2807 is oldest GWR locomotive in working order once again

Ian Crowder
October 12, 2023

• Churchward 2-8-0 moves following three-year overhaul • CSPL Chairman: ‘an exciting moment as the wheels turned for the first time’

Churchward 28xx class no. 2807 is, once again, the oldest working Great Western Railway locomotive having moved under its own power for the first time following its three-year overhaul.

The event took place at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s (GWSR) Toddington depot, the ‘heavyweight champion’ 2-8-0 running up and down the yard.

There are only two other GWR locomotives that are older than 2807, which emerged from Swindon Works in 1905: they are celebrated 4-4-0 no 3717 City of Truro (built 1903) and ‘Dean Goods’ 0-6-0 no. 2516 (of 1897), both of which are at STEAM Museum, Swindon and are not likely work again.

The Cotswold Steam Preservation Ltd (CSPL) heavy freight 2-8-0 was brought into steam on Thursday 21 September at about 18.00 and, during the rather wet evening, ran a few miles within the confines of the yard.  

Explains Brian Gamlin, Chairman of CSPL, “It was a very exciting moment for the restoration team who witnessed the fruits of their dedicated labour over the past three years.  

“There remain outstanding tasks as well as the inevitable ‘snags’ to be fettled, that showed themselves as the engine gently moved up and down the sidings.  But there is actually remarkably little to do and we are now setting about finishing off the job list so 2807 can be returned to traffic on the GWSR.  The day was an outstanding success.

“The next milestones will be further movements within the yard followed by a full day’s light engine running.  There will then be a loaded test run before 2807 can reliably re-enter service.”

He added: “There was of course that moment the team held their breath when steam issued from the cylinder drain cocks as the regulator was opened, watching for the first movement – which generated a huge cheer!”

It is anticipated that the locomotive will be sufficiently completed in time to debut during the GWSR’s ‘Autumn Showcase’ gala over the weekend of 28-29 October.  This event combines both steam and diesel locomotives working to an intensive timetable, including a goods train although at present it’s not expected that 2807 will be hauling trains.  

However, Brian Gamlin points out the importance of completing remaining tasks to the highest possible standards rather than rushing it to a deadline.

About 2807

The 2800 class was designed by George Jackson Churchward for heavy freight work.  The prototype was completed in 1903, with the production locomotives following in 1905 following extensive testing of the prototype, no. 97 (later no. 2800).  It was not only the first class of 2-8-0 to work in the UK, but at the time also the most powerful class of locomotive to run in the UK.  

In all 167 were built, including C B Collett’s slightly-modified 2884 class. The success of the class was such that they continued working until the early 1960s, no. 2807 being withdrawn in 1963 from Severn Tunnel Junction having covered some 1.5 million miles and consigned to Barry scrapyard in South Wales.

Rescued by CSPL in 1981, 2807 was the first locomotive from Barry to arrive at the formative GWSR at Toddington.  Following a lengthy overhaul, the locomotive entered service in 2010, putting in ten years and some 42,000 miles of dependable service before being withdrawn in January 2020 for its ten-year overhaul, which has been completed in just three years.  The boiler was overhauled by Riley & Son (E) Ltd engineers in Heywood, Bolton while the mechanical overhaul was completed by volunteers at Toddington.