Steam Locomotives of a More Leisurely Era
1923 – ‘Castles’
Great Western Railway
When C.B.Collett succeeded Churchward in 1922 he introduced no radical changes in the strongly individual characteristics of GWR locomotive practice built up during that gentleman’s twenty years of office, but proceeded to carry on the tradition which was to last for the remainder of the Company’s existence until absorption into the BR in 1948.
Collett’s first engines were in effect an improved ‘Star’ and the resulting class, the ‘Castles’, became the principal express type for all but the heaviest duties for the next 35 years, and when they did finally begin to be superseded in 1959 it was not by a new class of steam locomotives but by diesels. Their exploits during this period are well known and considerations of space do not allow more than a passing reference to the exchange trials of 1924 and 1925 between the GWR and the LNE and LMS Companies, the results of which had no small influence on future locomotive design on the two last mentioned lines.
Their brilliant performances on the high speed ‘Cheltenham Flyer’ will also not be forgotten. They eventually totalled 171 engines, of which Nos. 4073-99, 5000-82, 5093-9 and 7000-37 were built new as ‘Castles’ and Nos. 4000, 4009, 4016, 4032, 4037 and 5083-92 were rebuilds of Churchward’s ‘Stars. Finally there was No. 111, rebuilt from the 4-6-2 ‘Great Bear’. The majority were named after castles, but there were some variations, and there was a certain amount of renaming. Four notable commemorative names may be mentioned, No. 5069 ‘Isambard Kingdom Brunel’, 7007 ‘Great Western’, 7017 ‘G.J.Churchward; and 7037, the last of the class, and the last express engine built at the famous works, turned out in 1950, was appropriately named ‘Swindon’. No. 4082 ‘Windsor Castle’ was driven by the late King George V on the occasion of a Royal visit to Swindon works in 1924, and bore a suitable commemorative plate. It was desired to use this engine to haul the funeral train from Paddington to Windsor in 1952, but it happened to be in the works for repair and an exchange on name and number plate was made with No. 7013 ‘Bristol Castle’, which engine actually performed the duty under the guise of ‘Windsor Castle’, which it retained, as the plates were left as they were.All of the Castles were still in service in 1959 with the exception of No. 4091 and the rebuilds Nos. 111, 4000, 4009 (latterly numbered 100), 4016 and 4032. The only alteration of note has been the recent fitting of double blast pipes and chimneys to several of the class. No. 5005 ran in 1935 with a particularly ugly form of semi-streamlining, fortunately only for a short time.
Driving wheels – 6’ 8½”, Cylinders (4) – 16”x 26”, Pressure 225 lb., Tractive effort – 31625 lb., Weight – 79 tons 17cwt., Br classification – 7P