Join us this weekend where we are pleased to welcome ‘Pitchford Hall’ to Didcot Railway Centre. Following a successful visit of our own Pendennis Castle to the Epping and Ongar Railway, it’s our turn to showcase one of their loco’s and we’re delighted that this will take part in our autumn steam gala.
Pitchford Hall is a member of the GWR 4900, or "Hall," Class of locomotives, designed by Charles Collett. 259 locomotives of this class were built, and the design is said to have heavily contributed to LMS Standard 5 and LNER Thompson B1 classes. The class latterly received a 5MT power classification under BR. 11 examples have been saved for preservation, several have made it back onto the mainline, including Pitchford Hall and one of which, Olton Hall, has gained international fame through becoming the 'Hogwarts Express' locomotive.
Pitchford Hall was built at Swindon in August 1929 at a cost of £4,375, and was first allocated to Bristol, Bath Road shed. Latterly in August 1950 it was transferred to Cardiff Canton and fitted with BR type piston valves and liners February 1956 but reverted back to WR standard within two years. In March 1959 she was allocated to Swindon and then transferred from Cardiff Canton to Cardiff East Dock shed in September 1962. Her last years were spent at Cardiff East Dock before being withdrawn in May 1963 having covered 1,344,464 miles, and was sent to Woodham's Brothers Scrapyard in Barry in November 1963.
Pitchford Hall was the 150th departure from Barry in February 1984, when it was taken to Tyseley Locomotive Works where a comprehensive overhaul was undertaken for a reportedly seven figure sum. She moved again under her own power in February 2004, making her first public appearance in 42 years at Crewe in September 2005, being seen by over 40,000 people.
'Hall' class locomotives were used all over the Great Western and Western Region. Their duties were diverse from standing in for failed 'Castles' on expresses (and keeping to tight schedules) to heavy freight work and secondary passenger services. The impressive acceleration of these engines made them particularly suited to the duties that required frequent stops, where the smaller wheels gave greater adhesion and therefore reduced slipping when starting from standstill.
The 'Hall' class and other GWR 2-cylinder engines all have a distinctive 'bark' to their exhaust notes, which is one thing that helps to maintain enthusiasm throughout the generations. Their long service also ensured they wore a number of liveries. This included the passenger class fully lined GWR green until 1948 and nationalisation, then during the early BR years all mixed traffic classes on all regions carried the lined black livery. In 1956 some discretion was allowed by BR, and the Western Region was allowed to paint mixed traffic engines in fully lined Brunswick green.
Pitchford Hall returned to the mainline in December 2005, and operated a number of special mainline charter trains during 2007 and 2009, but has also visited a number of heritage railways, including West Somerset Railway, Llangollen (where it double-headed with City of Truro), Mid Hants Railway (standing in for King Edward II) and Great Central Railway, where it has hauled passenger as well as charter freight and even demonstration Travelling Post Office trains to the delight of visitors.
Following a major overhaul lasting over 5 years the locomotive returned to traffic in December 2019 wearing British Railways lined black livery.
In addition to the visiting engine, we’ll be opening our gates at 8.30am so that you can see our engines being prepared for service and our café will be serving bacon rolls to start the day off well! We will also show a number of locomotive line-ups for keen photographers, showing 3 Hall’s together, and then the magnificence of a Hall, Castle, King and Manor. We’ll be showing demonstrations of our 50 ton hoist showing off how to remove and replace a bogey (limited spaces available), our traverser will be in operation and there’ll be the rare opportunity to ride in our Wickham Trolley.
23rd/24th September 2023