by Phil Marsh

Great Western delight as Broad Gauge locomotive is donated and GWR ‘Hall’ goes on Devon and Somerset tour

Published: 13th September 2013

Devon and Somerset GWR steam Galas this Autumn shape up

The Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company’s No. 7827 Lydham Manor is a stalwart performer on its home line but rarely goes visiting. Indeed, it is believed its only appearance in steam away from the Paignton to Kingswear line was at Didcot in May 2010. That is about to change!

The black-painted ‘Manor’ forms the star visiting attraction for the South Devon Railway’s September 14-15 Heritage Transport Gala. The visit not only presents a major attraction but sends a gratifying message concerning the relationship between the SDR and its one-time landlord company.

No. 7827 is actually returning to SDR metals. On leaving Barry scrapyard in June 1970 having been purchased by the Dart Valley Railway, Lydham Manor was stored at Ashburton for a period before departing for eventual restoration. Lydham Manor is booked for three post-gala steaming dates when it will appear in photo charters.

WSR Autumn Steam Gala to feature eight GWR locos

After the South Devon Railway visit, No. 7827 Lydham Manor moves on to the West Somerset Railway to appear in that lines October 3-6 Autumn Steam Gala. This event, which carries a Cambrian Railways theme (see http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2013/summer-steam-gala-events-to-visit/), now features no less than eight ex-GWR steam locomotives in action on the Minehead branch.

Watch out for Manors, Halls and a Castle…

The full gala fleet comprises: No. 5029 Nunney Castle (possibly to carry an appropriately Cambrian number and name – Nos. 5013, 5016, or 5026 have been mooted), No. 7812 Erlestoke Manor, No. 7822 Foxcote Manor, No. 7827 Lydham Manor, No. 7828 Odney Manor/Norton Manor, No. 6960 Raveningham Hall, Large Prairie No. 4160 and small boiler Mogul No. 9351 (converted from GWR 5101 class Large Prairie No. 5193 and appearing at its last major steam event before withdrawal for overhaul next year).

In addition, the Talyllyn Railway’s ex-Corris Railway Hughes 0-4-2ST No. 3 Sir Haydn will be present. Current thinking is for it to be on a ‘weltrol’ wagon in the heritage freight train on Thursday and Friday, then on the Saturday displayed at Williton (‘Oswestry’ in accordance with the Cambrian theme – see below) representing a GWR narrow gauge locomotive sent from ‘Machynlleth’ (Washford) for repairs.

Sunday will see it either remain at ‘Oswestry’ or possibly moved to Minehead (‘Pwllheli’). The Corris Railway was owned by the GWR from 1930 until nationalisation under BR in 1948, so Sir Haydn also qualifies as a one-time GWR loco!

Cambrian recreation

The full list of Cambrian locations for the gala is: Shrewsbury (Bishop’s Lydeard), Talerddig (Crowcombe Heathfield), Aberangell (Stogumber), Oswestry (Williton), Penhelig (Doniford Halt), Aberdovey (Watchet), Machynlleth (Washford), Barmouth (Blue Anchor), Criccieth (Dunster) and Pwllheli (Minehead). Obviously these are representative locations not arranged in (Welsh) geographical order!

Other attractions to look out for are ladies wearing traditional Welsh costumes serving Welsh cakes at Talerddig (Crowcombe). Do not worry about confusing Dynion and Merched on the facility doors here – the toilets at Crowcombe, sorry, Talerddig, are unisex!

The Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust’s Peckett 0-4-0ST No. 1788 Kilmersdon and 1886-built former S&D first class coach No. 4 – both in S&D blue livery – will be at ‘Machynlleth’. On Saturday October 5 the overhaul of the former and restoration of the latter will be marked by special celebrations.

Gooch’s first masterpiece is appropriate presentation on his birthday

Ownership of the broad gauge locomotive Fire Fly was transferred from the Firefly Trust Ltd to Great Western Preservations Ltd at Didcot at a handover ceremony on Saturday 24 August, the anniversary of Daniel Gooch’s birth in 1816.

The FireFly class were the first locomotives designed for the Great Western Railway by the youthful Daniel Gooch, in 1840 and the replica FireFly was built by the Firefly Trust Ltd using the original Gooch drawings. The reconstruction started in Bristol in 1985 and transferred to Didcot in 1989, where the locomotive was completed in 2005.

At the time it was the first full-size main line steam locomotive completed in Britain since 92220 Evening Star was built at Swindon Works in 1960. The Firefly Trust Ltd has now decided that the future of the locomotive will be best secured by transferring its ownership to Great Western Preservations.

They said:

Sam Bee, Chairman of the Firefly Trust Ltd, explained: “When John Mosse instigated the building of this locomotive with a view to replicating a lost era in railway development by building the 63rd of the class that were designed to do justice to Brunel’s broad gauge, the first to be described as working ‘express’ trains, he did so with charitable intentions. Those were educational, to provide a working demonstration.

We have been enabled to fulfil his dream thanks to facilities provided at Didcot Railway Centre. However, the team who built and, since completion, maintained Fire Fly in operation, feel that the time has come to ensure that it remains in safe hands for the future. The members of the Firefly Trust Ltd are thus highly delighted by this agreement.”

Great Western Preservations Ltd is the holding company for most of the collection of Great Western Railway locomotives and rolling stock preserved at Didcot. The locomotive collection goes from Fire Fly at the dawn of GWR history to the County class 4-6-0s of the 1940s, with 1014 County of Glamorgan now being reconstructed. In between are 23 other locomotives of impeccable GWR pedigree. Didcot is home to a more comprehensive collection of locomotives and rolling stock of one company than exists anywhere else in Britain, maybe even worldwide.

They said:

Bill Smith, Chairman of Great Western Preservations, said: “We are delighted to welcome Fire Fly into our collection, which will ensure that we can demonstrate Brunel’s Broad Gauge in action for the benefit of future generations.”

Fire Fly has been out of action for the past year while new parts have been manufactured for its valve gear. The original parts had worn, and a more robust design has been adopted. The new parts are now ready to fit and it is expected that Fire Fly will be back in action soon. Since 2005 thousands of visitors to Didcot Railway Centre have experienced broad gauge travel with Fire Fly and its replica 2nd and 3rd class coaches of 1840 design.

Historical precedent

The 62 locomotives of the Fire Fly class were the mainstay of GWR express passenger services from 1840 until the introduction of the much larger Iron Duke class in 1847. They were present at many historic events during the infancy of railways.

The original Fire Fly was timed at 56mph during a test run on 28 March 1840 – The Times reported “This is the greatest speed at present attained in the history of locomotive power.” Queen Victoria’s first train journey on 13 June 1842 was hauled by Phlegethon, a Fire Fly – this was the first train journey by a reigning British monarch. JMW Turner’s masterful painting ‘Rain, Steam and Speed the Great Western Railway’ features a Fire Fly class locomotive.

It is thought that the last Broad Gauge engine was used as a pumping engine in Newton Abbot until 1920!

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