RIGHT­ING THE WRONGS

It may have been the big­gest of the ‘Big Four’, but only three ex­tinct de­signs from the LMS and its pre­de­ces­sors are be­ing repli­cated. In part 4 of our new-build sur­vey, THOMAS BRIGHT sees how they’re get­ting on.

Steam Railway (UK) - - NEWS | IRISH -

LMS ‘PA­TRIOT’ 4-6-0 No. 5551 THE UN­KNOWN WAR­RIOR

“Our re­search has shown that an LMS ‘Pa­triot’ would be dif­fi­cult to build, if not im­pos­si­ble, as no draw­ings sur­vive.” So said

Steam Rail­way when we con­ducted a sim­i­lar sur­vey of new-build lo­co­mo­tives in late 2002. Great to prove the doubters wrong, eh??

Seven­teen years later, new ‘5XP’ No. 5551 The Un­known War­rior is close to com­ple­tion and set to be one of the next new-build lo­co­mo­tives to steam, demon­strat­ing the pit­falls of these sorts of sur­veys; they are merely a snap­shot in time, and cir­cum­stances can change in a mo­ment, for ei­ther bet­ter or worse. What is be true to­day may not be so to­mor­row.

To­day though, the Fowler 4-6-0 is one of a hand­ful of new-build projects to have reached crit­i­cal mass, and those who at­tended the Crewe Her­itage Cen­tre open week­end on Novem­ber 10-11, held to com­mem­o­rate the cen­te­nary of the Ar­mistice, would have seen the first ‘com­plete’ par­al­lel-boil­ered ‘Pa­triot’ since 1962, as No. 5551’s fire­box and boiler bar­rel were mated to the largely com­plete bot­tom end for the first time.

The in­con­ve­nient truth is, how­ever, that The Un­known War­rior should have been fin­ished and in steam, as the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War had long been the LMS-Pa­triot Pro­ject’s tar­geted com­ple­tion date for the ‘Na­tional Me­mo­rial En­gine’. That it wasn’t ready in time is down to a num­ber of fac­tors, not least LNWR Her­itage Co. Ltd – which was build­ing Bri­tain’s first all-riv­eted stan­dard gauge main line boiler since the 1960s for the ‘Pa­triot’ – sus­pend­ing all con­tract boiler work in or­der to fo­cus on Jeremy Hosk­ing’s ever-ex­pand­ing main line fleet.

That hasn’t been the only is­sue that has pushed back No. 5551’s steam­ing date. The lo­co­mo­tive was asked to leave its long-time

Llangollen base in Oc­to­ber af­ter the rail­way an­nounced its de­ci­sion to un­der­take no fur­ther work on the pro­ject, stat­ing that it “had a full or­der book” and was ‘there­fore un­able to meet with the very tight timescale re­quire­ments of the pro­ject.” An ear­lier dis­pute re­sulted in work be­ing sus­pended for six months, while a new ten­der chas­sis had to be built af­ter the ex-Barry orig­i­nal was deemed to be life-ex­pired. Al­though it didn’t af­fect con­struc­tion, the with­drawal of the Royal Bri­tish Le­gion’s en­dorse­ment for The Un­known War­rior was also un­doubt­edly a blow.

But let’s get a sense of pro­por­tion here. To go from noth­ing to an al­most-com­plete lo­co­mo­tive in a lit­tle over a decade is an im­pres­sive achieve­ment, and the var­i­ous set­backs should not de­tract from what is one of Bri­tain’s most ex­cit­ing and suc­cess­ful new-build projects.

This is at least the third at­tempt to repli­cate a ‘Baby Scot’, high­light­ing the high re­gard these lo­co­mo­tives are held in as well as the dif­fi­cul­ties new-build projects face to stay the course. LMS-Pa­triot Pro­ject Chair­man David Brad­shaw says: “It is a gen­er­ally held be­lief that the ‘Pa­tri­ots’ were ex­cel­lent lo­co­mo­tives and much un­der­rated. Pretty well ev­ery LMS en­thu­si­ast I have spo­ken to is of the opin­ion that one should have been pre­served, but a cou­ple of fairly fee­ble at­tempts to build a new one (in­clud­ing one to utilise the re­mains of Galatea) didn’t get off the ground.”

Nam­ing No. 5551 af­ter The Un­known War­rior and marketing it as the ‘Na­tional Me­mo­rial En­gine’ was an in­spired piece of pub­lic re­la­tions, and ar­guably one of the rea­sons this at­tempt at build­ing a ‘Pa­triot’ has suc­ceeded where oth­ers have failed.

The Un­known War­rior is now on the fi­nal stretch to­wards com­ple­tion. The boiler has re­turned to Her­itage Boiler Steam Ser­vices (see News) and will go back onto the frames once it is fin­ished and ready to be piped up. While the pro­ject would be the first to ad­mit it isn’t where it wanted to be right now, it is work­ing apace to fin­ish No. 5551, which should be out­shopped in Septem­ber 2019. The first main line runs will take place the fol­low­ing year, ful­fill­ing the pro­ject’s long-held am­bi­tion of re­turn­ing a Fowler ‘5XP’ to the na­tional net­work.

De­cid­ing on a firm to com­plete its con­struc­tion should be a for­mal­ity and The Un­known War­rior is in with a good shout to steam within the next 12 months. Like Prince of Wales, the LMS-Pa­triot Pro­ject has shown what’s pos­si­ble with a wellor­gan­ised team and ro­bust fund-rais­ing strat­egy. Choos­ing a name that com­ple­ments the orig­i­nal ‘Pa­tri­ots’ nam­ing theme and res­onates with the pub­lic was a wise move, and has un­doubt­edly con­trib­uted to­wards the ‘5XP’s’ suc­cess.

It is still too early to start pop­ping cham­pagne corks, but put a bot­tle or two on ice – be­cause

The Un­known War­rior isn’t far away at all.

JOHN HAST­INGS-THOM­SON/LMS-PA­TRIOT PRO­JECT

Group: The LMS-Pa­triot Pro­jectPro­ject formed: 2007 Pro­ject cost: £3 mil­lion (ap­prox.)Raised to date: £2.8 mil­lion Es­ti­mated com­ple­tion date: 2019 No. of sup­port­ers: 1300 Lo­ca­tion: Crewe Her­itage Cen­treTo run: Main line and pre­served rail­ways Al­most there – new-build ‘Pa­triot’ No. 5551The Un­known War­rior, tem­po­rar­ily cou­pled to the Fowler ten­der from ‘Crab’ No. 13065 at Crewe Her­itage Cen­tre on Novem­ber 10, pre­sents a close im­pres­sion of what the ‘Baby Scot’ will look like when it is fin­ished in late 2019/early 2020.

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