GWR CrestStewardship
Great Western Railway Standard Gauge Locomotives
Ivor Lewis

HMRS Great Western Railway Stewards

The Great Western Railway was extensive geographically, it had many parts to its operation and was in existence for over 100 years as a company. The HMRS therefore has several stewards with knowledge of different parts of its operations. This page covers only the standard gauge locomotive fleet as that is my brief as a steward. We have other stewards with knowledge of the Broad Gauge era, the Architecture, the Rolling Stock and the various absorbed Welsh and other railways which became part of the GWR, mainly in the 20th century. The GWR ceased to exist in 1948 but the steam locomotive heritage continued until the end of steam in the mid 1960s which I cover as well. The modern train operating company with the same name is a separate and later entity and is not considered.


As far as locomotive power is concerned, Broad Gauge locomotives were used on the main lines until the end of that gauge in 1892 and the relevant Broad Gauge Steward should be consulted for any B.G. locomotive matters. Initially the Great Western acquired standard gauge locomotives through acquisition and amalgamation with standard gauge lines in the West Midlands. Responsibility for these standard gauge locomotives rested with the works based in Wolverhampton but as time went by, the main works at Swindon started to maintain and then construct standard gauge locomotives.

The GWR was served over the years by some very famous and well respected locomotive superintendents, later entitled Chief Mechanical Engineers. The first was Daniel Gooch but his designs were only Broad Gauge although he set a standard of performance to which later engineers aspired. The names of Joseph and George Armstrong, William Dean, George Churchward, Charles Collett and Frederick Hawksworh are well known to most railway historians and enthusiast. Churchward’s experiments with boilers led to a paper to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1906 and this drawing was prepared for that meeting. I wrote an article about these developments which was published in Backtrack magazine in 2013.

GWR boiler drawing

The next two images are typical engines from the 1890s to 1910: The Achilles class (HMRS ref ABA618) and the record breaking City of Truro (HMRS ref ABL118)

ABA618 ABL117


The first pacific 4-6-2 engine in Britain was a result of this boiler improvement work. (HMRS ref ABL105) but the run of the mill general engine is typified by this Hall class loco (HMRS ref ABL007)

ABL105 ABL007



The classic GWR branch line is a favourite with many modellers and some GWR Main Line models, Station scenes and Locomotive Shed Dioramas have been constructed and illustrated in the model press. Model makers wishing to model or use GWR locomotives are well catered for by ‘Ready to Run’ (RTR) items from the main manufacturers. There are also several small suppliers who provide brass kits to build or for the bolder, wishing to build from basic materials, there are suppliers of wheels, motors and fittings to help the process. It is probably a true observation that there are dozens if not hundreds of unbuilt GWR kits in prospective model makers drawers awaiting the time to construct. The HMRS can help in this task by providing advice or just by inspiring prospective model makers to start. The range of resources we hold from drawings, photographs, transfers, running details like timetables and other historical archive material can help those who wish to run a model railway with some historic reality or just to build an accurate model of a historical locomotive for the pleasure of it. One of the HMRS publications (in print) is ‘Great Western Way’ which is a comprehensive record of the liveries used by the GWR and its constituent companies over the whole of its existence and is an invaluable resource for modellers.

I am one of those with a drawer full of kits and several unfinished models which I have illustrated here just to show what a half finished model looks like! The 44xx class from a Mitchell kit is nearly finished and painted but numbering and final completion awaits. The chassis, superstructure and tender for a 43xx class 2-6-0 are also from a Mitchell kit but the progress has stalled at this point.

model loco model tender


model chassis model loco body



GWR locomotives are well represented on many Heritage Railways where they are either static exhibits awaiting restoration or with operating certificates. Many are in steam and used on regular train trips. Perhaps the most extensive collection is at the Great Western Society at Didcot in Oxfordshire which is open to the public most weekends and many other times during the year. Vintage Trains operating from Tyseley Locomotive Works in Birmingham is another major Great Western heritage company renowned for their restoration of GWR Castle Class Locomotives. The heritage line and workshop at Langollen maintain the heritage tradition as do other heritage rail centres of which there are many in various parts of the country. The HMRS is pleased to support all this effort to preserve the GWR locomotive heritage and memory and we often supply information and material from our collections for these purposes. And then of course there are the static museum exhibits at STEAM in Swindon and The National Railway Museum. One cannot list all these places but there are many with examples of mainly 20th century designs. Here are two photographs taken by myself at Didcot of a typical Pannier Tank and the ‘Blue King’.

King class loco pannier tank



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