Sunday, 20 November 2011

"Rant of the Week: New Build Steam!"


It's been a while since my last "Rant of the Week", but I have just seen something so extraordinarily frustrating and aggravating that I had to share it.

Over the last six months, the "in thing" in railway preservation has either to join the "haters gonna hate" campaign against Scotsman (see previous blog posts), or start up a new build scheme for making a steam locomotive.

So we've had a Claud Hamilton announced, a Gresley J39, most recently a couple of Diesels including LMS no.10000, and to be fair, all of the above involve to some extent enthusiastic individuals who have all taken part in railway preservation at some level over their lives.

To the above, don't worry, you're not the topic of my rant. No, the subject of my rant is this:

The Great Bear New Build Project

Yes, there is a now a few individuals wanting to build a new version of The Great Bear, Churchward's only Pacific, and the only GWR Pacific ever built. What has been written on this locomotive extends to somewhere between extremely inefficient and useless, and adequate but needing modifications to get the best out of it.

So my first reaction was to groan, and think "really? Another one?"

Then it hit me.

This actually could be the most sensible of all the new build projects that has been announced.


What? Really? Well, let's think about it. The original locomotive was essentially an enlargement of the Star class of locomotives. It was later rebuilt into a Castle class locomotive.

The Stars, Castles, and this behemoth all shared certain standard Swindon components. In fact, let's be frank here, it's because so many of the GWR engines shared common, standard components, that we are able to see so many of the classes that were lost to the scrappers built afresh.

For example, Didcot's Lady of Legend, 2999 is one locomotive I have been keeping my eye on, a rarity for me as the Great Western isn't my thing normally! That is being built out standard GWR components with some new parts manufactured to complete the look.

Overall I think this will be one of the more stunning locomotives in preservation, and particularly in its place between the GWR of old, and the Star class locomotive Lode Star at the National Railway Museum.

So my feeling is, if you can build a new "Saint", a "County" and a "Grange" from standard GWR patterns and spare components, how hard can it be really to build a new GWR Pacific? The only real stumbling blocks (big ones at that) are likely to be the main frames, the unique boiler, and the tender.

But if you can build a new Peppercorn A1 from scratch...you can do anything, that I firmly believe, with just one caveat - the first hurdle for all of these projects will be regular funding and enthusiasm, and it is this I feel most strongly that needs fixing for many of them.

If enough people can get together to build a replica of the GWR's lone Pacific locomotive, why not let them try.

They could do worse than to have a go. If they don't manage to build it, the reconditioned parts or any new parts made could just go on another GWR locomotive, after all!

Until next time!

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