The Great Western Railway6000 Class or King is a class of 4-6-0steam locomotive designed for express passenger work. With the exception of one Pacific (The Great Bear), they were the largest locomotives the GWR built. They were named after kings of the United Kingdom and of England, beginning with the reigning monarch, King George V, and going back through history. Following the death of King George V, the highest-numbered engine was renamed after his successor; and following the abdication of the latter, the next-highest engine was also renamed after the new King.
This class was designed under the direction of C. B. Collett, as an enlarged version of Collett's Castle Class, which in turn was an enlargement of George Jackson Churchward's Star Class. Churchward had proposed fitting the 6 ft (1.83 m) diameter boiler used on his 4700 Class2-8-0 on to a 4-6-0 chassis in 1919 to create a more powerful express locomotive, but had been prevented from doing so due to weight restrictions on several bridges on the GWR main line. Collett's Castle class of 1923 was therefore a compromise with a 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) boiler. However, bridge strengthening and a better understanding of the effect of hammer blow on structures brought about by the work of the 'Bridge Stress Committee' set up by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research led to the relaxation of these restrictions.
The new design was partly to meet future traffic requirements, but was also a response to the Great Western Railway publicity department's desire to regain the title of having the 'most powerful express passenger steam locomotive in Britain', which had been taken from the Castle Class in 1926 by the Southern Railway Lord Nelson Class. The engines, as originally designed, delivered 39,700 lbf (177,000 N) tractive effort, with 16-inch (410 mm) bore by 28-inch (710 mm) stroke cylinders and 250 pounds per square inch (1.72 MPa) boiler. At a request from Sir Felix Pole, the Great Western's General Manager, to get the tractive effort up to above 40,000 lbf (180,000 N) (a major goalpost), the cylinders were enlarged to 161⁄4-inch (412.8 mm) bore, bringing the figure up to 40,300 lbf (179,000 N). This increase was removed on all members of the class at their first major overhaul. The distinctive design of the leading bogie (with outside bearings on the fore wheel and inside bearings on the rear wheel) was to allow for these larger cylinders.
The first, No. 6000 King George V, appeared in 1927 and was sent on a tour of North America, for the Centenary celebrations of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), where its sleek appearance and smooth performance impressed all who witnessed it. The application of pressurised oil lubrication showed its advantages over the largely grease-lubricated American Locomotives, and was even incorporated into a later design for the B&O in 1928. King George V was presented with a brass bell to mark the occasion. The original scheme for the 'Kings' had been to name them after cathedrals, but when the US trip was planned it was felt that a more unmistakably British icon was needed. During planning and construction the engine was dubbed the 'Super-Castle'.
They were engines to be reckoned with, powering the Western Region's crack expresses like the Cornish Riviera Limited up until the end of regular steam hauled express services on the WR. The 'Kings', however, were unable to serve Cornwall, due to the Royal Albert Bridge being too weak for their weight, and so when they were hauling the Cornish Riviera Limited, they had to be swapped for a 'Castle' or 'Hall' at Devonport.
An interesting fact is that although the railway claimed that the class was built in response to longer and heavier trains, it was several years after its introduction before the platforms at the company's major stations were lengthened to accommodate these trains. The class was restricted to the London-Taunton-Plymouth (via both Bristol and Westbury) and London-Birmingham-Wolverhampton (via Bicester) main lines, and even then, only after bridge strengthening had taken place, due to the engines' large boilers giving them a high axle weight of 22.5 long tons (22.9 t). William Stanier based his LMS Princess Royal Class design on the King Class, but with an enlarged boiler and firebox necessitating a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement.
