‘43XX’ 5322 AT 100
In 1917, Churchward ‘Mogul’ No. 5322 was ferrying supplies to British troops in France. One hundred years on, TOBY JENNINGS catches up with this silent warhorse…
There was no fanfare on the whistle in salute, nor the artillery-like barrage of a Great Western exhaust, but one of railway preservation’s war heroes still had all the military honours it was possible to provide for its centenary. As well as being the sole surviving ‘43XX’ 2-6-0 built to the original design of G.J. Churchward, No. 5322’s other claim to fame is having served in France during the First World War with the Railway Operating Division (ROD) of the Royal Engineers. Completed at Swindon in late July 1917, the locomotive was first recorded in military service in France on August 20. Precisely 100 years later to the day, its preservation owners - the Great Western Society - gave the locomotive its own quiet, but heartfelt, birthday celebration at Didcot Railway Centre. For the ‘Rails on the Western Front’ event of August 19/20, the ‘Mogul’ donned ROD lettering in place of its previous BR insignia and was displayed in the broad gauge transfer shed, with a recreated GWR ambulance train, to give the impression of a French station during the Great War. Held in conjunction with the Great War Society, and assisted by the Heritage Lottery Fund to the tune of £9,000, the weekend surrounded No. 5322 with all the authentic trimmings, including re-enactors, an infantry camp and a casualty clearing station, to remember its wartime service.
POWER AND EFFICIENCY
When the army made an urgent call for more motive power in the summer of 1917 - requiring Britain’s railway companies to supply a further 160 locomotives for hauling supplies between the Channel ports and the Western Front - the GWR’s contribution was a batch of eleven ‘43XXs’ - Nos. 5319-5330, excepting No. 5327. The ‘Moguls’ were chosen because, as GWR General Manager Frank Potter reported to the board of directors on October 12 1917, “It was stipulated that the engines should as far as practicable be of one type, i.e. 0-8-0, and of high power, and arrangements were therefore made for them to be supplied by as few Companies as
possible, these Companies in turn being allocated engines from the stock of other Railway Companies. “In the case of the Great Western Railway, we have no engines of the 0-8-0 type, and it was impossible to release any of the 2-8-0 class as they are employed exclusively on the Admiralty coal traffic.” As always, GWR pride was evident when he added: “The Great Western type of 2-6-0 engines is in point of power and efficiency practically equal to other companies’ 0-8-0 engines…” These Swindon ‘soldiers’ acquitted themselves well in military service, working mainly between Calais and Hazebrouck with their lifeline trains of vital supplies. Years later, just before his death in 1973, former ROD officer C.E.R. Sherrington related to the GWS the story of an encounter with No. 5322 in 1917 or 1918: “It was a dark, clear, star-lit night: the moon had not yet risen. My quickest route to the RE HQ Mess was via the Nord main line from Calais to Hazebrouck, thus avoiding the shunting yards in the sprawling depot, the biggest of its kind in France, with 91 miles of track and a stud of 19 ROD locomotives. “Scrambling onto the main line embankment near to my office - a wooden hut shared with French railway staff - the going became rough on the Nord’s closely spaced hardwood sleepers and large size rough ballast. However, one was accustomed to it at all hours of the day and night and a generous piste, used by French railwaymen on their bicycles, gave adequate refuge from oncoming trains: French locomotive headlights gave more warning than did the ROD’s oil lamps on the buffer beam. “That night nearing the level crossing at Pont-des-Briques, where one turned off for the Mess, an eastbound train was rapidly overtaking me. A glance at my watch led me to hope that it was RCL [Ravitaillement Calais-Ligne] 21 running on time from Calais (Rivière-Neuve) to St Omer, Hazebrouck and one