By Phil Marsh

Once in a Blue Moon event – April 5 and 6

Published: 28th March 2014

Iron Duke meets Firefly at Didcot

The Great Western Society based at Didcot is staging a unique locomotive line-up on April 5 and 6 with a pair of blue liveried ‘Pacifics’ and a GWR 4-60 ‘King’ on show and in steam.

All are famous for varying reasons and will be led by the World post-war steam speed record holder, the Gresley designed A4 No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley. The ‘Top Gear’ new steam locomotive, the Peppercorn designed A1 No. 60163 Tornado will line up alongside its East Coast stablemate and the resident engine, a GWR ‘King’ Class No. 6023 King Edward II. All three locomotives are in a British Railways blue livery and they will be in steam and on display at Didcot on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 April 2014.

These are the only three locomotives in the preserved era to carry the early British Rail blue livery which was a short lived express passenger livery used from 1949 in an effort to improve the image of the recently nationalised British Railways.

They will take turns operating passenger trains on main demonstration line and double and triple heading will take place from time to time. At other times, the three will be lined up outside the main engine shed. The Didcot branch line will play host to the GWR 1930s diesel railcar. Over the weekend.

Ticket arrangements

Tickets can be purchased at the event and cost: Adults £20.00, Child £17.00, Senior £18.00 & Family £60.00.

Historic co-incidence

In an amazing coincidence, April 5 is also the anniversary of the deaths of two of the locomotives' designers:

A4 No 60007 “Sir Nigel Gresley” was the 100th ‘Pacific’ to be built and named after its designer - Sir Nigel who died on 5 April 1941.

No 6023 “King Edward II” is one of the King class - the GWR flagship locomotive class and said to be the most powerful of the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement to operate in Britain designed by C B Collett who died on 5 April 1952. This engine was restored in a period of over 20 years led by volunteer Dennis Howells who owns Pannier Tank No. 9466.

There will be a short commemoration service for Sir Nigel Gresley and Charles Collett at 10am on April 5 which will end with the three blue engines saluting with their whistles for 1 minute.

Tornado, the new engine is only five years old was built from scratch over a 20 year period at Darlington Locomotive Works as the next in line of this classic locomotive type. None of the Peppercorn designed LNER A1 class was preserved.

They said:

Nigel Wilson, Chairman of The Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Trust which owns and operates No. 60007, said “60007 has carried BR Blue livery for the last 20 years but this must be the first time since the 1950s that three locomotives in this livery have been seen together let alone in steam, SNGLPT is very pleased to be part of the event.”

Mark Allatt, Chairman of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, the registered charity that built and now operates Tornado, said “The salivating prospect of seeing not two but three main line express locomotives present in one place and in the same stunning blue livery has been on the wish list of many enthusiasts for decades. This dream will soon become a reality and we are very pleased that Tornado will be joined by such illustrious company.”

Richard Croucher, Chairman of the Great Western Society, said “After a considerable amount of quiet discussion behind the scenes, we are very pleased to be able to announce the appearance of a trio of blue express locomotives at Didcot Railway Centre when King Edward II plays host to Sir Nigel Gresley and Tornado over the first weekend of April. This is a line up which we have been hoping to achieve ever since 6023 entered traffic and will be a unique opportunity to see these locomotives together.”

Photo events

Special events are being planned for photographers with early opening for general photos of the locos lined up at the shed being prepared for work. There will also be some photo charters planned at a separate and additional cost bookable via Neil Cave, Timeline Events, on 07770 227625 for more details.

Iron Duke arrives at Didcot

The National Railway Museum's broad gauge replica 4-2-2 Iron Duke is now at Didcot having been moved from the National Railway Museum at York. It was brought by rail from Didcot west yard on a railway wagon, after having arrived by road from York. It was lifted off the wagon using the jacks in the carriage shed, then lowered onto standard gauge 4-wheel trucks.

The locomotive will be cosmetically restored and hopefully later on when funds are available, the engine will be returned to steam after boiler work.

Iron Duke should be on display alongside Fire Fly later this year probably the first time that two GWR broad gauge engines have been together since 1892.

They said:

Roger Orchard, Didcot Railway Centre Manager, said: “We are glad that Iron Duke has now arrived at Didcot Railway Centre where she can be shown in all her glory in our authentic broad gauge setting, with the ultimate view of steaming her in the future.”

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