COL­LETT ‘68XX’/‘GRANGE’ 4-6-0 No. 6880 BET­TON GRANGE

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

Group: 6880 Bet­ton Grange (So­ci­ety) Ltd

Project formed: 1998 Project cost: De­clined to say (see text)

Raised to date: De­clined to say Es­ti­mated com­ple­tion date: 2018 No. of sup­port­ers: 200-250 Lo­ca­tion: Llan­gollen Rail­way

To run: Pre­served rail­ways and main line.

Like the ‘Saint’, Bet­ton Grange has also reached ‘crit­i­cal mass’. In fact, No. 6880 could be one of the next new-build lo­co­mo­tives to en­ter ser­vice, so analysing a project which is all but fin­ished is chal­leng­ing.

It has taken 14 years from cut­ting the frames to where the lo­co­mo­tive is to­day, and if com­pleted as ex­pected within the next 12 months, Bet­ton Grange will un­doubt­edly be a use­ful ad­di­tion to Bri­tain’s steam fleet be­cause, of all the Great Western 4-6-0s, the ‘68XXs’ were widely con­sid­ered the most ver­sa­tile.

Project spokesman Paul Ap­ple­ton says: “The Stan­dard No. 1 boiler, large cylin­ders and smaller di­am­e­ter wheels made them very use­ful mixed traf­fic lo­co­mo­tives, and ex­am­ples sur­vived to the end of Western Re­gion steam.

“We think it is a worth­while project that of­fers some­thing dif­fer­ent to the other more nu­mer­ous classes. It also rep­re­sents a near-per­fect bal­ance of power and speed, giv­ing the GWR as ver­sa­tile a ma­chine as the ‘Black Five’ did the LMS.”

To some, a ‘Grange’ is per­haps not sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from ei­ther a ‘Hall’ or a ‘Manor’, but there’s clearly an ap­petite to see one res­ur­rected, as ev­i­denced by the mean in­come of ap­prox­i­mately £132,000 for the last five fi­nan­cial years.

“Those who re­mem­ber ‘Granges’ and lament the missed op­por­tu­nity to save an ex­am­ple [No. 6853 More­hamp­ton Grange] are pas­sion­ate about see­ing it re­turn. Those that sup­port this project don’t have to wait an­other ten or 20 years to see the project reach fruition; it will hap­pen in their life­time,” says Paul.

“When it re­turns to Llan­gollen in the spring, there are var­i­ous jobs to fin­ish, in­clud­ing any out­stand­ing pipework and the cab fit­tings. It will then be steamed at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity. It should be run-in at the LR dur­ing early 2019.”

The project de­clined to pro­vide Steam Rail­way with fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion owing to the com­plex­i­ties caused by its Steam, Steel & Stars events, but did pro­vide a break­down of the costs in­volved with build­ing the ‘Grange’. Paul says: “The cost of re­fur­bish­ing ‘Mod­i­fied Hall’ No. 7927 Willing­ton Hall’s boiler has been ap­prox­i­mately £225,000, and we have less than £30k left to raise to com­plete the lo­co­mo­tive, how­ever that does not in­clude the ten­der.

“We are go­ing to use the one in­tended for No. 3814, but we need to build our own on the chas­sis of that with No. 5952 Co­gan Hall. To over­haul the chas­sis and build a new tank to main line stan­dards is es­ti­mated at £135,000, and a sep­a­rate ap­peal will be launched to fund this once the en­gine it­self has been com­pleted, prob­a­bly in April 2019.”

So what fu­ture awaits No. 6880? Paul says: “It has re­ceived a ten­ta­tive of­fer of ‘Shake­speare Ex­press’ ser­vices with Vin­tage Trains (SR478). It has al­ways been the group’s as­pi­ra­tion to go main line, but this will fol­low a cou­ple of sea­sons run­ning on pre­served lines to iron out any grem­lins. It will run at the LR first, but has been re­quested by other lines for galas.”

Given the gaug­ing is­sues af­fect­ing GWR 4-6-0s on the main line, how much work will there be for No. 6880?

Paul says: “We ap­pre­ci­ate the re­stricted num­ber of main line routes avail­able, but as part of the ‘Shake­speare’ pool, there should be both am­ple work and op­por­tu­ni­ties for the lo­co­mo­tive to show what it is ca­pa­ble of.”

Any cri­tique that could be di­rected at Bet­ton Grange is largely philo­soph­i­cal: is it ‘just an­other’ Great Western 4-6-0? Do we re­ally need a ‘Grange’? The an­swers don’t mat­ter, be­cause the first work­ing ‘Grange’ since 1965 will be up and run­ning very soon.

CLIVE HAN­LEY

Per­haps a false im­pres­sion of progress, but a tan­ta­lis­ing glimpse into the near fu­ture none­the­less – new-build ‘Grange’ No. 6880 Bet­ton Grange, dis­guised as More­hamp­ton Grange, along­side ‘Hall’ No. 4965 Rood Ash­ton Hall at the Ty­se­ley Lo­co­mo­tive Works Open Day in June 2017.

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