LNWR ‘GE­ORGE THE FIFTH’ 4-4-0 No. 2013

PRINCE GE­ORGE

Steam Railway (UK) - - LMS | NEW-BUILDS -

Group: LNWR Ge­orge the Fifth Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust

Pro­ject formed: 2012

Pro­ject cost: £1.5 mil­lion ap­prox. Raised to date: £150,000 Es­ti­mated com­ple­tion date: 2023

No. of sup­port­ers: 300 ap­prox. Lo­ca­tion: Bunt­ing­ford, Hertfordshire, and Not­ting­hamshire

To run: Pre­served rail­ways and main line. Mis­sion state­ment: The cre­ation of a Lon­don & North Western Rail­way ‘Ge­orge the Fifth’ class 4-4-0 ex­press pas­sen­ger steam lo­co­mo­tive for op­er­a­tion both on the na­tional rail­way net­work and on pre­served rail­ways.

It is a tragedy that so few lo­co­mo­tives from the Lon­don & North Western Rail­way sur­vive: just five stan­dard gauge lo­co­mo­tives and one nar­row gauge works shunter, and only one of them – ‘Coal Tank’ No. 1054 – is op­er­a­tional. The Prince Ge­orge pro­ject, named af­ter the third in line to the throne, aims to ad­dress that.

Paul Hib­berd, trustee of the LNWR Ge­orge the Fifth Steam Lo­co­mo­tive Trust and one of the pro­ject’s founders, says: “It helps to fill a huge gap, in that no 20th-cen­tury LNWR ex­press pas­sen­ger lo­co­mo­tive has been pre­served.

“With its dis­tinc­tive looks, liv­ery and ex­cep­tional per­for­mance, it is cer­tain that Prince Ge­orge will be­come an iconic steam lo­co­mo­tive of the 21st cen­tury.”

These are bold claims from a pro­ject which, six years af­ter its launch, hasn’t made much progress. So far, it has pro­duced the left-hand side run­ning plate com­pleted with splasher, lower cab side, name­plate and num­ber­plate, plus the front ex­ten­sion frames, buffer­beam, smoke­box and chim­ney, and parts of the mo­tion.

But al­to­gether, these items don’t re­ally amount to much, es­pe­cially in view of the plan to launch No. 2013 in 2023, in time for its name­sake’s tenth birth­day – only four years hence. All the lo­co­mo­tive’s ma­jor, ex­pen­sive and time-con­sum­ing com­po­nents – par­tic­u­larly the main frames and stretch­ers, cylin­ders, wheels and boiler – still haven’t left the draw­ing board.

There is a rea­son though why the trust has opted to build largely cos­metic com­po­nents first: “Our phi­los­o­phy is that suc­cess breeds cred­i­bil­ity and cred­i­bil­ity brings more suc­cess. In this game, pub­lic per­cep­tion is ev­ery­thing, and for us this means a steady flow of cut metal, par­tic­u­larly where this has great visual im­pact,” says Paul. “We are striv­ing to get the boiler/fire­box de­sign ap­proved and the boiler bar­rel made just as soon as we can. Taken to­gether with the ex­ist­ing smoke­box and our other com­po­nents, this will give us the sem­blance of a lo­co­mo­tive peo­ple can iden­tify with and that will be the time to go in for fund-rais­ing in a big way.”

The trust will cer­tainly need to ramp up its fund-rais­ing ef­forts. Hav­ing raised on av­er­age £25,000 per year since the pro­ject’s launch in 2012, it would take 54 years to raise the rest of the es­ti­mated £1½ mil­lion for Prince Ge­orge, based on the present rate of in­come and not tak­ing in­fla­tion into ac­count. In other words, the pro­ject has raised a tenth of what it be­lieves it needs, but is al­ready nom­i­nally over half­way through the build in terms of its own timescale.

How­ever, Paul says: “The strat­egy is to get the pro­ject beyond its ‘tip­ping point’ as quickly as pos­si­ble. We are con­scious that new-build projects can read­ily be­come en­ter­prises that ap­par­ently just me­an­der on for decades, so we are de­ter­mined not to fall into that trap.”

It is ad­mirable that the pro­ject has iden­ti­fied the pit­fall into which some new-build projects stum­ble, and the im­por­tance of build­ing – and more cru­cially, main­tain­ing – mo­men­tum. Words, how­ever, are one thing, ac­tions are an­other, but Paul as­serts that the pro­ject is mak­ing progress: “We mea­sure our tar­get in terms of achieve­ment, not money. In the last 12 months, we have pro­duced a pair of ten­foot cou­pling rods, bought the nec­es­sary spe­cial­ist steel for the con­nect­ing rods and high-stress parts of the Joy mo­tion, man­u­fac­tured and put to­gether the chim­ney, ac­quired an orig­i­nal reg­u­la­tor and quad­rant, and had a range of cast­ings made for lamp fit­tings.

“We have also done most of the de­sign work for the new boiler and fire­box (to make it com­pli­ant with cur­rent reg­u­la­tions) which will en­able us to go to ten­der and or­der the boiler shell us­ing funds that are al­ready in place. As a mat­ter of fact, our lat­est bal­ance sheet shows the net worth of the pro­ject as hav­ing al­most dou­bled against that of the pre­vi­ous year, and we hope that this trend will con­tinue.”

It cer­tainly needs to if the pro­ject is to reach that “tip­ping point”, as Paul calls it. The real lit­mus test will come when fundrais­ing for the boiler, frames and other ma­jor com­po­nents starts in earnest. The rate at which money is raised will prove how suc­cess­ful the trust’s strat­egy of build­ing com­po­nents with “great visual im­pact” has been, and al­though Prince Ge­orge hasn’t passed the cred­i­bil­ity thresh­old yet, it would be hasty to write it off and is a big gap that re­ally ought to be filled.

NWR SO­CI­ETY

A colourised pic­ture of LNWR ‘Ge­orge the Fifth’ No. 2081 New Zealand, show­ing what No. 2013 Prince Ge­orge will look like when com­pleted.

JAMIE KEYTE

Prince Ge­orge’s newly com­pleted smoke­box and chim­ney.

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