LNWR ‘GEORGE THE FIFTH’ 4-4-0 No. 2013
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.
A colourised picture of LNWR ‘George the Fifth’ No. 2081 New Zealand, showing what No. 2013 Prince George will look like when completed.
Prince George’s newly completed smokebox and chimney.