 before being sold in 1927. This photograph was taken during a visit to Didcot Railway Centre in 2007 for the 40 75 gala (40 years since the GWS arrived at Didcot engine shed and 75 years since the engine shed was built)
The Taff Vale
This was the oldest of the pre-grouping Welsh railways to survive to 1923 and also the largest. Having it's origins way back in 1836, it's main line ran from Merthyr to Cardiff and the railway had a total of 112 miles of track. It was successful as well, moving 8 million tons of freight and 8 million passengers annually at its peak. Their first 0-6-2s were built in 1885 and they were some of the smaller versions we have seen. At just 49 tons and 17,380lbs tractive effort the ‘M’ and ‘M1’ Classes began as freight machines but were quickly replaced by more powerful machines. They soldiered on until the mid 1930s with the G.W.R. in the passenger role and a few even received auto working gear. A larger version called the ‘N’ Class followed and these were intended as mixed traffic engines although they remained mainly freight orientated. The ‘O’ and ‘O1’ classes were again slightly enlarged from the class before and again moved a lot of coal. These engines were sold into industrial service in the 1930s post grouping. The amazing thing is that one of them, T.V.R. No. 28, made its way to the very colliery that our current guest locomotive was built for - The Lambton, Hetton & Joicey Colliery. Even more remarkable is that it survived via use at the Army's Longmoor Military Railway. It became part of the National Collection in 1960. It has had periods of operation in the 1980s and 1990s but is currently a static exhibit on the Gwili Railway.
Taff Vale Railway ‘O4’ class No 48 early in life. This was built in May 1908 and went on to become GWR No 289, being withdrawn in August 1949. Photograph from the Great Western Trust collection
Passenger versions of the ‘N’ with the larger wheels trick followed in 1896 called the ‘U’ and ‘U1’s. Then the ‘O2’ class - a mid point between all the recent developments was tried. These were not as fortunate as the previous classes with only one ending up in industrial service. No. 85 was also sent to the Lambton network and was also preserved. This loco was rescued from destruction by the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in 1970 and has enjoyed frequent returns to steam over the years. A long way from it’s Welsh origins* to be sure but it's still here and well cared for. Various other versions of the 0-6-2 were tried including the O3 (mixed traffic again), the O4 (freight) and finally the ‘A’ Class (back to passenger working). Most of the 0-6-2 classes of the Taff Vale had some or all of their members Swindonised post grouping and this resulted in a look that meant that unless you were ‘in the know’, you could be fooled into thinking that just another G.W.R. engine had gone past. The last few T.V.R. engines in B.R. service nearly made it into the 1960s so they did pretty well!
Taff Vale Railway ‘A’ class No 412, built in February 1921, running as GWR No 402, enters Pontypridd station in 1946 with a pair of trailers converted from early railmotors. This will form a train to Cardiff via St Fagans. The locomotive was later renumbered GWR 304 and withdrawn in August 1957. Photograph by I L Wright
It is a sobering thought that of all the engines I have mentioned in these 2 blogs, apart from the 2 Taff Vale machines, all of the Welsh engines are now gone. Swept away from the rails from the 1920s onwards. There are two good reasons for this. Even though there was an attempt to Swindonise the machines with G.W.R. parts, they were still non-standard. Although some did survive for a long time, a company that founded its early 20th Century engineering practice on standardisation wasn’t going to encourage too much of this sort of thing. Particularly so when many of the locos were in poor condition when the G.W.R. received them. It also has to do with the fact that there was a pretender to their throne. The G.W.R. was going to do its own version of the classic Welsh 0-6-2. More of that another time...
Taff Vale Railway ‘O4’ class running as GWR No 283 towards the end of her life. This locomotive had been built as TVR No 17 in August 1910 and was withdrawn in March 1949. Photograph from the Great Western Trust collection
Just a quick note to remind you again that a lot of the research for today's blog came from the fantastic book written by Society friend David Maidment entitled Great Western 0-6-2 Tank Engines, Absorbed and Swindon Designed Classes. This is from publishers Pen and Sword in their Locomotive Portfolio series. They are all a fantastic read and are available in the shop at Didcot Railway Centre so why not pick one up as a memento of your visit? A good read and the profits go towards looking after our fantastic Didcot home. What could be better?
*It was built by Neilson, Reid & Co. of Glasgow so perhaps it's just found a happy mid point?
