‘THORNBURY’ IS GO
An update on No. 7027’s restoration
Iquite like proving people wrong.”
If anyone thought that the steely resolve of 34-year-old Jonathan Jones-Pratt would be quickly broken by the burden of owning two GWR ‘namers’, they’d be very wrong.
It was Jon who quietly took ownership of ‘Hall’ No. 4936 Kinlet Hall in 2016, then surprised the steam fraternity by acquiring the half-forgotten, unrestored 4-6-0 No. 7027 Thornbury Castle from its previous guardian, Pete Waterman.
That was two years ago. Since then he has assessed the multitude of parts that either came with the ‘Castle’, or didn’t, to its temporary home at his secure bus garage in Weston-super-Mare.
Now Jon is close to taking the big step of launching the restoration project, which was first examined in detail by Steam Railway
18 months ago (SR463).
Standing in its way is the completion of the overhaul of ‘Kinlet’, which is in its final stages at Tyseley Locomotive Works. No. 7027 has now joined it, and silently waits in the wings.
The former Old Oak Common engine cuts a brighter shape in 2018 than the forlorn carcass that has resided at several preservation homes since its rescue from Barry in 1972, thanks to a spontaneous paint job carried out in Weston ahead of its starring role at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, en route to Tyseley.
“I started wire-brushing and painting it,” he remarks, “and then I just went mad with it!”
Not content with any old tin of paint, the glossy green that now coats ‘Thornbury’s’ bare boiler barrel is the real deal: 15 litres of Craftmaster BR spec passenger green paint, finished off with black and red trimming. “I just want to do right by the engine.”
Just before the Collett machine was transported from Somerset, it was adorned with its original smokebox numberplate and a pair of GWR lamps in express train formation – a symbol of the ambition that Jon fosters for his beloved Thornbury Castle, even if that highlights the amount of work needed to fulfil it.
Further, he accepts that as a privately owned enterprise he will be unable to go cap in hand to the enthusiast community to raise funds, and therefore will have to be self-sufficient, although Jon hopes that future hire earnings from
Kinlet Hall “will do well to look after her ‘sister’,” before the favour is eventually returned.
There has been some movement on his previous assessment of the time and complexity of the work necessary: essentially the boiler is in outstanding condition, although it may require a new copper tubeplate, and “it is missing a lot of parts; far more than we thought”.
Nevertheless, hopes of completing the rebuild in six years remain an ambition which, if realised, would mean a late-BR condition single-chimney ‘Thornbury’ rolling out of the Birmingham workshops in 2025. The project will be in the reputable hands of Alastair Meanley, who has been intimately involved in several other ‘Castle’ assignments, and is expected to have begun the strip-down by next summer – around the time of its 70th anniversary.
The Tyseley association runs deeper than a restoration contract because
Jon intends to hand No. 7027 over to the newly established Vintage Trains
Train Operating Company to run it at 75mph on a series of main line tours, working in symphony with the in-house fleet of ‘4073s’.
“Alastair has told me that they want it to be another ‘Edgcumbe’.
And I trust him on that. As far as I’m concerned, he is the man when it comes to these things,” Jon enthuses.
“It will be awesome to see it do what it was built for.”
Thornbury Castle is displayed in a scrapyard scene at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. The in-depth interview with No. 7027’s owner Jon Jones-Pratt in SR463.