August did not bring the best of news for two prestige locomotives carrying blue livery.
The Great Western Society’s No. 6023 King Edward II, magnificently resurrected from ‘no-hope’ Barry scrapyard condition and unveiled at Didcot this spring, will not be able to appear at forthcoming Severn Valley and Great Central Railway gala events as planned.
The blue ‘King’ arrived at the Mid-Norfolk Railway on June 2, albeit minus its safety valve bonnet which disappeared en route (apparently after hitting a tree – but quickly replaced) for running in over distances not possible at Didcot.
No. 6023 clocked up 1,822 miles running during 22 days of operating, including playing the starring role in the Mid-Norfolk’s first ever steam gala over July 16-17, an event also featuring Dennis Howells’ Pannier No. 9466 and Roger Hibbert's Great Central Railway-based ‘Jinty’ No. 47406.
The mechanical performance of King Edward II was rated as ‘excellent’, although a few snags became apparent. This is inevitable with a newly overhauled loco, indeed part of the purpose of such running in as part of preparing the loco for main line running.
Unfortunately one of these snags is not easy to put right. A small oil pipe to the centre driving wheel axle box underkeep was struck by a wheel spoke – but sorting this out involves dropping the centre driving wheel set to perform a repair. This work was to be done following the ‘King’s return to Didcot on August 10.
The result is that King Edward II’s planned appearances at two major Autumn Gala events (Severn Valley Railway September 23-25 and Great Central Railway October 6-9) have had to be dropped.
The Great Western Society hopes to display King Edward II at Didcot for the GWS 50th anniversary weekends on September 10-11 and 17-18 and aims for King Edward II to be running on the main line during 2012.
Following confirmation that No. 6023 would miss its Autumn Gala, the Severn Valley Railway managed to secure No. 6024 King Edward I as a substitute guest. Other visiting locos due to appear at this event are Caledonian Railway 0-6-0 No. 828 from the Strathspey Railway (in glorious blue livery – here’s hoping there is no deeper significance to such a colour this summer/autumn!), No. 5029 Nunney Castle from Tyseley and new-build A1 No. 60163 Tornado – plus 9F 2-10-0 No. 92212, currently hired from its Mid-Hants Railway base.
Also in trouble is A4 No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley. An early June examination revealed a firebox crack and by the beginning of August it was apparent that repairs were not going to be completed rapidly. Current projections are that the A4 will not be back in action until late October at the earliest.
Plans for September appearances have therefore been dropped, including visiting the NRM’s Locomotion museum in Shildon and working main line tours. A booked visit to the Mid-Hants Railway’s October 28-30 steam gala has also been cancelled - even if the firebox repairs were completed as presently hoped it would be too close a call as to whether the A4 would be ready to run in time.
The Mid-Hants event will feature visits by No. 70000 Britannia, A1 No. 60163 Tornado and LNER N2 0-6-2T No. 1744. An additional guest to replace Sir Nigel Gresley is possible, but not yet confirmed.
A visit by No. 60007 to the Mid-Hants Railway next year is promised. The MHR has already taken £22,000-worth of bookings for footplate experience courses on the A4 which it hopes will either be deferred until this visit or transferred to other locomotives rather than be refunded.
Just to round things off, a blue ‘Thomas’ character engine found itself involved in a road accident on July 19. The transporter moving Kitson 0-6-0T (7031/1941) No. 54 from its East Anglian Railway Museum base to the Kent & East Sussex Railway was struck by a van at Newenden leaving the tractor unit disabled. A replacement tractor was sent to the scene and completed the delivery. The locomotive was examined, found not to have sustained any damage and duly appeared at the K&ESR’s July 23-25 ‘Day Out With Thomas’ event.