Lambton Tank at Didcot Railway Centre June 2021 - Photo used with permission
The recent visit of Lambton Tank No. 29 set me to thinking about the 0-6-2T wheel arrangement. This has been a staple for colliery and coal related working in the UK for a very long time. On the pre grouping* railways of Wales - an area famous for the mining of a number of minerals, including coal - the wheel arrangement was very common. Let's take a look shall we?
The 0-6-2 wheel arrangement has a lot going for it in tank engine form. The main one being that it maintains the majority of the advantages of an 0-6-0 design in that the vast majority of the loco’s weight is over the driving wheels. This means excellent traction. An 0-6-0 is slightly hamstrung in the fact that the design doesn’t allow for large amounts of coal and water to be stored on board and without a tender, this limits the engine’s range. The more powerful you make your engine, the more fuel and water it consumes. So, if you add set of trailing wheels at the back, you can extend the frames and add more coal and water storage and yet keep the overall size of your machine fairly compact. Ideal for twisty routes through industrial and hilly terrain.
The ‘first use of the 0-6-2 wheel arrangement in the UK’ honour actually goes to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway designed by William Barton - Wright and built between 1877 and 1883. The most famous use in this earlier period goes to William Webb who designed a tank engine version of his 0-6-0 goods tender engine for the London, North Western Railway. Built between 1881 and 1897, they were very long lived. Some survived in service until the late 1950s. A single example of the Coal Tanks was preserved and is owned by the National Trust. No. 1054 (or L.M.S. No. 7799 or B.R. No. 58926) is cared for by the Bahamas Locomotive Society and lives on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. Other notable examples in the U.K. include the famous N7 suburban tank engines of the G.E.R. / L.N.E.R. which were famous for being used out of Liverpool Street Station in London.***
LMS Webb coal tank 0-6-2 No 7700 photographed by Ben Brooksbank at Swansea Paxton Street engine shed on 17 September 1946
However, as always, we are after the Great Western connection and for that we look to the Welsh Valleys. The G.W.R. was always a large concern and was in the main, little affected by the 1923 grouping. The area that it absorbed the majority of its new lines was in Wales. There were a whole host of small railways here and these are where we will find the majority of our 0-6-2s. While the 5 main users of the type are mentioned in these blogs, there were other pre grouping railways that flirted with the design. The Alexandra Docks Railway of No. 1340 Trojan fame**** had a motley collection of 0-6-2 locos, including an ex LNWR 0-6-0 and an ex Metropolitan Railway 0-6-0 that were both modified to become 0-6-2s. The Neath & Brecon Railway had two ex Port Talbot Railway examples built by Robert Stephenson & Co. - not unlike the preserved sister of No. 29. The Port Talbot themselves having ordered a batch of 5. They became surplus to requirements, hence their resale. The other three going to the Rhondda & Swansea Bay Railway. Along with these, the railway had been using the type since Kitson (who also built No. 1338 - See my blog‘The Cardiff Connection’) built their first in 1885. They went on to supply another three in 1899. With the outliers neatly out of the way, let's look at the first two of the five main users of the type. We will deal with the other three and the G.W.R. version in parts two and three of this blog.
LNER N7/4 0-6-2T No 69614 was specially painted and polished for its station pilot duties at Liverpool Street station. This photograph was taken by Ben Brooksbank on 23 August 1958
The Barry Railway
Centred around its eponymous hub, the Barry Railway was primarily set up for shifting huge amounts of coal although they did have passenger services as well. They were relatively short lived, being founded in 1884 but this didn't stop them building a whole heap of interesting 0-6-2s. They also had a wonderful habit of naming their loco classes after letters of the alphabet so after the first ‘A’ Class 0-6-0s were delivered by Sharp Stewart & Co and found to need a little more range, it will come as no surprise that adding the rear wheels resulted in the ‘B’Class! Built in a few batches into the 1890s, they were all broadly the same design with minor differences here and there. The last batch were built by Belgian company S.A. Franco - Belge as Stewart's couldn't fulfil the order in the required time period. They were absorbed into the G.W.R. in 1922 and were subsequently Swindonised. This term is common among absorbed engines and refer to the gradual replacement of original makers parts with G.W.R. standard bits. This included - in no particular order - water tanks, boilers, coal bunkers, and so on. Not all of them got all the bits and poor No. 9 was withdrawn and scrapped on receipt. Must have been a lemon... The engines soldiered on until the last, which had been sold into industrial service at a pit in County Durham was cut up in 1960.
