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141 down, 72 to go…

6989 'Wightwick Hall' comes back to life at Quainton Road

With Standard Class 4 No 76084 coming back to life this summer, there are now 141 engines that have been rescued from Barry and returned to steam. This leaves 72 that were originally rescued, of which 29 are of Swindon origin. Three of these (2861, 5227, 7927) seem to have paid the ultimate sacrifice and have been cannibalised for new build projects such as the Hawksworth County and the ‘Night Owl’, leaving 26 that might conceivably turn a wheel again.

Some are closer than others. 4270 has just failed a steam test at Toddington but is looking more complete by the day. 6989 Wightwick Hall is coming along nicely, as is 4150. Two of the three rurviving big 2-8-2Ts, 7200 and 7202 are progressing.

At the other end of the restoration queue, the saddest is 7027, Thornbury Castle. Owned by Pete Waterman it seems to me a scandal that there is, after so long, still no plan for its restoration. The Castles are the most iconic of all GWR classes and if Pete lacks the will or funds to make a start on it (and we do understand why he might not make it his top priority), why not allow it to return to the Cotswolds and let the GWSR have a go at it?

Almost as iconic, several Halls still have yet to move under their own steam: 6984 Owsden Hall was making good progress for a number of years until work stalled (for all sorts of reasons). Still, it has now moved to the Swindon & Cricklade so maybe a change of scene will see movement here. Wootton and Bickmarsh and had some attention but are not close to steaming and Cogan is currently lending its bogie and other relevant parts to Betton Grange but it may still be a long term restoration prospect.

28xx class 2-8-0s are ideally suited to their new role on heritage railways. Entirely happy at the 25 mph imposed on these lines, they chug away all day long. Several are at work and 2874 now has a new home and restoration plan. There are still, though, several others that can only dream of steaming: 2859, 2873, 2885 (cosmetically restored and on display for a long while at Moor Street station), 3845 and 3855. 3862 has received some treatment at Northampton.

There are a couple of ‘Taffy tanks’: 6686 may now have the funds for a start to be made at the Barry Railway, 6634 is at Bridgnorth and 5668 is semi-dismantled at Pontypool. One pannier and 2 big prairies await work – 9629, 4110 and 4121 and a last 2-8-0, 4253, now has a future in Kent after its transfer there from Wales.

And, lastly, there is 75079, the last to steam of those elegant Standard 4 4-6-0s that Swindon built, now slowly receiving some TLC at the Mid Hants.

While there is still work to be done, and many challenges ahead, we must retain a sense of perspective. In addition to the above there are engines who have been restored in the past but now languish again in the back of sheds, on display and, sad to relate, sometimes in the open, slowly returning to rust (I’m actually thinking of 4920 Dumbleton Hall here…). Some are more or less appropriate for operation on our heritage railways and in most cases it is only a lack of money and labour that prevents overhaul.

I think the pioneers who went down to Barry years ago to rescue the best of what there was would be astonished that almost ALL of the engines in those rusting queues have been saved. It is indeed an extraordinary inheritance for our grandchildren. We are indeed very fortunate, so please come and lend a hand with a GWR restoration project at a workshop near you. It is rewarding work and nothing can beat the sight of smoke returning to the chimney, so many years after it was extinguished. Long may it continue!

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3 Responses to “141 down, 72 to go…”

  1. Hi, I’m involved in restoring 9629 and wondered what you based the comment “Awaiting Work”?

    Earlier this year we purchased the original boiler from Didcot. It had been purchased as a spare for both Panniers there and was now surplus to requirements. Since arriving on site all of the tubes have been removed and much other work to strip it down for overhaul.

    The cab and bunker are both being completely renewed as have All of the running plates and splashers.

    Many parts are beeng made off site as well as on site, due to the completely stripped nature of the Loco when it was put on display. Even the side rods were off an industrial loco and were modified to length.

    Most of the valve gear has been sourced from a number of different places.

    It will be made up from parts off a great many panniers, a list is being made of those we’ve traced already .

    I hope this is of some use and members of the group can be found at the Railway every weekend.

    Posted by Mark Vrettos | June 3, 2013, 6:39 pm
    • Hi Mark
      Thank you very much indeed for the update. It’s good to hear of the progress. I confess I was unsure where things had got to with this pannier.

      Do you have any photos of progress? I’d be very happy to do a feature on 9629 either here or on the FB page.if you need the publicity to raise funds etc Do you have a website ?

      Posted by howard | June 4, 2013, 8:09 am
  2. We have steamed our boiler out of frames and are now waiting for our boiler inspector to visit and sign it off. We can then put it back in the frames and prepare for an in frame test.

    Posted by Jeff Jackson | September 18, 2014, 9:48 am

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