GWR 6000 Class 6000 King George V
|King George V|
After developing the "new" GWR Star class in the form of the GWR Castle class, Chief mechanical engineer C.B. Collett was faced with the need to develop an even more powerful locomotive to pull 13+ carriage express trains.
Collett successfully argued with the GWR's General Manager, Sir Felix Pole, that had the axle-loading restriction of 19.5 long tons (19,800 kg) of the "Castle" class been increased to the maximum allowable of 22.5 long tons (22,900 kg), an even more powerful locomotive could have been created. Pole agreed to allow Collett to explore such a design, subject to getting tractive effort above 40,000 lbf (180,000 N).
Collett designed the "King" class to the maximum dimensions of the original GWR 7 ft 1⁄4 in (2,140 mm) broad-gauge engineering used to develop its mainline, resulting in the largest loading gauge of all the pre-nationalisation railways in the UK, with 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. To accommodate the largest possible boiler, and to conform with Pole's requested tractive effort requirement, the "King" class were equipped with smaller 6 ft 6 in (1.981 m) main driving wheels than the "Castle" class. This resulted in both the GWR's highest-powered locomotive design, but most importantly a higher tractive effort than the "Castle". This combination allowed the "King" class to pull the now required higher-weight 13+ coach express trains from London to Bristol and onwards to the West Country, at a higher-speed timetable average than the "Castle".
With the class to be originally named after notable cathedrals, in light of the invitation to feature in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's centenary celebrations, the GWR decided to make them more notable by naming the class after British Kings.
As the first of the class, No.6000 was specifically named after the then monarch of the United Kingdom King George V. Built at Swindon Works and completed in June 1927, following a period of running in, the locomotive was shipped to the United States in August 1927, to feature in the B&O's centenary celebrations. During the celebrations it was presented with a bell and a plaque, and these are carried to this day. This led to it being affectionately known as "The Bell". The bell carries the inscription:
Locomotive King George V
After returning from the US it was allocated to Old Oak Common. Moved by British Railways to Bristol in 1950, it was returned to Old Oak Common in 1959, and withdrawn by the Western Region of British Railways in December 1962 after covering 1,910,424 miles (3,074,529 km).
The locomotive was officially preserved as part of the national collection. It was restored to main line running order at the Bulmer's Railway Centre in Hereford. Operationally based at Hereford, in 1971 it became the very first steam locomotive to break the British Railways mainline steam ban that had been in place since the day after the Fifteen Guinea Special in 1968. Its restoration to main line service and subsequent operation is often credited with opening the door for the return of steam to the main lines of the UK.
After years of running, a costly overhaul of the locomotive was declined by the National Railway Museum. In part, this was due to the fact that, since its second renovation, a second class-member King Edward I had been restored for mainline operation. In addition, the higher ballast beds in place on the Western Region since the early 1980s, to allow for the high speed running of the InterCity 125 train sets, have greatly reduced the running-level loading gauge of the former GWR mainline - especially under bridges - to 13 feet 1 inch (3.99 m), so enabling mainline running of a "King" class now requires a reduction in the height of the original GWR-built chimney, cab and safety valve bonnets by 4 inches (100 mm), as had been done on the restoration of King Edward I. No.6000 is the only one of the three preserved "King" class locomotives to retain its original-built full-height fittings.
After closure of the Bulmer's Steam Centre, No.6000 moved to the Swindon "Steam" Railway Museum. In 2008, it swapped places with BR standard class 9F 92220 Evening Star, and became resident at the National Railway Museum. In late 2015, No. 6000, along with No. 3717 City of Truro, returned to STEAM – Museum of the Great Western Railway (located at the site of the old railway works in Swindon), and both were put on display in preparation for Swindon 175 (in 2016), celebrating 175 years since the inception of Swindon as a railway town. Both locomotives are expected to remain at Swindon for 5 years.
As was displayed as a static exhibit at the Swindon 'Steam' Railway Museum
- O.S. Nock (25 Sep 1980). Great Western Railway GWR Stars, Castles and Kings: Part 1 & Part 2. David & Charles/London Book Club Associates. ISBN 9780715379776.
- "Back home! Swindon legends go back on display". The Railway Magazine. Horncastle, Lincs: Mortons Media Group. 161 (1, 377): 9. 2 December 2015. ISSN 0033-8923.
- "STEAM Gets Set for Swindon175 Celebrations". STEAM - Museum of the Great Western Railway. Archived from the original on 11 February 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
- Wood, G. C. (1972). 6000 King George V – a chronology. Hereford: 6000 Locomotive Association.
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