CHURCH­WARD ‘COUNTY’ 4-4-0 No. 3840 COUNTY OF MONT­GOMERY

Steam Railway (UK) - - GWR NEW-BUILD HEALTH CHECK -

Group: Church­ward County Trust Project formed: 2018

Project cost: £1.5 mil­lion Raised to date: De­clined to say

Es­ti­mated com­ple­tion date: 2033 No. of sup­port­ers: De­clined to say Lo­ca­tion: Glouces­ter­shire War­wick­shire Steam Rail­way (planned) To run: Pre­served lines only

Mis­sion state­ment: To build, op­er­ate and main­tain a work­ing replica of a Church­ward ‘County’ class 4-4-0, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the fi­nal 1911/12 batch, us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of new and ex­ist­ing GWR stan­dard com­po­nents.

While it may be a new­comer to the new-build scene, No. 3840 County of Mont­gomery al­ready has a sig­nif­i­cant head start over its con­tem­po­raries, in terms of com­po­nents. It has use of ‘5205’ 2-8-0T No. 5227’s boiler, all four bo­gie wheels and a 3,500-gal­lon ten­der chas­sis, as well as the driv­ing wheel pat­terns used for the ‘Saint’. Fur­ther­more, the frames have now been cut (see New-Build News, p18).

The project still has a sub­stan­tial num­ber of parts to build, such as the cylin­der block, mo­tion and ten­der tank, but such items can be made with rel­a­tive ease these days.

The project also owes its ex­is­tence to the 2005 ‘Three Coun­ties Agree­ment’, but the ‘County’ 4-4-0 pro­posal lay dor­mant un­til Novem­ber 2017 when the GWS agreed to sup­port the for­ma­tion of a sep­a­rate or­gan­i­sa­tion which would build the lo­co­mo­tive and ful­fil the so­ci­ety’s com­mit­ment to VoGC, and thus the Church­ward County Trust was for­mally launched in Fe­bru­ary 2018.

But had the ‘Three Coun­ties Agree­ment’ not ex­isted, would the ‘County’ 4-4-0 project still have come about? Trust di­rec­tor, project man­ager and for­mer Steam Rail­way ed­i­tor Gary Boyd-Hope says: “It is dif­fi­cult to say. The ‘Barry Ten’ lo­co­mo­tives cer­tainly make a project like this rel­a­tively straight­for­ward, and it’s prob­a­bly the ‘eas­i­est’ new-build started to date, but the ‘Saint’ project also played a big part.

“Had the pat­terns not ex­isted for the cou­pled wheels, it might have been a dif­fer­ent story. Without the ‘Barry Ten’, the GWS would prob­a­bly have done a Dean ‘Bo­gie Sin­gle’ in­stead.

“In recre­at­ing a ‘County’ we are fill­ing a gap in the preser­va­tion of Church­ward’s stan­dard GWR lo­co­mo­tive types. Fur­ther­more, as the last of the ‘new’ GWR 4-4-0s – ex­clud­ing the hy­brid ‘Duke­dogs’ – No. 3840 will make a fas­ci­nat­ing con­trast with City of Truro which, as a con­tem­po­rary to the ‘Coun­ties’, shows the GWR’s dif­fer­ent ap­proaches to the same prob­lem.”

It is still early days for this em­bry­onic project but, says Gary: “In an ideal world, we’d hope to have the ba­sic frames as­sem­bled in the next year, make in­roads into ma­jor com­po­nent man­u­fac­ture in three, and hope­fully be at ‘rolling chas­sis’ stage in five.

“In line with the ma­jor­ity of sim­i­lar projects, our main fund-rais­ing will be through tar­geted ap­peals and cam­paigns for spe­cific com­po­nents or schemes of work. These will be sup­ported in time by ded­i­cated clubs and sales and mer­chan­dis­ing. We started with a Founders’ Club, which has fi­nanced the rolling and cut­ting of the frame plates and as­so­ci­ated an­gles and beams.”

Ap­pro­pri­ately, as the lo­ca­tion where the last ‘County’ – No. 3834 County of Som­er­set – was with­drawn in Novem­ber 1933, Ty­se­ley Lo­co­mo­tive Works will as­sem­ble the frames, while the CCT has an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple with the Glouces­ter­shire War­wick­shire Steam Rail­way for

County of Mont­gomery to be even­tu­ally based and op­er­ated there.

Gary says: “This agree­ment is tied to the pro­posal to ex­tend the Tod­ding­ton run­ning shed in due course. Once the rail­way is ready to turn its at­ten­tion to this project, we will look to turn the agree­ment into a more for­mal ar­range­ment that suits both par­ties.”

The project is not without its is­sues, how­ever. Gary con­cedes that: “Sup­port has been en­cour­ag­ing but not over­whelm­ing. We have the is­sue of deal­ing with an ef­fec­tively niche lo­co­mo­tive type that dis­ap­peared more than 80 years ago, and there­fore comes with no nos­tal­gia el­e­ment.

“Few peo­ple will re­mem­ber the orig­i­nal ‘Coun­ties’ in ser­vice, so those who sup­port the project are largely those in­ter­ested in the GWR, or those who had the Hornby model. That said, those who have pledged sup­port have been very gen­er­ous in their dona­tions.”

As the trust de­clined to pro­vide fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion, it is im­pos­si­ble to gauge just how gen­er­ous those sup­port­ers have been, so the proof of the pud­ding will be how much phys­i­cal progress the project is able to make and how long it takes to do so.

Given the rel­a­tive ease with which it can be built, County of Mont­gomery may well hap­pen al­most by de­fault, but how quickly it comes to­gether will de­pend on how much ap­petite there is for a ‘38XX’.

Only time will tell.

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