GWR 6000 Class
6024 King Edward I with the "Torbay Express", 2009
The Great Western Railway (GWR) 6000 Class or King is a class of 4-6-0 steam locomotive designed for express passenger work and introduced in 1927. They were the largest locomotives built by the GWR (apart from the unique Pacific (The Great Bear). The class was named after kings of the United Kingdom and of England, beginning with the then reigning monarch, King George V, and going back through history. They handled the principal GWR expresses on the main line from London to the West of England and to on the GWR main line to Birmingham and Wolverhampton, until 1962 when the class was withdrawn.
Background and development
By 1918 it was apparent to the GWR, Chief mechanical engineer George Jackson Churchward that his Star Class 4-6-0 locomotives would soon be incapable of handling the heaviest West of England expresses without assistance. He therefore proposed fitting the 6 ft (1.83 m) diameter boiler used on his 4700 Class 2-8-0 on to a 4-6-0 chassis, in 1919, to create a more powerful express locomotive, but was prevented from doing so by the weight restrictions on the GWR main line. The future problem was therefore left for his successor, C.B. Collett to solve.
On taking up office in 1922, Collett began to develop the more powerful GWR Castle class from Churchward's Star class. However, the design was limited to a maximum axle-loading of 19.5 long tons (19,800 kg) due to the weakness of some underline bridges. The new class would not therefore be able to pull 13+ carriage express trains unaided. Following their introduction in 1923 the Castle Class was the most powerful express passenger class in the country in terms of tractive effort, but this honour was lost to the Southern Railway Lord Nelson class in 1926.
The GWR's General Manager, Sir Felix Pole, was anxious for a new design that would once again enable the company to claim to run the most powerful locomotive. Pole agreed to allow Collett to explore a design for a "Super-Castle", subject to getting the tractive effort above 40,000 lbf (180,000 N). By 1927 a series of bridge renewals had taken place on the Great Western mainlines. This was coupled with the widely known (but as yet unpublished) findings of the Bridge Stress Committee, which gave engineers a better scientific understanding of the impact of hammer blow, and enabled the GWR Civil Engineer to agree to raise the maximum allowable axle-loading to 22.5 long tons (22,900 kg) for the new ‘Super Castle’ class.
Although Collett was nominally responsible for the design of the class, the detailed work was undertaken by his Chief draughtsman Frederick Hawksworth. The bulk of the necessary increase in power was achieved through a new, longer, boiler with a working pressure raised to a maximum of 250 pounds per square inch (1.72 MPa), and also by increasing the cylinder stroke from 26 in (660 mm) to 28 in (711 mm). These factors together would have increased the tractive effort to around 38,165 lbf (169,770 N) slightly below the figure required by Pole. The 16 feet 0 inches (4.88 m) long GWR ‘Standard No.12’ boiler was only used on this class. It had a maximum diameter of 6 feet 0 inches (1.829 m) tapering to 5 feet 6 1⁄4 inches (1.683 m). There were 171 x 2 1⁄4 inches (57 mm) fire tubes, and 16 x 5 1⁄8 inches (130 mm) flue tubes. The firebox area | 194 square feet (18.0 m2), with a tube area of 2,008 square feet (186.5 m2). As built they had 96 × 1 inch (25 mm) superheater tubes.
There are two conflicting accounts as to why and at what stage the "King" class were equipped with smaller 6 ft 6 in (1.981 m) driving wheels rather than the standard 6 ft 8.5 in (2.045 m) used on "Castle" class. In the first of these accounts, the decision was taken at an early stage in the design to allow for the maximum sized boiler within the loading gauge. In the second account, the decision was made relatively late as a means of increasing the tractive effort by a further 1,145 lbf (5,090 N) to bring it closer to the 40,000 lbf (180,000 N) requested by Pole. In either event, this decision added significantly to the construction and maintenance costs of the class, requiring new patterns to be made. and it still fell short of the target. Therefore the first six locomotives to be built had their cylinders bored out to 16.25-inch (412.8 mm) giving a further 990 lbf (4,400 N), thereby enabling the ‘Kings’ to achieve a tractive effort of 40,300 lbf (179.3 kN).
To accommodate larger inner and outer cylinders the distinctive design of the leading bogie, with outside bearings on the fore wheel and inside bearings on the rear wheel. However, operational experience showed that clearance of the cylinders was problematic, resulting in the replacement of the outer pair on each locomotive's first major overhaul, which resulted in a reduction of tractive effort to 39,700 lbf (176.6 kN).
