In searching for steam engines still in operation, I came across this wonderful 2-8-0. It reminded me of the RODs at Hexham in NSW Australia, engines I saw, photographed and travelled behind in the 1960s and 1970s. These were some of the last engines in Australia in regular service.
Regrettably the UK lost its steam power very early in the 1970s, and by the time I got there in 1974, it was all gone. Fortunately we have many preserved lines in the country for us to see what used to be.
Enjoy this history of 2807 and make sure to take a look at the video of her working in beautiful English countryside at the end.
The history of No. 2807 includes a record breaking freight train of 1906, taking part in the Jellicoe Specials, withdrawal by British Railways in 1963, and being rescued in 1981 followed by restoration.
Great Western Railway
The Great Western Railway (G.W.R.) was initially launched in the early 1830’s to build a line from London (Paddington) to Bristol (Temple Meads). This was followed by lines to Bath, Windsor, Basingstoke, Hungerford, Oxford and Gloucester. Eventually the empire spread to much of the South West of England, and most of Wales.
Brunel had proposed a gauge of 7ft for the G.W.R. instead of the ‘standard’ gauge of 4ft 81/2in. Brunel thought that the broad gauge would allow trains to travel faster and in greater safety. Early lines were all built to the broad gauge, but due to difficulties transferring people and goods from broad gauge trains to standard-gauge trains used by other railway companies, notably at Gloucester, Brunel’s broad gauge was progressively replaced by standard gauge. The last broad-gauge line was converted by 1892.
Steam locomotive No. 2807 was built by the G.W.R. at Swindon and completed in October 1905, as part of the initial batch of the G.W.R. 28xx class (sometimes known as 2800 class) of 2-8-0 heavy freight engines.
The G.W.R. benefited from a series of excellent engineers. Although Isambard Kingdom Brunel is probably the most famous of all G.W.R. engineers, others such as Sir Daniel Gooch, Joseph and George Armstrong, William Dean, George Jackson Churchward, Charles Collett and Frederick Hawksworth were very impressive.
The 28xx class was designed during the period when Churchward was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the G.W.R. Under his stewardship, nine highly successful locomotive types, with maximum component standardisation, were introduced. Boilers, cylinders, pistons, wheels etc. were standardised and interchangeable between classes. Churchward’s design practices were ahead of their time. They were adopted by Chief Mechanical Engineers of other railways and were still in use as late as 1947.
On 26 February 1906, identical sister locomotive No. 2808 hauled a record-breaking train from Swindon to Acton. The trainload of coal was made up of 20 twenty ton, 6 twelve ton, 78 ten ton, 2 nine ton and 1 eight ton capacity coal wagons. Assembled at Swindon, the whole train totalled 2012 tons, including the dynamometer car and brake van. This record by a production locomotive stood during the whole steam era, surpassed only by the one-off prototype G.W.R. locomotive The Great Bear which hauled 2375 tons in 1909.
See the article ‘The Record Breakers’ for further information.
Following early shed allocations to Westbourne Park and Old Oak Common in the Paddington area, in 1911 No. 2807 embarked upon eight years of coal traffic in South Wales, operating first from Aberdare and later Pontypool Road.
After the First World war, No. 2807 moved to Bristol and later, in 1924 to Tyseley, from where she is believed to have frequently visited the Stratford – Cheltenham main line, passing through Broadway, Toddington and Winchcombe. Subsequent pre-nationalisation shed allocations included Newton Abbot, Bristol St Philips Marsh, Llanelli, Wolverhampton Stafford Road, Cardiff (Canton) and Hereford.
After she moved to Worcester in 1951, No. 2807 once again became a frequent visitor to the Stratford – Cheltenham main line. Her final allocation was at Severn Tunnel Junction, in April 1960.
It was from Severn Tunnel Junction, with 1,472,687 miles “on the clock” and over 57 years of use, that No. 2807 was withdrawn in March 1963.
No. 2807 was taken to the famous Barry scrap yard in November 1963, and remained there for over 17 years.
The locomotive was rescued in June 1981 by its current owners, Cotswold Steam Preservation Limited (C.S.P.).
This heavy freight locomotive is now the oldest Great Western engine in private hands. There are only 2 older surviving GWR locos, the Dean Goods, and City of Truro, and they are both in the national collection.
2807 was returned to service in 2010. Now complete and steaming, No. 2807 shares in the duties at The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. The railway runs between Cheltenham and Toddington via Winchcombe, all in Gloucestershire. The line is more than ten miles in length, giving larger locomotives a sensible length of run. The next target for the railway is an extension to Broadway, Worcestershire.