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Published 18th May 2012
Visitors to the 6880 Betton Grange Society’s April 21-29 ‘Steel, Steam & Stars III’ gala were able to view progress on no less than three new-build steam locomotive projects at Llangollen.
While A1 No. 60163 Tornado was demonstrating what can be achieved by projects to build standard gauge steam locomotives from scratch during the ‘SSSIII’ gala at the Llangollen Railway, a trio of other new-build locomotives could be seen taking shape in the shed at Llangollen.
Leading the field in terms of progress was No. 6880 Betton Grange. The idea of building the ‘81st Grange’ arose among a small group of Llangollen Railway volunteers in 1998 and the first components started to be made the following year. ‘Steel, Steam & Stars’ galas (2007, 2009 and 2012) are major events organised to raise cash for construction of the GWR 4-6-0 ‘Grange’, the objective for the 2012 edition being to finance the cylinders, the last major component which has to be produced from scratch.
Alongside the ‘Grange’ at Llangollen, the frames of an LMS ‘Patriot’ are rapidly taking shape, surrounded by an impressive array of components. This project, launched in summer 2007, is being driven by The LMS-Patriot Project and will be No. 45551 The Unknown Warrior. An appeal to fund the boiler is set to be launched at LNWR Heritage, Crewe on May 19.
The most recent new-build to start taking physical form at Llangollen is the Great Western Society’s project to construct a Churchward Class 4700 2-8-0 ‘Night Owl’ No. 4709. The main frame plates were cut in March and delivered to Llangollen just prior to the gala – and surprised everyone by their sheer size! Displayed with these plates were the extension frames, donated from one-time ‘Barry 10’ survivor GWR Class 5101 2-6-2T No. 4115 (dismantled at Llangollen earlier this year) and a newly made driving wheel pattern.
The wheel pattern is particularly interesting in that it incorporates a removable boss. This means it can be used to cast the leading and trailing driving wheels, and the centre drivers which have a larger boss to accommodate loads from the connecting rods.
The additional work to incorporate the removable boss was financed jointly by the 4709 project and the 6880 Betton Grange project. Betton Grange will use ‘spare’ 5ft 8in wheelsets loaned by the Great Western (SVR) Association (they originated from scrapped No. 4156 and are currently under Collett GWR 4300 class 2-6-0 No. 7325 but will become available when new tyres have been fitted to that loco’s own wheels) but the pattern will provide ‘security’ should new wheels need to be made for the ‘Grange’ in the future.
Tornado was the first main line locomotive to be built in the preservation era, but not the first standard gauge loco, there having been several reconstructions of early locomotives. A number of newly built replicas of narrow gauge locomotives have also been constructed, the most recently completed being 2ft gauge Lynton & Barnstaple Manning Wardle 2-6-2T ‘look alike’ Lyd.
A number of other standard gauge new-build locos are being constructed around the country, but Llangollen is the only location where three such can be seen taking shape in company.