In 1947 experiments had been made with a four-row high-degree superheater in No. 6022 King Edward III, owing to a decline in the availability of high-calorific South Wales steam coal, on which the GWR had always relied for its good locomotive performance. During the 1948 locomotive exchanges, King Henry VI had performed disappointingly using Yorkshire coal, despite demonstrating the 4-6-0 type's unique sure-footedness when climbing out of Kings Cross, where pacific types were apt to slip alarmingly. After this, four-row superheaters were fitted to the class, and modifications were also made to the draughting arrangement, using No. 6001 King Edward VII as a test-bed. From September 1955 double blast-pipes and chimneys were fitted, initially to No. 6015 King Richard III. Following successful testing the whole of the class was subsequently modified and, as a result, their final years in British Railways ownership saw the very best of their performance, particularly on the steep South Devon banks at Dainton, Rattery, and Hemerdon.
On 15 January 1936, a freight train became divided at Shrivenham, Berkshire. Due to errors by the guard of the freight train and a signalman, an express passenger train hauled by No. 6007 King William III ran into the six wagons that had been left behind and derailed. Two people were killed.
On 4 November 1940, an express passenger train hauled by No. 6028 King George VIwas derailed at Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset due to the driver misreading signals. Twenty-seven people were killed and 57 were seriously injured.
Thirty-one locomotives were built at Swindon, as follows:
Of the 31, only 30 were in service simultaneously. The original no. 6007 King William III was written off after an accident near Shrivenham on 15 January 1936, and was condemned on 5 March 1936. A replacement was built which may have incorporated some parts from the damaged locomotive; it took the same number and name, and was added to stock on 24 March 1936.
Shipped to America August 1927 to join in Baltimore & Ohio Centenary celebrations. Presented with bell and cabside medallions. Alfloc water treatment fitted 1954. 1,910,424 miles (3,074,529 km) recorded on withdrawal. Restored by Bulmer's Railway Centre, Hereford. Preserved, National Railway Museum, York Currently at Steam Railway Museum, Swindon.
Fitted with streamlining from March 1935, but all removed by January 1943 except for 'v'-shaped cab. 'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. 1,830,386 miles (2,945,721 km) on withdrawal. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury
Acquired by Woodham's, Barry in December 1962. One pair of driving wheels deliberately cut to enable shunting within the scrap yard. Sold to Brunel Trust, Bristol Temple Meads and left as the 159th departure from Barry December 1984. After protracted preservation (with new driving wheels having been cast; the only steam locomotive in preservation to have received such treatment), the locomotive was restored and entered traffic with an official launch ceremony at Didcot on 2 April 2011.
As a result of its previous 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) broad-gauge system, the GWR had the largest loading gauge of all the pre-nationalisation railways in the UK. To allow for maximum power creation and resultant speed, the GWR designed the King class to its maximum mainline loading gauge, specifically a maximum height allowance of 13 feet 5 inches (4.09 m). Consequently, this restricted them as to where they could operate under both GWR and British Railways ownership.
Developments in high-speed rail from the 1970s mean that ballast depths have increased, resulting in a present decrease in UK pan-network loading gauge height. This has recently started to be reversed with the introduction of pan-European loading gauge standards on some mainlines, mainly originating from ports. The present result of these civil engineering changes is that an original height King locomotive would not pass through various points of the modern Network Rail system, designed to a loading gauge height of 13 feet 1 inch (3.99 m).
Faced with a choice of either not operating their locomotives on the mainline or modifying to allow them to pass within the current restricted UK loading gauge, private societies choose to reduce the height of their locomotives by 4 inches (102 mm) by: reducing cab and chimney height; modifying some upper pipe work. The National Railway Museum, owners of 6000 King George V, decided to keep this locomotive in its original condition.
The Borough of Swindon commissioned a new coat of arms when it became a unitary authority in 1997. The coat of arms includes an image of 6000 King George V on the shield, recognising the importance of the Swindon works in the development of Swindon. The coat of arms of the old Borough of Swindon (1900–74) included an image of GWR 3031 Class 3029 White Horse.
Allcock, N.J.; Davies, F.K.; le Fleming, H.M.; Maskelyne, J.N.; Reed, P.J.T.; Tabor, F.J. (June 1951). White, D.E., ed. The Locomotives of the Great Western Railway, part one: Preliminary Survey. Kenilworth: RCTS. ISBN0-901115-17-7. OCLC650412984.