or more railheads. There was no mistaking the type of locomotive - by the beat of its exhaust - a GWR ‘Mogul’, thus confirming that it was, almost certainly, one of the ‘53s’ doing such splendid work on those supply trains for the II Army. “She overtook me at the Pont-des-Briques crossing, with its metal rolling gates, and it was easy to see her number in large white letters on the tender - ROD 5322. Behind her were the customary 44 or so wagons, the supplies for two Divisions, each wagon labelled with the code number of the Division, the colour giving a key to the contents mails, fresh meat, case goods (including rum and medical comforts), ordnance (covering tents, clothing etc, but not guns or ammunition), petrol, baled hay and oats. Behind the tender were 24 wagons for ‘59’ and behind them 23 wagons for ‘21’. The numbers I knew by heart
from my code book - the 18th and 32nd Divisions. The gross load was some 770 tons: the wagons were not vacuum fitted, but, of course, had the French screw couplings. “The Great Western ‘Moguls’ were admirable locomotives for this work: their predecessors on it, the Beyer Peacock 4-6-4 tanks, which were built for the Netherlands but never got there, were splendid machines but had inadequate brake power, being designed for suburban passenger trains. The LNWR class ‘27’ 0-8-0s, though fine pullers, had small diameter wheels for this work, and were more suited to heavier, slower, trains. ‘No. 5322 that night provided a vivid memory lasting till today. Later that same night, when the moon had risen we, as other places, received considerable attention from the German air force, but No. 5322 was by then near Hazebrouck.” GWS volunteer Ciaran Johnson, one of No. 5322’s support crew during its most recent period in steam from 2008 to 2014, has extensively researched the engine’s history - but apart from Mr Sherrington’s evocative account, he says: “Unfortunately there is very little on the wartime service of any of these engines. No. 5325 was damaged in an air raid in March 1918, being peppered with shrapnel holes. The tender had to be plugged up with bits of wood! “What we do know is that No. 5322 had an ‘accident’ in April 1918, but there are no further details. Of the eleven ‘53s’ that went to France, it was the only one that required a heavy repair on its return, so it must have been pretty serious.”
As the GWS puts it, “the saying ‘old soldiers never die’ was never truer than with this engine.” Even at the end of its long career with the GWR and BR Western Region, No. 5322 simply refused to give up, no matter how hard anyone tried to kill it off. In our recent feature exploring the history of LBSCR ‘E1’ 0-6-0T No. 110 Burgundy, we stated that it was “surely unique among steam locomotives in having been deliberately sabotaged to prevent its preservation.” But in fact, Ciaran informs us, No. 5322 can make pretty much the same claim: “Towards the end of its life it was very run down, and had a poor reputation. Apparently when it was at Pontypool Road during the early ’60s, it was ‘accidently’ lit up while the boiler was empty, in an attempt to get rid of it. Unfortunately for the Pontypool men, it was taken away to Wolverhampton Works, which promptly put a new boiler on it and sent it straight back! This was related to me by a former Pontypool fitter, and it’s actually backed up by the engine’s history sheet.” The records show No. 5322 being released back into traffic from Stafford Road Works on May 26 1961, having received boiler No. 6141 - which had been built in September 1953 and fitted to ‘72XX’ 2-8-2T No. 7218 between April 1954 and February 1961. Even after it was finally condemned at Pontypool Road on April 24 1964 - with a final recorded mileage in December 1963 of 1,355,622 - No. 5322 proved a tenacious survivor. It was one of ten GWR 2-6-0s purchased by Dai Woodham, but the only original example to evade scrapping - ensuring that one of Churchward’s most significant designs (along with a Collett version, No. 7325, now at the Severn Valley Railway) was available for preservation.
