SCHOLARS MEET 'THEIR' STEAM LOCOMOTIVE
Young people from Foremarke Hall school travel behind steam locomotive 'Foremarke Hall' on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway
Scholars 'impressed by the scale of engineering'
It's not everyone who can claim to have a steam locomotive named after them – but that is the case for scholars at Foremarke Hall, the preparatory school for Repton college in Derbyshire.
And that locomotive is based on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, which operates between Cheltenham Racecourse and near Broadway.
This week, 22 design & technology, art and music scholars took a trip from Derbyshire to the railway to get to know 'their' engine, no. 7903 Foremarke Hall. The engine is one of 330 members of the 'Hall' class, designed by the Great Western Railway and built at Swindon. Only a handful of the class survive.
The engine was completed in 1949, just after nationalisation of Britain's railways and named after the school, which opened in 1947. For most of its life it was based at Old Oak Common near Paddington in London, handling a variety of train services from the capital to the Midlands, South Wales and the West Country.
Head of DT at the shcool, John Davis, says: “Of all the school visits I have organised in over 16 years as a teacher, this is one of the very best. The scholars have all been buzzing ever since.
“I think what impressed them most was the sheer scale of railway technology. One of them spotted a huge spanner – and while they are all used to tools such as spanners, the enormity of what they were seeing created a huge impression.”
Appropriately, the school's brass sextet gave a stirring rendition of once-local composer Elgar's 'Land of Hope and Glory' as the locomotive arrived at Toddington station.
The day included a visit to the railway's workshops as well as a trip to Cheltenham behind the locomotive. On the return journey the visitors stopped off at Winchcombe station where they visited model railways, the 'Discovery Coach' which provides a detailed timeline of the railway's history and the signal box.
The locomotive was driven by John Cruxon, the engineering manager of the Foremarke Hall locomotive owning group. John has been involved in the restoration of the locomotive following its rescue from a South Wales scrapyard and its operation on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.
John Cruxon explained how the locomotive works and what's involved in its regular operation – and was invited to pay a return visit to the school to explain more about the restoration of the steam locomotives that once shifted the nation's freight and passengers. He also pointed out that one of the directors of the Great Western Railway was a direct descendant of the Burdett family, who built and lived in Foremarke Hall when it was a great house - hence the name.
The locomotive ended its career in 1964 at the end of the steam era on the Western Region of British Railways, languishing in a scrapyard until its rescue by the present owning group, in 1981. During its restoration, parents and staff of the school undertook fundraising and bought shares in the engine.
Claudette Oddy, who is schools liaison officer at the volunteer-run railway and who arranged the visit for the school, said: “The young people from Foremarke Hall school were a delight and I think they went away with some lasting memories not just of 'their' locomotive but of the important contribution that steam railways made to the nation's economy.
“Clearly the scale of the engineering technology involved deeply struck them – the locomotive for instance, was developed and built long before the advent of modern communications and computer aided design.
“We would love to see them here again and I'm sure that this visit will be repeated in future.
“It has provided a firm and lasting link between the locomotive and the school after which it is named.”
In another curious quirk of steam locomotive survival, a locomotive named after Repton college also survives and operates on the North Yorkshire Moors railway.
26th September 2017
Media contact: Ian Crowder, 07775 566 555 or email@example.com
Pictures (high resoloution images available):
1) ‘Our engine!’ Youngsters from Foremarke Hall with the engine, Foremarke Hall at Toddington station
2) Striking the right note - school brass sextet play Elgar
3) Signalling the way ahead - scholars dwarfed by the signal box control levers
4) Dwarfed: youngsters pose beside another of the GWSR’s engines while touring the workshops at Toddington