RUST IN PEACE
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carry over into its cylinders, but the result was the same: the end of its left-hand cylinder was blown off, and it was withdrawn from Ebbw Junction on February 1 that year.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.
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.
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.
The astonishing sight of No. 5227 at Cardiff General on July 12 1957, after hauling the 12.20pm York-Swansea train from Llanwern.