Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Winston Churchill's funeral train at the NRM

The great man died 50 years ago - January 1965. I can remember watching his St Paul's Cathedral funeral on black and white TV, and afterwards his remains were carried by special train from London Waterloo station to his place of burial in Oxfordshire. The train was hauled by Southern Region pacific locomotive bearing his name, and that locomotive together with the luggage waggon that conveyed his coffin have been cosmetically restored and are currently on display at the National Railway Museum's Great Hall in York. Today, Malc, Pete S, Pete A, John and me went to see them.

John, Malc, Pete A, and Pete S by the locomotive in the museum today

'Battle of Britain' class locomotive 'Winston Churchill'. Many of these engines were re-built without the air-smooth casing and with the removal of such unsuccessful features as chain-driven valve gear in an oil bath casing. When rebuilt they were considered to be much better locomotives fully realising their basic good design of boiler and running gear which had been hampered by Bulleid's (the designer) more eccentric features.

The locomotive's somewhat untidy cab

The restored luggage waggon which conveyed Churchill's coffin

This view of the locomotive shows its white 'Southern Railway' headcode indicators and the gap in the streamlined casing designed (none too successfully) to lift the smoke from the chimney clear of the boiler to aid the train crew's view ahead

Furness Railway 'Coppernob'  in the Great Hall at York 

Probably the first locomotive to travel at more than 100mph, the Great Western's 4-4-0 'City of Truro' 

Majesty in steam; LMS Stanier Pacific 'Duchess of Hamilton' displayed in its original streamlined condition. Many Duchess Pacifics were originally built in this condition, but all were later 'de streamlined' as the casing offered little aerodynamic advantage and added more than 3 tons of weight. 'Duchess of Hamilton' was re-streamlined some years ago, but is unfortunately not in working condition at the moment.  

Me 'driving' a top steam loco!

The view from Hamilton's driving seat 

The massive Duchess firebox. These locomotives were the most powerful steam engines to run in Britain. Their ultimate power output has probably never been realised as a fireman cannot feed this massive fire box fast enough to fully satisfy a Duchess in full cry. Nevertheless, Duchesses have put up efforts of power output, in service and in preservation, unmatched by any other British steam Locomotive. 

Duchess of Hamilton's cab 

Nearby in the Great Hall is the Great Western 'King', 'King George V' complete with the bell (not the original) it acquired when it visited the USA before WW2. These were designed by the GWR's then Chief Mechanical Engineer Charles Collett in the 1920s and were the most advanced steam locomotives of their time. The GWR never developed any main line steam locomotives to follow the 'Kings'. It was Collett's assistant at the GWR, William Stanier, who, when head-hunted by the LMS (London, Midland, and Scottish) Railway to develop a 'Super King' embodying much of Swindon's best practice and enhancing it. These were the 'Princess Royal' pacifics built at Crewe in the early 1930s. Stanier's development of the Princess Royal, the Princess Coronation or 'Duchess' class of the late 1930s and 1940s really was 'the ultimate in steam'.    

Another look at Princess Coronation 'Duchess of Hamilton' and its iconic art deco train 

In the NRM workshop is the boiler of the NRM's biggest embarrassment. 'Flying Scotsman' (4472) purchased many years ago without a thorough enough survey it has proved to be a money-pit, soaking up millions of pounds that could have gone to restoring other locomotives. And years later, it's still a long way from seeing service. 

Flying Scotsman's tender in the workshop 

'Evening Star', the last steam locomotive to built (in 1960) for British Railways. Perhaps if 4472 hadn't absorbed so much of the NRM's funds this locomotive could have been restored to working condition.

'Evening Star' is a BR standard class 9F, a freight locomotive. However, as she was the last Swindon gave her a name, a lined green paint finish instead of black, and a GWR-style copper-capped chimney  (the only 9F to receive these embellishments). Evening Star and many other 9Fs actually proved very capable engines on passenger trains, especially on hilly routes such as the Somerset & Dorset. But only in summer, as they were never fitted with steam heating apparatus to provide heat for the coaches.  

Back to the 1800s. A Midland Railway 'Single' in the Station Hall, our last look at the museum before returning home. By train of course!


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