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