RUST IN PEACE

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents -

For a brief pe­riod on July 12 1957, GWR ‘5205’ heavy freight tank No. 5227 was cat­a­pulted into the lime­light for prob­a­bly the only time in its life – per­haps even the great­est mo­ment in the his­tory of its class. More used to drag­ging coal wag­ons up and down the South Wales val­leys, it sud­denly found it­self ham­mer­ing down a four­track main line with a top link pas­sen­ger train in tow, proudly bear­ing the ex­press head­code with a lamp over each front buf­fer. When the lo­co­mo­tive at the head of the 12.20pm York to Swansea cross-coun­try train failed at Llan­wern, be­tween Sev­ern Tun­nel Junc­tion and New­port, the 33-year-old Church­ward ma­chine from New­port Ebbw Junc­tion shed was the clos­est en­gine at hand to take over. Hastily com­man­deered from its goods train, it man­fully hauled the 11-coach train through to Cardiff Gen­eral, where more suit­able re­place­ment mo­tive power could be rus­tled up. Would such a swift so­lu­tion be or­gan­ised to­day if a Cross­Coun­try mul­ti­ple unit failed at the same spot? Af­ter that soli­tary mo­ment of glory, No. 5227 went back to its un­sung job of haul­ing Welsh steam coal from pit to port, un­til disas­ter struck in 1963. Ei­ther it was in­volved in a col­li­sion, or its fire­man over-filled its boiler and caused wa­ter to carry over into its cylin­ders, but the re­sult was the same: the end of its left-hand cylinder was blown off, and it was with­drawn from Ebbw Junc­tion on Fe­bru­ary 1 that year. Al­most 30 years later, No. 5227 again found it­self in the pub­lic eye in Cardiff – still look­ing re­mark­ably pre­sentable, in the same BR plain black with the early ‘cy­cling lion’ crest that it had worn in 1957. Hav­ing been one of the last en­gines to be res­cued from Dai Wood­ham’s fa­mous Barry scrap­yard, it had be­come part of the fa­mous ‘Barry Ten’ col­lec­tion at the city’s Bute Road sta­tion, form­ing the nu­cleus of a pro­posed ‘na­tional rail­way mu­seum’ ti­tled the Wales Rail­way Cen­tre. But such star­dom would never come. Af­ter a pe­riod locked away in a dis­used bus garage with the other nine en­gines of the ‘Ten’, it was one of those handed over to the Great West­ern So­ci­ety to pro­vide parts for new-build ex­am­ples of ex­tinct classes. Al­ready it has given up its axle­boxes to ‘47XX’ 2-8-0 No. 4709, and al­though it re­mains sub­stan­tially in one piece on dis­play at Did­cot Rail­way Cen­tre – play­ing the use­ful role of show­ing vis­i­tors just how much work goes into restor­ing an ex-Barry en­gine – it will even­tu­ally be dis­man­tled fur­ther so that its Stan­dard No. 4 boiler and pony truck wheelset can be used on new Church­ward ‘County’ 4-4-0 No. 3840 County of Montgomery. GWS spokesman Frank Dum­ble­ton con­firms: “There are some at Did­cot who would like to re­store it – but the in­ten­tion was al­ways for it to be dis­man­tled and be­come a source of parts for other projects.” Some will see it as sac­ri­lege to break up a lo­co­mo­tive that has sur­vived against the odds for so long; oth­ers will wel­come the re­con­struc­tion of classes that es­caped preser­va­tion. But even if you’re of the lat­ter per­sua­sion, let’s never for­get that – like No. 5227 and its ‘15 min­utes of fame’ – every en­gine has its own story to tell.

TOBY JEN­NINGS/SR

Now Cos­met­i­cally spruced up in GWR wartime black, ‘5205’ 2-8-0T No. 5227 awaits its fate at Did­cot Rail­way Cen­tre on July 19 2015.

KEVIN LANE

With the dam­age to its left-hand cylinder vis­i­ble, No. 5227 sits at the Bute Road rail­way cen­tre in Cardiff on April 28 1990, along with a fel­low ‘Barry Ten’ lo­co­mo­tive, ‘56XX’ 0-6-2T No. 6686.

R.O. TUCK

The as­ton­ish­ing sight of No. 5227 at Cardiff Gen­eral on July 12 1957, af­ter haul­ing the 12.20pm York-Swansea train from Llan­wern.

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