‘PHOENIX’ TO FILM STAR
No. 5322’s historical importance was recognised early on, for it was the first engine at Barry to be the subject of a purchase appeal, led by the late David Rouse and Peter Rich in 1965, but it didn’t succeed. Says Ciaran: “From memory, the original appeal struggled because it was seen as being beyond the ability of preservation - the first ‘project impossible’ if you like.” When it was eventually saved, he adds: “The boiler ‘overhaul’ consisted of replacing 38 small tubes, but that was groundbreaking stuff at the time.” Instead, GWS member John Mynors - who had already funded the acquisition of No. 7808 Cookham Manor and several coaches - purchased the ‘Mogul’ from Woodham’s on January 8 1969, along with a Churchward 3,500-gallon tender from No. 7802 Bradley Manor. Negotiations with BR were opened by the late Peter Lemar, with the price of £2,000 agreed in October 1968. Along with Midland ‘4F’ 0-6-0 No. 43924, purchased for the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (KWVR) from June 12 1968, No. 5322 was one of the pioneers that opened the door for the mass exodus of locomotives from Barry - laying the foundations for the extensive preservation movement we know today. After No. 43924 on September 10 1968 and ‘U’ 2-6-0 No. 31618 in January 1969, the ‘Mogul’ was the third engine to depart from the yard on March 8 1969, being towed to Caerphilly - home of the GWS’ South Wales Group, which later became the Caerphilly Railway Society - by a Class 08 diesel shunter. Steamed for the first time on December 20 1970, and moving under its own power on May 23 1971, it was the first of many
Barry engines to be restored by the GWS, and only the second of the 213 escapees from the yard to run again. Remarkably, No. 5322 was put forward for a main line railtour on May 28 1973. Appropriately titled ‘Phoenix’, this would have run from Swansea to Hereford, with the newly restored ‘Mogul’ working from Newport, but it was cancelled - officially due to a lack of bookings, but it was reckoned that the engine needed too much work to pass muster in a BR inspection. This would be proved in no uncertain terms on September 17 that year, when it did return to main line metals, albeit dieseltowed to Didcot. Says Ciaran: “On the way one of the rods fell off, and was bent. Fortunately, they were able to stop off at Swindon to have it straightened and put back on!” Returned to a former home shed (it was allocated to Didcot from July 1944 to May 1945, and again from August 1956 to December 1958), No. 5322 took part in early open weekends, and travelled to Marylebone on August 7/8 1974 for the filming of Walt Disney’s One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing. But in 1976, by now described as “mechanically rather tired”, it was withdrawn from service, to remain a static exhibit for almost 20 years. Indeed, adds Ciaran: “After its first ‘restoration’, the ashpan had basically disintegrated, so you couldn’t keep it quiet!” Following the death of John Mynors in 1979, the GWS entered into negotiations to purchase No. 5322 and the rest of his collection (Cookham Manor, ‘Castle’ No. 5051 Earl Bathurst, and four coaches, including ‘Super Saloon’ No. 9113 Prince of Wales). The process was lengthy, recalls GWS Chairman Richard Croucher, taking the best part of a decade; an appeal to the membership for funds was not made until 1988/89.
REMEMBRANCE DAY RESURRECTION
Now No. 5322 could finally get its chance for overhaul, with a restoration appeal launched in the early 1990s and the boiler lifted in 1995. Funded entirely by donations, the work took until 2008, when the ‘Mogul’ steamed again on the appropriate date of Remembrance Sunday, November 9, resplendent in ROD khaki. It went on to tour preserved lines during ‘GWR175’ year in 2010, and latterly carrying BR black for the first time in preservation. Sadly, it all came to a premature end in July 2014, when it became the first GWR ‘Mogul’ on the Bodmin & Wenford Railway since steam days - only to fail after just half a day in service, with extensive cracks around the washout plugs on the back corners of the outer firebox. Since then, it has remained a static exhibit. So what’s next on the agenda for this priceless GWR artefact? Ciaran confirms that there are currently no plans, nor are the funds available, to return it to steam. Although it might have been possible to do so for its centenary, Richard Croucher explains: “It needed major surgery which would have necessitated the boiler being taken out of the frames for platework to be replaced. Above all else, we wanted to keep it in one piece for 2017/18.”
STATIC AGAIN BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
So it looks as though No. 5322 will be staying quiet for the foreseeable future. But, given its chequered history, we should be grateful that it still exists - and hasn’t been entirely forgotten. Says Ciaran: “There is a small group of us who have a strong attachment to the engine, and we’ve talked about forming a supporters’ group to raise money and eventually overhaul No. 5322. We are all in our 20s or early 30s, two work full-time in the locomotive works, while a third is employed in the GWS Carriage & Wagon department, so it’s not a complete pipe dream. “It’s pretty good mechanically, as it had a lot of work done last time around. The axleboxes need checking over, but there’s nothing urgent - and there is a spare boiler on No. 5227 [albeit potentially earmarked for a Churchward ‘County’].” “It goes without saying that it’s an ideal engine, both for Didcot and preserved railways in general.” So, hopefully, this old warhorse will live to fight another day.
Carrying original ROD khaki livery, No. 5322 is once again adorned with an RCL headboard for its return to traffic in 2008.
A view of No. 5319 on active duty with the ROD in France.
On August 8 1974, No. 5322 provides the backdrop for the filming of One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing.
Peter Gransden, No. 5322’s driver for its launch on Remembrance Sunday, November 9 2008, with the type of weapon the locomotive’s crew would have carried in France.