Did­cot un­veils com­plete ‘Saint’

Did­cot and Steam Rail­way ap­peal sup­port­ers turn out for fi­nal ap­pear­ance by No. 2999 be­fore spring steam launch.

Steam Railway (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Just a week af­ter ‘Patriot’ No. 5551’s Re­mem­brance Day ap­pear­ance, an­other new-build 4-6-0 emerged – GWR ‘Saint’ No. 2999 Lady of Leg­end at Did­cot Rail­way Cen­tre on Novem­ber 17/18.

Like the Fowler ‘5XP’ (see New-Build News), the Great Western So­ci­ety’s Church­ward lo­co­mo­tive was not yet ready to steam, and car­ried a tem­po­rary coat of BR un­lined black paint­work – but pro­vided a tan­ta­lis­ing glimpse of an ex­tinct class and a win­dow into a lost part of the steam era.

It mas­quer­aded as not one but two long-scrapped ‘Saints’ – car­ry­ing the orig­i­nal name and num­ber­plates from No. 2908

Lady of Qual­ity on one side, and replica plates of No. 2983 Redgaunt­let on the other.

It was also the first sight­ing of a ‘Saint’ in black since 1953, when the last ex­am­ple – No. 2920 Saint David – was scrapped. How­ever, the na­tion­alised look was tem­po­rary, as the plan is to of­fi­cially un­veil No. 2999 in Ed­war­dian-era GWR lined green when it is ready to steam, ex­pected next spring (see also our new-build sur­vey on pages 84-88) and it will not carry lined BR black as pre­vi­ously planned (SR462).

In a re­mark­able link to the

early his­tory of the class, one of the vis­i­tors to the Sun­day of the event was Myra Blair, the grand­daugh­ter of GWR en­gine­man Henry James Robin­son, who in May 1906, al­legedly drove the newly built ‘Saint’ No. 2903 Lady of Lyons at 120mph.

The light en­gine run from Swin­don to Stoke Gif­ford and back was un­der­taken to as­cer­tain if a lo­co­mo­tive fresh from the work­shops could at­tain 100mph.

It was first re­ported in The Times of Jan­uary 14 1932 in an item about Mr Robin­son’s re­tire­ment as GWR chief lo­co­mo­tive in­spec­tor, which prompted cor­re­spon­dence be­tween The Rail­way Mag­a­zine and GWR Chief Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer Charles Col­lett, who had also been on No. 2903’s foot­plate as as­sis­tant man­ager of Swin­don Works.

Although some tim­ings with a stop­watch were cal­cu­lated at 120mph, and the time for the 4½ miles be­tween Lit­tle Somer­ford and Hullav­ing­ton was booked as two min­utes, Col­lett re­sponded that “while the ob­ject of run­ning a new en­gine on its first trip at over 100mph was achieved, the tim­ing could not be re­garded as ac­cu­rate and the 102.3mph of

City of Truro in 1904 must re­main the best duly au­then­ti­cated rail­way speed record that this coun­try has yet wit­nessed.”

TREVOR JONES

From left, GWS Chair­man Richard Croucher, Pe­ter Grans­den, Ali Matthews, Ron Hows and 2999 Project Man­ager Pe­ter Chat­man.

FRANK DUMBLETON

Myra Blair, grand­daugh­ter of Henry James Robin­son who was cred­ited with driv­ing No. 2903 at over 100mph, on a test run in May 1906.

TREVOR JONES

Gloss black cov­ers the ex­ter­nally com­plete ‘Saint’ No. 2999 along­side Did­cot en­gine shed on Novem­ber 17.

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