Published: 3rd April 2016
The P2 Steam Locomotive Company (P2SLC) has launched a £200,000 appeal aimed at seeing new-build Gresley P2 No. 2007 Prince of Wales on its wheels by the coming autumn.
Employing the tag line, “We want eight and we won’t wait”, referencing the slogan adopted by the British public amid the naval arms race in the years just prior to the outbreak of WW1 (a call for increased construction of Dreadnought battleships which succeeded in persuading the Government to commission increased shipbuilding) P2SLC has established The Mikado Club to raise the required cash. The aim is to secure 160 supporters each donating £1,000 (plus Gift Aid) to the project in up to eight payments of £125 by standing order.
The ‘Mikado’ (2-8-2) wheel arrangement was the most distinctive feature of the six original Gresley P2 class 2-8-2s designed by Sir Nigel Gresley in the 1930s to haul 600 ton trains on the arduous Edinburgh to Aberdeen route. The eight driving wheels contributed to their being the most powerful express passenger locomotives to operate in Britain. Sadly, the design was never fully developed and they were rebuilt by Gresley’s successor, Edward Thompson, into ungainly class A2/2 4-6-2 Pacifics in 1943/44, and scrapped by 1961.
The appellation of ‘Mikado’ to this Whyte notation wheel arrangement originated from a group of Japanese type 9700 2-8-2 locomotives built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for the 3ft 6in gauge Nippon Railway of Japan in 1897. In the 19th century, the Emperor of Japan was often referred to as ‘the Mikado’ in English, the popularity of the name being boosted in Britain and USA by the Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Mikado which premiered in 1885.
When the projected autumn 2016 wheeling target is achieved it will be the first time for over 70 years that an iconic P2 class locomotive has stood on its wheels. The last original Gresley P2, No. 2003 Lord President , was rebuilt into an A2/2 Pacific in December 1944.
The new P2 No. 2007 Prince of Wales is being built at Darlington Locomotive Works by The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust (which constructed new-build No. 60163 Tornado) over seven years, at an estimated cost of £5million, through its P2 Steam Locomotive Company subsidiary.
The P2 project was launched by formation of The Founders Club (which moved things forward to the stage of cutting the frames) which raised £450,000 from 360 donors. Next was The Boiler Club (to finance construction of the boiler) which aims to raise at least £600,000 from 300 supporters each donating £2,000 in up to 40 payments of £50 - by March 2016 this was already over one-third of the way towards achieving its goal. To keep construction on schedule to complete No. 2007 Prince of Wales in 2021 the locomotive needs to be wheeled this year. The £200,000 target of The Mikado Club excludes components already ordered or delivered such as wheels, tyres, axles, bearings and cannon boxes, some of which are still available to sponsor as Dedicated Donations.
In the two years since the project was launched over £2million (including Gift Aid) has been pledged towards the £5million needed.
Aside from the specific Founders Club (now closed after over 360 people donated £1,000 each) and The Boiler Club (over 100 people have pledged £2,000 each - target of 300 people) 740 people have already signed up to the ‘P2 for the price of a pint of beer per week’ core fundraising scheme by making a covenant (regular donation) of £10 per month or more. Dedicated Donations have raised over £160,000 from existing supporters sponsoring a variety of components and The Gresley Society Trust is sponsoring the locomotive’s distinctive front-end.
“We are delighted with the level of support that the project to build Britain’s most powerful steam locomotive has received since its launch,” commented A1 Steam Locomotive Trust chairman, Mark Allatt. “Thanks to our supporters’ continued generosity, over £2million has now been donated or pledged which has been converted into over one third of the new locomotive being now in existence by weight. Our team at Darlington Locomotive Works has been focused on assembly of the cab, the erection of the frames, fitting the frame stretchers, horn guides and other components manufactured by external contractors over the past few weeks.”
“I would encourage all steam enthusiasts who haven’t yet contributed to this exciting project to help us by becoming a member of The Mikado Club, a monthly ‘P2 for the price of a pint of beer a week’ covenantor or joining The Boiler Club,” continued Mr Allatt. “It’s time to get on board! This year will see further major announcements as the construction of new Gresley class P2 No. 2007 Prince of Wales gathers pace.”