A new Grange in the Cotswolds

Ian Crowder
February 12, 2024

• New-build GWR ‘Grange’ class loco for Cotswold Festival of Steam • Award-winning steam extravaganza 25-27 May 2024 • Intensive timetable with up to eight locomotives working

The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) has announced its first visiting locomotive for the popular, award-winning Cotswold Festival of Steam, over the bank holiday weekend of 25th to 27th May 2024.  

The locomotive is brand-new Great Western Railway 6800, or ‘Grange’, class 4-6-0 no. 6880 Betton Grange and perfectly fits the event’s theme, ‘Western Workhorses’.  The idea of building a new ‘Grange’ class was conceived in 1998 by the 6880 Society and the locomotive was first steamed at Tyseley Locomotive Works in Birmingham earlier this year.  

Betton Grange, which uses components from other scrapped classes of GWR locomotive, fills an important gap in the number of surviving GWR-designed two-cylinder locomotives.    This popular and useful class of locomotives, named after granges in areas served by the GWR, was introduced in 1936 with 80 being built at Swindon Works between then and 1939, when the outbreak of World War II stopped production.  Described by the 6880 Betton Grange Society as the ‘81st Grange’ the locomotive takes the number and name that was allocated to the next to be built at Swindon in 1939, had the war not intervened.  The entire class was withdrawn by British Railways between 1960 and 1965, none surviving.  

Tom Willson, Chairman of the Cotswold Festival of Steam organising committee, said: “We are thrilled to welcome this brand-new steam locomotive to the Cotswold Festival of Steam and it’s sure to be a star attraction.

“The Grange class, as a powerful mixed-traffic design, could be found working over most of the Great Western Railway network until the mid-1960s and was a common sight on the Stratford-upon-Avon to Cheltenham line, part of which is now used by the GWSR.  So this is in a way, a welcome homecoming for the class.” Paul Appleton, director of the Betton Grange* Society added: “A Grange visiting the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway will be a real highlight for the locomotive.  It is the fulfilment of a dream long held by many people to see one of the sadly-missed ‘Grange’ class locomotives running once again and, where more fitting than on one of the lines where the class was such a familiar sight in the days of steam?”

The 6880 Betton Grange Society will have a stand at the Festival where members of the team will be available to answer questions about the locomotive and their plans to build a replica Collett 3,500-gallon tender to operate with 6880.  The locomotive is currently running with a borrowed tender.

The Cotswold Festival of Steam last year won the coveted accolade as ‘Best Event in the Cotswolds’ in the annual Cotswolds Awards organised by Cotswolds Concierge.  In addition, the railway won ‘Best Attraction in the Cotswolds’.

The organising team will announce further visiting locomotives over coming weeks as contracts are finalised, that fit the theme ‘Western Workhorses’.  The visitors will join the railway’s own fleet of locomotives which includes two other two-cylinder 4-6-0 types: ‘Modified Hall’ class 4-6-0 no. 7903 Foremarke Hall and ‘Manor’ 4-6-0 no. 7820 Dinmore Manor – the latter being a smaller version of the ‘Grange’.  Trains will be operating over the full 14-mile railway between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway with a range of events taking place particularly at Toddington, where the locomotive depot will be open; and at Winchcombe where the railway’s acclaimed Carriage & Wagon Department is located, which is also throwing its doors open to visitors.*Betton Grange is a Grade II listed 16thc. farmhouse in the Shropshire village of Betton Strange.