We can't leave the Barry Railway without talking about the American engines they owned. While the thought of a Union Pacific 4000 Class ‘Big Boy’ 4-8-8-4 pounding its way through South Wales is really, really appealing(!), they were of course 0-6-2s. Again, finding British locomotive builders order books full, they went stateside for these 5 machines. They were dubbed the ‘K’ Class and were delivered in 1899. These were very different looking engines, with typical American features like outside cylinders making them stand out from their European cousins. They were extensively rebuilt by the G.W.R. and never really strayed far from their Barry homes. The last went in May 1932.
Barry Railway B1 class 0-6-2T running as GWR No 265, photographed by Ben Brooksbank at Swindon Works on 11 June 1950. Originally Barry Railway No 109, built by Sharp Stewart in 1900 and withdrawn in 1949
The Cardiff Railway
We looked at the history of the Cardiff Railway when we looked at No. 1338 in my blog “The Cardiff Connection” so we will jump straight in with the locos. They were all built by Kitson, just like No. 1338. The first few were of a fairly similar design which began delivery in 1886. The only big differences being increases in boiler pressure and coal & water capacity. There were a second set of 0-6-2s that began delivery in 1905 and these looked very different externally with their range being extended by the inclusion of some unusual looking sloped water tanks. These quite distinctive machines also had vacuum brakes - enabling them to operate passenger services. The last set of Cardiff 0-6-2s showed up in 1908 and these engines were a bit more powerful than their predecessors with higher boiler pressures and slightly smaller wheels increasing their tractive effort. Nearly all of the Cardiff Railway 0-6-2s were updated by the G.W.R. Some of these machines made it into service with British Railways in the 1950s so they did pretty well! Two of the early batch (Nos. 156 & 159) eventually found their way to the Lambton colliery system in 1931, serving until being broken up in the early 1960s. Which brings this blog to a rather neat circular close for this week as there, they served alongside our visitor No. 29.
Cardiff Railway 0-6-2T running as GWR No 155, photographed by Ben Brooksbank at Cardiff East Dock engine shed on 27 July 1950. The odd shape of side tanks makes this a particularly unattractive locomotive, not helped by having an odd pair of buffers. Originally Cardiff Railway No 35, built by Kitson in 1908 and withdrawn in 1953. A cabside numberplate from this loco is now owned by the Great Western Trust
A lot of the research for today's blog came from the fantastic book written by Society friend David Maidment entitled Great Western 0-6-2 Tank Engines, Absorbed and Swindon Designed Classes. This is from publishers Pen and Sword in their Locomotive Portfolio series. They are all a fantastic read and are available in the shop at Didcot Railway Centre so why not pick one up as a memento of your visit? A good read and the profits go towards looking after our fantastic Didcot home. What could be better?
Part 2 next week when we go to such exotic locations as Brecon, Merthyr, Rhymney, The Taff Vale. In Part 3 we are off to Swindon...
*In 1923, as a half way house between post WWI nationalisation and the financial ruin of many of the small railway companies at the time, they were grouped together in a series of mergers to form what became known as the ‘Big 4’. This was the L.N.E.R., the L.M.S, the S.R. and, of course, the G.W.R.
**See my blogs Is Everyone All Whyte? and Is Everyone Still all All Whyte? (Both from June 2020) for more details.
***A single example of this class - No. 7999 (B.R. No. 69621) is owned by the East Anglian Railway Museum and at the time I write this, she is undergoing an overhaul.
****See the blog post ‘Return of the Little Warrior;&rsquo for more details.
For a second week in a row, your usual blogger gets to click the ‘on’ button on his kettle, engage mug, tea, milk & biscuits and put his feet up. We are joined once again by my good friend Phil Morrell who is continuing the race to get our pioneer locomotive, 14XX Class No. 1466, back on her feet and pulling trains once again. It's becoming quite the odyssey. So, without further ado, I'll let Phil take the helm for this week’s Going Loco...
Well, where do I start? It's been an eventful time since my last update and to put it simply, quite a lot has changed.* Many miles have been travelled, both metaphorically and in actuality! At the end of May No. 1466 became a complete rolling chassis. All the inside motion and other mechanical components - commonly known as the ‘bottom end’ - is finished. The plate work has had extensive repairs. Large sections of material being replaced in the water tanks where it had wasted away over the years and a newly fabricated coal bunker. Having seen the locomotive's chassis outside in the daylight for the first time on the 19 June, it looks fantastic and - as we got to see - it rolls beautifully...