Twenty locomotives were ordered from the GWR Swindon Works in 1927 (Lot 243). The first locomotive No. 6000 King George V, appeared in June 1927. It was followed by five others (6001-6005) a month later. The remaining fourteen (6006-6019) appeared at almost weekly intervals between February and July 1928. A second batch of ten locomotives (6020-6029 Lot 267) appeared between May and August 1930.
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 (Lot 309) 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.
It was originally intended that the class be named after notable cathedrals, but, following an invitation to feature a GWR locomotive in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's (B&O) centenary celebrations, the GWR decided to make them more notable by naming the class after British Kings.
Following the death of King George V in 1936, No. 6029 ‘King Stephen’ was renamed ‘King Edward VIII’ after his successor; and following the abdication of the latter in the same year, No. 6028 was renamed ‘King George VI’ after the new King.
The class proved to be successful and able to cope with the heaviest express trains at a higher-speed timetable average than the "Castle". Due to their size and weight, the King class was however restricted to the London-Taunton-Plymouth (via both Bristol and Westbury) and the London-Birmingham-Wolverhampton (via Bicester) main lines. The class was therefore used on the GWR's crack expresses such as the Cornish Riviera Limited until the end of regular steam hauled express services on the Western Region of British Railways, although they needed assistance for the heaviest services over the South Devon Banks between Newton Abbot and Plymouth. They were unable to serve in Cornwall, due to the weakness of the Royal Albert Bridge, and so when they were hauling the Cornish Riviera Limited, they had to be swapped for a 'Castle' or 'Hall' at Devonport.
King George V in the USA
After six months of operation, No. 6000 was shipped to North America in August 1927 to join in Baltimore & Ohio Centenary celebrations, where its sleek appearance and smooth performance impressed all who witnessed it. King George V was presented with a brass bell and cabside medallions to mark the occasion. 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.
No. 6014 was partially streamlined in March 1935 with a hemispherical smokebox door, continuous splashers, straight nameplate and a swept-back cab front. However, the appendages were soon removed, with the exception of the cab. The class proved to be capable and reliable when using the high-calorific South Wales steam coal, on which the GWR had always relied for its good locomotive performance. However, during the 1948 locomotive exchanges, King Henry VI 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. As originally built the class had a Swindon superheater with an area of 313 square feet (29.1 m2). However, in 1947 experiments were undertaken with a four-row high-degree superheater in No. 6022 King Edward III. As a result, the four-row superheaters were fitted to the whole 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.
Accidents and incidents
There have been two serious accidents involving the class.
- 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. As a result the locomotive was written-off and replaced by another with the same name and number.
- On 4 November 1940, an express passenger train hauled by No. 6028 King George VI was derailed at Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset due to the driver misreading signals. Twenty-seven people were killed and 57 were seriously injured.
List of King Class locomotives
|No.||Name||Date built||Date Double Chimney||Date withdrawn||First shed||Last shed||Notes|
|6000||King George V||June 1927||December 1956||December 1962||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||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.|
|6001||King Edward VII||July 1927||February 1956||September 1962||Old Oak Common||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury|
|6002||King William IV||July 1927||March 1956||September 1962||Plymouth Laira||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury|
|6003||King George IV||July 1927||July 1958||June 1962||Old Oak Common||Cardiff Canton||Involved with incident at Midgham August 1927 when bogie derailed producing redesign of bogie springing on the whole of 'King' class. Scrapped by Swindon Works|
|6004||King George III||July 1927||July 1958||June 1962||Plymouth Laira||Old Oak Common||Scrapped by Swindon Works.|
|6005||King George II||July 1927||July 1956||November 1962||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cashmore's, Great Bridge.|
|6006||King George I||February 1928||June 1956||February 1962||Plymouth Laira||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped by Swindon Works.|
|6007||King William III||March 1928||-||March 1936||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||Severely damaged in Shrivenham collision 15 January 1936 and condemned 5 March 1936.|
|March 1936||September 1956||September 1962||Old Oak Common||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||Replacement built using some parts of the original engine. 'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury|
|6008||King James II||March 1928||December 1958||June 1962||Plymouth Laira||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped by Swindon Works.|
