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