One of the joyous things about the railway is that there are always new things to discover, no matter how well versed in railway history you are. I’m by no means an expert on GWR locomotive matters but I’d say I have a fairly well-rounded knowledge. Therefore, researching GWR pannier tanks for the review of the Minerva ‘8750’ (see p88) was an eye-opening exercise. I’d never really paid too much attention to the idiosyncrasies of the design, but a few hours of intensive cramming with Irwell Press’ excellent The Pannier Papers series revealed some fascinating facts. I had no idea that there were riveted or welded tanks, depending on builder, or even that there was a batch purely for freight use. The biggest surprise was to find that one ‘8750’ was even converted to oil firing. I then stumbled across a photograph of it in Steam Railway magazine’s photographic archive. BR inherited 93 oil-fired locomotives, including 36 from the Great Western. However, expanding the oil-firing conversion programme was too expensive and it was cancelled in 1948/49. So why Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns converted ‘8750’ No. 3711 to oil firing in 1958 remains a bit of a mystery. With the little oil tank on top of the bunker, No. 3711 went to Swindon where, apparently, it proved to be a powerful little locomotive. It moved to Old Oak Common in April 1962 but didn’t do much – in fact, any – work from there before it was withdrawn in May 1963. Modelling hours this month: 3 Note to self: Be logical when trying to fix annoying electrical faults.