Prince of Wales rolls out as 2-8-2

Steam Railway (UK) - - CONTENTS - SR


It was a grey, driz­zly Tues­day morn­ing in Dar­ling­ton. All was quiet in­side Hopetown Works, the head­quar­ters of the A1 Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust, and there was cer­tainly no out­ward in­di­ca­tion that the day would be the date of a mi­nor, al­beit sig­nif­i­cant, piece of preser­va­tion his­tory.

Rolling out of the works – just a stone’s throw from one of the sta­tions on the pi­o­neer­ing Stock­ton & Dar­ling­ton Rail­way – was Bri­tain’s first new ‘Mikado’ in half a cen­tury, ‘P2’ No. 2007 Prince of Wales. As the im­pos­ing lo­co­mo­tive rolled grace­fully into the cold light of day for the first time it did not take an enor­mous leap of the imag­i­na­tion to hear vi­o­lent hiss­ing of steam from the drain cocks, or smell the wisp of smoke is­su­ing from the aus­tere chim­ney.

It may have not been in steam – or even close to com­ple­tion – but the mo­ment Prince of Wales emerged un­der a leaden sky was akin to news­reel film of sim­i­lar lo­co­mo­tives be­ing out­shopped from the likes of Don­caster, Crewe or Swin­don. On those oc­ca­sions, par­tic­u­larly those cel­e­brat­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of a new and in­no­va­tive lo­co­mo­tive de­sign, the tracks would be lined with well-wish­ers, rap­tur­ously wel­com­ing this new creation into the world.

There was no such pomp and cer­e­mony in Dar­ling­ton, how­ever; just a few mem­bers of the trust – in­clud­ing chief en­gi­neer David El­liott – and Steam Rail­way, which was ex­clu­sively in­vited to wit­ness the event.

What was so spe­cial about the day then? Aside from be­ing able to ap­pre­ci­ate No. 2007 out­side the con­fines of Hopetown Works, it was also the first time the lo­co­mo­tive had been placed on all its wheels, the lead­ing wheelset hav­ing been fit­ted ear­lier in the month.

It was also the first time the ‘Mikado’ had been fit­ted with one of its Prince of Wales name­plates which, com­bined with the tem­po­rary num­ber 2007 painted that morn­ing on the buffer­beam, cre­ated an im­pres­sion of what the world can ex­pect in or around three years’ time.

But let’s not get ahead of our­selves. It may look vir­tu­ally com­plete, but the im­ages you see are a mi­rage; they give a false im­pres­sion of progress. The boiler is just a shell, and the pony truck is a wooden mock-up. If any­thing, Septem­ber 18 was a ma­jor turn­ing point in the ‘P2’ project. The ‘easy’ work – in so far as build­ing any lo­co­mo­tive from scratch is easy – is over. Now the hard work re­ally be­gins. The time has come for the trust to tackle the dif­fi­cult parts of the project, namely the boiler, cylin­ders and mo­tion. The for­mer are at least known quan­ti­ties. The boiler is be­ing built to the same Di­a­gram 118A pat­tern as that fit­ted to Tor­nado, and fab­ri­cat­ing cylin­ders in the 21st cen­tury is not the daunt­ing chal­lenge it was 20 years ago. Both com­po­nents still rep­re­sent ma­jor work how­ever, and should not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

The mo­tion, how­ever, is a big step into the un­known. No­body has man­u­fac­tured Lentz pop­pet valve gear for a steam lo­co­mo­tive in preser­va­tion to date, al­though the suc­cess the BR Class 8 Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust has had with the sim­i­lar Caprotti valve gear fit­ted to No. 71000 Duke of Glouces­ter proves that even this is not in­sur­mount­able.

But there is a long way to go be­fore No. 2007 steams. The ‘P2’ project has made base camp. The sum­mit beck­ons.

But as state­ments of in­tent go, this was a big one. The lo­co­mo­tive stand­ing on the con­crete apron out­side Hopetown Works, with its inim­itable semi-stream­lined front end al­most chal­leng­ing the gath­er­ing clouds to rain on its pa­rade, says to the world: “This is what we want to do, this is what we will do, and this is what we are do­ing.”

It has taken just over four years from cut­ting the frames to where Prince of Wales is to­day. In an­other four, the 2-8-2 will be out on the main line, thrilling crowds in the same way as its pre­de­ces­sor Tor­nado did a decade ago. By then, the A1SLT will have al­ready sunk its teeth into its next project, the ‘V4’ – parts of which are stored only a few feet from No. 2007’s stable in the works, an­other sign of the trust’s con­fi­dence in its abil­i­ties to carry out such projects. No doubt Steam Rail­way will be back here, or at the trust’s pro­posed new head­quar­ters in Whes­soe Road, in ten years’ time to wit­ness the roll-out of No. 3403.

But that is all in the fu­ture. Prince of Wales is here: an ex­am­ple of what 21st-cen­tury preser­va­tion is ca­pa­ble of. Now it is a ques­tion of rais­ing the nigh-on £2 mil­lion to fin­ish the job.


Sir Nigel Gres­ley would have been proud – an al­most ex­ter­nally com­plete ‘P2’ No. 2007 Prince of Wales out­side Dar­ling­ton Hopetown Works for the first time, on Septem­ber 18.

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