|6009||King Charles II||March 1928||May 1956||September 1962||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cashmore's, Newport.|
|6010||King Charles I||April 1928||March 1956||June 1962||Plymouth Laira||Cardiff Canton||Scrapped by Swindon Works.|
|6011||King James I||April 1928||March 1956||December 1962||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. 1,718,295 miles (2,765,328 km) recorded on withdrawal. Scrapped by Swindon Works.|
|6012||King Edward VI||April 1928||February 1958||September 1962||Newton Abbot||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury|
|6013||King Henry VIII||May 1928||June 1956||June 1962||Old Oak Common||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped by Swindon Works|
|6014||King Henry VII||May 1928||September 1957||September 1962||Newton Abbot||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||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|
|6015||King Richard III||June 1928||September 1955||September 1962||Old Oak Common||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury.|
|6016||King Edward V||June 1928||January 1958||September 1962||Plymouth Laira||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury|
|6017||King Edward IV||June 1928||December 1955||July 1962||Old Oak Common||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury|
|6018||King Henry VI||June 1928||March 1958||December 1962||Plymouth Laira||Cardiff Canton||Re-instated to work last King journey under BR from Birmingham via Southall to Swindon. Scrapped by Swindon Works|
|6019||King Henry V||July 1928||April 1957||September 1962||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||Scrapped at Cashmore's, Newport.|
|6020||King Henry IV||May 1930||February 1956||July 1962||Plymouth Laira||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury.|
|6021||King Richard II||June 1930||March 1957||September 1962||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||Scrapped at Cashmore's, Newport.|
|6022||King Edward III||June 1930||May 1956||September 1962||Plymouth Laira||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||'Alfloc' water treatment fitted 1954. Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury.|
|6023||King Edward II||June 1930||June 1957||June 1962||Newton Abbot||Old Oak Common||Acquired by the famed Woodham Brothers Scrapyard, Barry Island, South Wales 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 engine to make it out of 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.|
|6024||King Edward I||June 1930||March 1957||June 1962||Plymouth Laira||Cardiff Canton||Acquired by Woodham Brothers Scrapyard in Barry Island in December 1962. Sold to Quainton Road, Bucks and left as the 36th departure from Barry March 1973. Currently owned by the Royal Scot Locomotive and General Trust, under overhaul at the West Somerset Railway.|
|6025||King Henry III||July 1930||March 1957||December 1962||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||Scrapped by Swindon Works.|
|6026||King John||July 1930||March 1958||September 1962||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||Scrapped by Swindon Works.|
|6027||King Richard I||July 1930||August 1956||September 1962||Old Oak Common||Wolverhampton, Stafford Road||Scrapped at Cox & Danks, Oldbury.|
|6028||King George VI||July 1930||January 1957||November 1962||Old Oak Common||Cardiff Canton||Originally built as King Henry II, renamed January 1937. 1,663,271 miles (2,676,775 km) at withdrawal. Scrapped at Bird's, Newport. Involved in Norton Fitzwarren rail crash (1940); severely damaged but repaired.|
|6029||King Edward VIII||August 1930||December 1957||July 1962||Old Oak Common||Old Oak Common||Originally built as King Stephen, renamed May 1936. Scrapped at Cashmore's, Newport|
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.
|Number||Image||Name||Owner||Current location||Current status|
|On static display, only original height King.|
|Operational, not mainline certified. Due to limited time on current boiler ticket is to be certified for mainline use following completion of next overhaul.|
|Overhaul underway at the West Somerset Railway. Being done to mainline standards.|
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.
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- Haresnape, Brian (1978). Collett & Hawksworth Locomotives: A Pictorial History. Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-0869-8.
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- Nock, O.S. (1980). The GWR Stars, Castles and Kings: Part 1 & Part 2 (Omnibus edition). London: David & Charles/Book Club Associates. ISBN 9780715379776.
- Nock, O.S. (1983). British Locomotives of the Twentieth Century Part 1. London: Patrick Stephens/London Book Club Associates. ISBN 0850595959.
- "The Office of Mayor" (PDF). Swindon Borough Council. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
- Roden, Andrew (2010). Great Western Railway - A History. Aurum.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to GWR 6000 Class.|
- King Class introduction (Great Western Archive)
- No. 6000 King George V (National Railway Museum)
- No. 6023 King Edward II (Great Western Society)
- No. 6024 King Edward I (6024 Preservation Society)
- Winchester, Clarence, ed. (1 February 1935), "How mighty are the Kings", Railway Wonders of the World, pp. 21–26, contemporary account of the class