A Tale of Two Halls

A question often asked is, 'What's the difference between a Hall and a Modified Hall?' Well, hopefully after reading this page, you'll know!


There is Modified Hall currently resident on the GWR: 7903 Foremarke Hall. The 4900 or Hall class was designed by C B Collett to meet the need for a mixed-traffic locomotive with wide route availability that was more powerful than the 43xx 2-6-0s, which were beginning to reach their limitation.


Collett's predecessor, G J Churchward, had, in fact, already considered a mixed-traffic 4-6-0 but instead, concentrated on a powerful 2-8-0 freight locomotive that became the highly successful 2800 class.


Collett's approach was to modify a Saint class, no 2925 Saint Martin including fitting smaller diameter driving wheels. This prototype entered service in 1924 as no. 4900, retaining the name of its donor. A further 80 new Hall class locomotives followed from 1928 and so successful were they that several further orders were placed over subsequent years.



When F W Hawksworth took over from Collett he made a number of modifications to the design including frames, cylinders, firebox saddle and superheaters. From locomotive 7910 onwards, they were equipped with mechanical lubricators rather than the idiosyncratic GWR-pattern hydrostatic displacement lubricator. The first emerged in 1944, and these locomotives became known as the Modified Hall class. They were known as being very free steaming and free running and were capable of some sustained high-speed running. Indeed, Foremarke Hall set a post-war record for a run from Paddington to Plymouth: deputising for a failed Castle, the engine completed its journey in under four hours.


Worcester locomotive depot had an allocation of Modified Halls and the shed master would happily turn out one of these for the fast services to Paddington (including the Cathedrals Express) instead of the more usual Castle.


In all, 330 Hall and Modified Hall locomotives were built, the last emerging from Swindon in 1949. 17 survive, of which six are Modified Halls.


Spot the Difference

At first glance it is difficult to tell the difference between the Collett and Hawksworth versions.  But if you view the locomotive from the front, the plate frame stretcher between the front wheels of the bogie are obvious on the Modified Hall the earlier design doesn't have this feature.

Principal dimensions are:

  • Cylinders (2) 18½ x 30 inches
  • Driving wheel diameter: 6ft 0in (the Saint was 6ft 8½in)
  • Grate: 27.07 square feet
  • Fire tubes:
  • 176 (Hall);
  • 145 (Modified Hall)
  • Flue tubes:
  • 14 (Hall);
  • 21 (Modified Hall)
  • Superheater tubes:
  • 84, 1in diameter; 6 per flue (Hall);
  • 84, 1¼in diameter; 4 per flue (Modified Hall)
  • Length of boiler:
  • 14ft 10in (Hall);
  • 15ft 2½in (Modified Hall)
  • Power classification: D (GWR), 5MT (BR)
  • Route classification: Red


The Hall class locomotive on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway:

7903 Foremarke Hall - one of the final batch of Modified Hall class locomotives to be built - was completed by British Railways and emerged from Swindon works in 1949. Withdrawn just 15 years later, it moved to Barry to become the 129th departure in 1981. Restored over 20 years at the Swindon & Cricklade Railway, it arrived at Toddington in June 2004 and was a regular performer on the line until expiry of its 10-year boiler certificate in 2014, when it was withdrawn for overhaul.  The locomotive returned to Toddington from Tyseley Locomotive Works during 2015.  The Foremarke Hall locomotive trust has its own website.


PHOTOS Spot the difference: the top picture shows Collett 4936 Kinlet Hall emerging from Greet Tunnel in 2005. Below is Hawksworth 7903 Foremarke Hall at Winchcombe. Note the plate frame stretcher on Foremarke Hall. Other visual differences include the mainframes which are exposed above the buffer beam on the Modified Hall. Less obvious are the shorter steam pipes between the cylinders and smokebox and wider chimney on the Collett Hall. Both pictures by Chris Taylor.