We are delighted to announce that the revered Stephenson Locomotive Society will publish an article written by founding Trust member Bruce Nixon concerning the LNWR George the Fifth class ‘Ptarmigan’ and its epic run in the forthcoming issue of the SLS Journal due out on the 15th March.
The Stephenson Locomotive Society came into existence in 1909 and is the preeminent society in the UK dedicated to the study of rail transport and of railway locomotion specifically. Named in honour of George Stephenson, its membership has included amatuers and professionals alike including great British CME’s such as William Stanier and Oliver Bulleid and the brilliant French mechanical Engineer Andre Chapelon. The SLS was instrumental in the preservation of the magnificent Stroudley LBSCR 0-4-2 ‘Gladstone’ for the National Collection and for the benefit of future generations. The SLS houses a vast collection of photographic and drawing material amassed over 100 years, which members have access to.
Of particular interest given our Trust’s aims is that the SLS is the custodian of a genuine LNWR survivor – Orion – an LNWR Alfred the Great class and the last surviving Webb Compound in the world. While Orion happens to be 9 1/2″ scale, she was built at Crewe Works by the London & North Western Railway over 100 years ago thus making her a genuine LNWR locomotive. Irrespective of her diminutive size, Orion is one of only a handful of former LNWR locomotives surviving in preservation anywhere in the world, to any scale, which makes it an important and fascinating piece of heritage.
We are excited and humbled to have an article about the feats of the Georges and about our efforts to build a new member of this class featured in the journal of the SLS. For those interested in joining the ranks of this illustrious society with its proud history, not least in the areas of preservation and heritage and its commitment to the study of railway transport old and new should visit the Society’s website:
As fabrication finally gets underway we’ve been critically assessing the designs and pouring over reports of the engine’s performance whilst in service to identify flaws and investigate where and how to incorporate the best of modern practice while remaining as true as possible to the original design. To this end Ted Talbot, Peter Stanton and Jamie Keyte among others are dedicating their invaluable time and expertise to the task, and we hope to report more on their involvement as the project progresses.
A task of building a new-build of an extinct class is a fine balancing act – that is, how to be true to the original design while ensuring that any design flaws when identified, aren’t repeated or are at least mitigated. In the case of the LNWR George the Fifth class, we are dealing with a design that is over 100 years old. We have the benefit of hindsight arising from reports into the service life of the class (which themselves have to be investigated for their veracity or potential bias – take the reports of ‘flimsy frames‘ for example, which appears to have been unwarranted) and of 100 years of subsequent practice in locomotive engineering specifically and engineering and metallurgy more generally.
And so in addition to the tremendous pool of expertise and knowledge mentioned above we are also pleased to announce the critical assistance of Derby-trained Richard Coleby who has kindly agreed to investigate reports of possible valve-gear errors in the original George the Fifth design. Richard’s impressive resume includes serving an Engineering Apprenticeship at Derby Loco Works in the final years of steam during which he gained an in-depth knowledge of the repair and maintenance of steam locomotives.
After leaving BR in 1969 he established a partnership dedicated to building large scale miniature steam locomotives and was responsible for the design of several engines including the famous Stapleford Nickel Plate Berkshire (at the time the most powerful 1/5th scale locomotive in the world) and the 59 class Garratt now residing at the NRM.
In the 1980s he was responsible for a rebuild of the Stapleford Curwen Atlantic ‘John of Gaunt’ which included many features designed to reduce maintenance requirements, such as the enclosed toary-driven valve gear, roller crossheads and big-ends and balanced slide valves. In 2009 he led the project to build ‘Norfolk Heroine’ the second Garratt on the Wells & Walsingham Light Railway and is currently working on a completely new Garratt incorporating as much modern practice as possible into a large miniature engine design.
We humbly thank Richard for his invaluable contribution, helping to ensure that this new-build George the Fifth, while a true member of the class and externally indistinguishable from its siblings will nonetheless incorporate the best of modern practice where absolutely critical so that maintenance can be minimised and service-life extended. We aim to build-to-last – an engine that will well outlast us – ensuring many decades of enjoyment for all who see her and ride behind her.