Wagons loaded with boiler and associated parts - Photo: Phil Morrell
Since then, quite a few meetings and discussions between the GWS and a range of other parties have taken place about No. 1466 and completing her boiler overhaul. Admittedly, given that the circumstances are what they are in the world at the moment, it’s near impossible for any of our restorations to keep to a specific schedule** and this is nobody’s fault. In order for us to keep as close as we can to the aim of having No. 1466 back in steam as soon as possible, the decision was jointly and amicably taken by all parties to move No. 1466 to a second location to finish the job in as timely a manner as possible. The loco is finally on the move, just not in quite the way we expected...
Boiler being loaded onto flatbed at DFR Lydney JCT - Photo: Phil Morrell
The upshot of all this was that No. 1466 will now have its restoration completed by Ryan Pope and his team at West Somerset Restoration’s works on the West Somerset Railway (WSR). Making the decision was one thing - moving a semi-dismantled steam locomotive (even a small one like No. 1466) from one place to another is something else. It isn't a trivial task and the logistics have been variously described as ‘interesting’, ‘somewhat challenging’ and ‘keeping us on our toes’... The main conundrum? The fact that No. 1466's boiler is mostly in bits. Add to that the large sections of steel plate work that includes a new tubeplate, backplate and a new barrel section. There is also a whole heap of smaller components (nothing is THAT small on a steam locomotive really!) Then there's the rolling chassis itself... This all had to be transported by rail from the works at Norchard to the road loading point at Lydney Junction. This means that all the large bits have to be lifted with cranes into wagons, put into a train and trundled off down the line. From there it was all placed on to the loading pad to meet up with the low loader and flatbed lorries a few days later.
Loco 1466 and parts arriving at Lydney Jct being hauled by 5541 - Photo Phil Morrell
Only then could Hauliers S.A. Smith ;and R&A Commercials get to work. Loading the locomotive, its boiler and associated parts onto their lorries and transporting everything to Williton on the WSR. Not forgetting an extra-large hire van, loaded with all the additional parts, castings, fittings, cladding and various pipework that make up our locomotive. IKEA flat packed 14xx Class anyone? Despite all the challenges we faced (and believe me, there were quite a few!), the various plates were kept spinning over a period of 3 days. With the weather on our side, by 10pm on Wednesday 23 June, everything had all finally arrived, been un-loaded and come to rest, ready for Ryan and the team to do their thing! I would like to say a big thank you to Ed Freeman and his team at Western Steam Engineering Ltd. for all the fantastic work they’ve done on No. 1466 up to this point. They were also instrumental in helping us with the logistics of the loading up and the move from Norchard works to Lydney Jct. I now look forward to working with Ryan and his team at West Somerset Restoration in completing No. 1466 for a triumphant return to Didcot – Hopefully later this year - alongside No. 4079.
1466 loaded ready for departure to WSR - Photo: Phil Morrell
So, the plan moving forward? Well - you guessed it! Get the boiler finished... Simple right? Well, once we have all the paperwork and agreements in place (which won't take long), work will once again resume on the boiler. As previously mentioned, our boiler needs a quite substantial amount of work. This will include replacing three-quarters of the backplate, sections of lower side plate and throat plate as well as a new front tubeplate, barrel section and an essentially new smokebox. This is on top of the usual stays and tubes of course. It's fair to say there is a considerable amount of work to be carried out to enable the boiler to become steam tight once again.
As with all locomotives, unfortunately getting these historic machines overhauled and back to an operational condition once again is rather costly. This is especially true in the current climate with material prices currently rocketing up. If, like us, you would like to see No. 1466 working once more and would like donate to the project, please follow the link to our Diamond Jubilee Appeal.
Any donation large or small is always very much appreciated and brings No. 1466 a step closer to being completed. More anon folks, so keep your eyes peeled for more updates along the way!
Thanks Phil! The one thing he doesn’t mention is the unbelievable mileage that he and a number of the team have racked up in order to make this move happen. Phil himself drove 1,325 miles in just four days in order to complete this task. On behalf of the Society and my fellow steam nerds everywhere, a really big thank you has to go out to him and the No. 1466 gang. An amazing job. I guess I’m going to have to do a Pendennis Castle update too now! In terms of distance travelled, the No. 4079 gang unhooked the tender and rolled it back 3 feet the other day.
Doesn't compare really does it?
*He's not kidding...
**No. 4079 Project Manager's hat on - your regular blogger TOTALLY concurs.