‘Grange’ to go main line with Ty­se­ley

New-build 4-6-0 run­ning on Vin­tage Trains’ ‘Shake­speare Ex­press’ has been agreed in prin­ci­ple.

Steam Railway (UK) - - Contents - BY NICK BRODRICK

Re­cre­ated GWR 4-6-0 Betton Grange could be run­ning on the main line as early as 2020, if plans by its con­struc­tion team and Vin­tage Trains come to fruition. Vin­tage Trains Chair­man Michael White­house said that an “agree­ment in prin­ci­ple” has been reached be­tween the Ty­se­ley or­gan­i­sa­tion (which is hope­ful of es­tab­lish­ing an in­de­pen­dent main line train op­er­at­ing com­pany) and 6880 Betton Grange (Society) Ltd. Vin­tage Trains has iden­ti­fied a fu­ture re­quire­ment that will ne­ces­si­tate more than just its in-house lo­co­mo­tive fleet to shoul­der the an­tic­i­pated in­crease in main line tours, and has al­ready signed ‘8P’ No. 71000 Duke of Glouces­ter for at least a dozen trains a year (see story, right). How­ever, VTL’s reg­u­lar ‘Shake­speare Ex­presses’ be­tween Birm­ing­ham Moor Street and Strat­ford com­monly rely on smaller en­gines – and it is here that No. 6880 Betton Grange is ex­pected to find its niche, along­side No. 4965 Rood Ash­ton Hall. In­deed, VTL an­tic­i­pates that, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with West Mid­lands Trans­port, deeper in­te­gra­tion into the na­tional net­work timetable will mean that pro­tected paths for the ‘Shake­speare Ex­press’ will be avail­able seven days a week – six more than the cur­rent ar­range­ment. Both the ‘Hall’ and ‘Grange’ are se­verely re­stricted on the na­tional net­work be­cause of their width over cylin­ders, but 6880 Society Pub­lic­ity Di­rec­tor Paul Ap­ple­ton says that a reg­u­lar tranche of an­nual work on the North War­wick­shire Line would still sat­isfy the group’s orig­i­nal aim to put the ‘Grange’ on the main line. “The num­ber of places where steam can go is get­ting smaller all the time, and we’re re­stricted to where we can op­er­ate, which is now prob­a­bly over one or two routes, and that is quite ac­cept­able,” he told Steam Rail­way. “For a lot of peo­ple, from Day 1, it was a key ob­jec­tive… We would be let­ting the mem­ber­ship down if we didn’t con­tinue in that di­rec­tion.” The ‘Grange’ has been built to main line stan­dards since con­struc­tion be­gan in Septem­ber 2004. Its 5ft 8in driv­ing wheels per­mit it to be reg­is­tered for run­ning at up to 60mph. Although there is not yet a for­mal contract in place for VTL op­er­a­tion, Mr Ap­ple­ton “imag­ines that it will go to Ty­se­ley for a three to five-month stint”, be­tween run­ning pe­ri­ods at the Llan­gollen Rail­way and other preser­va­tion out­fits. Mr Ap­ple­ton cau­tioned: “If it’s part of a pool of en­gines, we would be look­ing for an agree­ment over a num­ber of years… it has to be worth­while to re­pay the ini­tial in­vest­ment.” The boiler of No. 6880 – for­merly be­long­ing to Willing­ton Hall – is at an ad­vanced stage of restora­tion at Ty­se­ley Lo­co­mo­tive Works and should be de­liv­ered to the lo­co­mo­tive’s Llan­gollen base by the mid­dle of June (see panel). With the chas­sis also near to com­ple­tion, the society is hope­ful of run­ning in the ‘68XX’ at the Llan­gollen Rail­way this au­tumn, ahead of an an­tic­i­pated pub­lic launch in 2019. Betton Grange will ini­tially run with a ten­der bor­rowed from an­other GWR 4-6-0 (cur­rently un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion) and there­fore it will not be avail­able for Net­work Rail cer­ti­fi­ca­tion un­til it has its own ten­der that is com­pat­i­ble with the in­stal­la­tion of elec­tronic safety and sig­nalling equip­ment. The society has said that sup­port­ers would be asked to help fund th­ese el­e­ments, which are ex­pected to progress once No. 6880 has proved it­self on 25mph-limited pre­served rail­ways for at least 12 months. “It will be on the main line in 2020 at the ear­li­est,” stressed Mr Ap­ple­ton.

COLOUR RAIL

A sight not seen at Ty­se­ley sta­tion for over 50 years… On Septem­ber 26 1963 No. 6877 Llan­fair Grange runs through the out­skirts of Birm­ing­ham with a Wolverhampton train.

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