Steam Locomotives

In this section: GWR 4900 class No. 4953 "Pitchford Hall | GWR Prairie 4141 | Hawthorn Leslie Saddle Tank "Isabel"

GWR Hall 4900 Class No. 4953 "Pitchford Hall"

Photo: John Titlow

Pitchford Hall is a member of the GWR 4900, or "Hall," Class of locomotives, designed by Charles Collett. 259 locomotives of this class were built, and the design is said to have heavily contributed to LMS Standard 5 and LNER Thompson B1 classes. The class latterly received a 5MT power classification under BR. 11 examples have been saved for preservation, several have made it back onto the mainline, including Pitchford Hall and one of which, Olton Hall, has gained international fame through becoming the 'Hogwarts Express' locomotive.

Pitchford Hall was built at Swindon in August 1929 at a cost of £4,375, and was first allocated to Bristol, Bath Road shed. Latterly in August 1950 it was transferred to Cardiff Canton and fitted with BR type piston valves and liners February 1956 but reverted back to WR standard within two years. In March 1959 she was allocated to Swindon and then transferred from Cardiff Canton to Cardiff East Dock shed in September 1962. Her last years were spent at Cardiff East Dock before being withdrawn in May 1963 having covered 1,344,464 miles, and was sent to Woodham's Brothers Scrapyard in Barry in November 1963.

Pitchford Hall was the 150th departure from Barry in February 1984, when it was taken to Tyseley Locomotive Works where a comprehensive overhaul was undertaken for a reportedly seven figure sum. She moved again under her own power in February 2004, making her first public appearance in 42 years at Crewe in September 2005, being seen by over 40,000 people.

'Hall' class locomotives were used all over the Great Western and Western Region. Their duties were diverse from standing in for failed 'Castles' on expresses (and keeping to tight schedules) to heavy freight work and secondary passenger services. The impressive acceleration of these engines made them particularly suited to the duties that required frequent stops, where the smaller wheels gave greater adhesion and therefore reduced slipping when starting from standstill.

The 'Hall' class and other GWR 2-cylinder engines all have a distinctive 'bark' to their exhaust notes, which is one thing that helps to maintain enthusiasm throughout the generations. Their long service also ensured they wore a number of liveries. This included the passenger class fully lined GWR green until 1948 and nationalisation, then during the early BR years all mixed traffic classes on all regions carried the lined black livery. In 1956 some discretion was allowed by BR, and the Western Region was allowed to paint mixed traffic engines in fully lined Brunswick green.

Pitchford Hall returned to the mainline in December 2005, and operated a number of special mainline charter trains during 2007 and 2009, but has also visited a number of heritage railways, including West Somerset Railway, Llangollen (where it double-headed with City of Truro), Mid Hants Railway (standing in for King Edward II) and Great Central Railway, where it has hauled passenger as well as charter freight and even demonstration Travelling Post Office trains to the delight of visitors.

Current Status: Undergoing Major Overhaul Offsite

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GWR 5101 Large Prairie, No. 4141

4141 is a member of the GWR "5101" class, commonly known as a Large Prairie, being 41ft (12.5m) in length and 79.71 tonnes. It is a medium sized tank engine with a 2-6-2T wheel arrangement and was designed for suburban and local passenger services, often seen with GWR and BR suburban coaches.

The class was built between 1903 and 1949, and totalled 209 examples. 4141 was built in Swindon in 1946, and was allocated to Gloucester (Horton Rd) for all of its working life, working on banking duties before latterly working expresses to London.

Thanks to the proximity of Barry scrap yard to the former GWR system, 10 examples were saved for preservation. 4141 was withdrawn in February 1963 and reached Barry in November 1964, being saved for preservation in early 1973. 4141 and its classmates have proved to be ideally sized for use on heritage railways, handling the shorter journey times and typical loads, being economic and reliable performers.

Current Status: Undergoing Major Overhaul Offsite

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Hawthorn Leslie No. 3437 "Isabel"

Hawthorne Leslie-built saddle tank 0-6-0 locomotive 'Isabel' was our first steam locomotive purchase. Built in 1919 to an order (number 3437) from ICI foodstuffs she was delivered new to their Blackley (Manchester) dye plant that year. Isabel was to spend the whole of her working life at the plant and withdrawal from service finally came in 1969.

During her time with ICI she had a fairly uneventful career, the only known incident occurred during the General Strike of 1926. Whilst being driven by a team of enthusiastic amateurs she ran away, demolished the locomotive shed doors and wrote off her sister engine which was standing in the shed! It is rumoured that this is where she gained the flat spot on her wheels which she still carries. After withdrawal 'Isabel' went straight in to preservation at the fledgling Somerset and Dorset Trust Site at the former Radstock Station site. However restoration to working order was to wait a few more years.

When the Radstock site closed and the Trust relocated to Washford on the West Somerset Railway in 1975, Isabel followed and she was to wait until 1998 for restoration to working order to be commenced. Not wanting to rush the process it wasn't until October 2005 for Isabel to be revealed to the world in all her restored glory. Used for shunting the S&D Trust yard she certainly turned a few heads!

Shortly after this in 2007 the locomotive changed hands and travelled north to the Cambrian Railways site at Llynclys Junction. Little used she was soon made available for sale again and in early 2010 she became our first steam locomotive.

She arrived at North Weald in 2012 and was soon out and about on test. Still very poorly, though, she was sparingly used and in August that year she was found to have a growing number of leaking tubes and mechanical faults. Although there were three years left on her boiler ticket the decision was taken to withdraw her from traffic for a complete overhaul. This commenced in 2014 and was undertaken "in-house".

Over the following years, our volunteers have refurbished many worn parts and replaced life expired components. In July 2017 she passed her initial steam tests, following which it was "all habds to the pump" to reassemble the locomotive.

Having received a new 10 year boiler certificate on the day before, Isabel returned to service at our Steam Gala in September 2017, working a number of trips with a brake van between North Weald and Ongar.

Now back in traffic, the locomotive will be used during some special events and low season services.

Facing: Ongar
Current Status: In Traffic

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