GRANGE CLASS LOCOMOTIVES
South Wales was blessed by the presence of Barry Scrapyard to where hundreds of steam locomotives were sent for cutting up at the end of steam in the 1960s. Fortunately, because the yard was preoccupied with other matters, few were actually scrapped and preservation groups started buying the rusting hulks for preservation. Because the yard was in South Wales, a large proportion of the stock was of Great Western or BR(W) origin so today, the Great Western is very well represented by the number of locomotives that survive.
Most GWR classes still working in the 1960s are represented by those that survived but there were a very few notable omissions - and among them are the Collett 6800 Grange class 4-6-0s, of which 80 were built, and the Hawksworth County class 4-6-0s.
The Granges are perhaps the most lamented of the 'missing' classes. They were good looking locomotives, with a distinctive raised section of the running plate over the cylinders. They were powerful, free-steaming engines and were popular amongst crews - they were often termed the 'engineman's engine'.
Fortunately, the omission is being rectified - the 81st Grange is being built at Llangollen, no. 6880 Betton Grange and you can find out more of this project by visiting the Betton Grange website. The locomotive incorporates parts common to other locomotives which is entirely in keeping with the Great Western Railway's standardisation policy. For example, the Swindon No. 1 boiler have been donated by Modified Hall class 4-6-0 no. 7927 Willington Hall (the frames of that locomotive are, incidentally, being incorporated into a new-build County 4-6-0 at Didcot Railway Centre, plugging another Great Western gap).
The Betton Grange group regularly visit the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway with their information and sales stand at the annual Cotswold Festival of Steam. They have also promised that when their locomotive is complete, it will visit Toddington and can take on the identity of one of the last of the class to survive, no. 6848 Toddington Grange - a magnificent picture of which adorns the fireplace in the Flag & Whistle at Toddington station.
The picture of no. 6823 Oakley Grange approaching Bishops Cleeve in 1962, taken by the late Bill Potter and submitted to the website by Bernie Holland, is a reminder of what we are missing. The purposeful yet graceful appearance of these engines is difficult to beat. So how did the class come about?
The 6800 class had driving wheels of 5ft 8in diameter - four inches smaller than those of the Hall class. However, their cylinders were of the same size and the two classes shared the Swindon No. 1 boiler. They thus enjoyed a tractive effort 1,600lb greater than the Hall.
It's interesting to note that G J Chruchward had proposed a 4-6-0 of these proportions soon after he took office as CME of the Great Western Railway. The intention was to replace the ageing 4300 class 2-6-0s and indeed refurbished parts of this class were incorporated into the Grange, in particular the wheelsets and motion. However, it was not until 1936 that Collett built the first of the class and 80 had been completed by the time the second world war broke out. After hostilities ceased, the emphasis at Swindon had changed and the work was never resumed. Apart from the early members of the class, the locomotives were fitted with a smaller-diameter copper -capped chimney which helped to promote good draughting and free steaming.
The first to be withdrawn was in 1963 but the last four were: 6847 Tidmarsh Grange, 6848 Toddington Grange and 6849 Walton Grange and 6872 Crawley Grange, in December 1965. 6847's last allocation was Worcester; the others were withdrawn from Oxford.