Last visitor announced for spectacular Cotswold Festival of Steam

Ian Crowder
March 28, 2024

• New ‘Mogul’ no. 9351 from West Somerset Railway billed for event • Up to EIGHT locos for bonanza ‘Western Workhorses’-themed Festival • Three NEWLY BUILT locomotives together for the first time • Festival recalls the busiest days of the former Cotswold main line

The last visiting locomotive has been announced by the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) for its Cotswold Festival of Steam, 25th to 27th May 2024.  The visitor is the West Somerset Railway’s unique 2-6-0 tender locomotive no. 9351, which is a brand-new conversion from ‘Prairie’ 2-6-2T tank locomotive no. 5193.  

This brings to three the number of newly-built steam locomotives at this annual award-winning event on the railway, which runs through the Cotswolds between Cheltenham Racecourse and Broadway.  It is the first time three newly-built steam locomotives have appeared in steam together on a heritage railway.

The ‘new builds’ are:

• West Somerset Railway’s unique 2-6-0 ‘Mogul’ no. 9351, converted from a 5101-class 2-6-2T tank locomotive, completed in 2004

• Didcot Railway Centre replica ‘Saint’ class 4-6-0 no. 2999 Lady of Legend, completed in 2019.  77 members of the ‘Saint’ class were built between 1902 and 1913, none survived with the last being scrapped in 1953.

• 6880 Grange Society replica ‘Grange’ class 4-6-0 no. 6880 Betton Grange, completed in April 2024.  80 members of the ‘Grange’ class were built between 1936 and 1939, the last being withdrawn and scrapped in 1965.

The three locomotives perfectly fit the event’s theme: ‘Western Workhorses’ and join the GWSR’s own fleet of two-cylinder Great Western Railway-designed locomotives.

This is also the first time that all existing GWR two-cylinder 4-6-0 types have appeared together, the ‘Saint’ and ‘Grange’ joining the railway’s home-based ‘Modified Hall’ class no. 7903 Foremarke Hall, a design developed by Swindon Works from the ‘Saint’; and ‘Manor’ class no. 7820 Dinmore Manor, a smaller and lighter version of the ‘Grange’.  All of these types once regularly worked over the line on which the GWSR today operates.

This is only the third time that 2-6-0 no. 9351 has visited a railway other than the West Somerset, having previously only visited the Severn Valley Railway twice, over the past 20 years.  

Tom Willson, Chairman of the event organising team said: “This is shaping up to be one of the most spectacular and ambitious Cotswold Festival of Steam events to date: not only the first event to have three new-build Great Western designed locomotives at the same time.  I’m so pleased that no. 9351 is coming to the Festival, its first visit to the GWSR and only the second railway other than the West Somerset it has ever visited.”

Richard Hiscox, deputy head of mechanical engineering at the West Somerset Railway added: “Our ‘Mogul’ no 9351 was converted from a tank locomotive in order to provide greater water and coal capacity on our long and steeply-graded railway and it has been very successful.  In fact, it is a type that Swindon’s chief mechanical engineer, G J Churchward, designed and was also considered by his successor C B Collet, but never built.  So in that sense, it fills a gap in Great Western Railway history.

“I’m excited to see our engine visit the Cotswolds – that it is joining two other newly-built locomotives makes the occasion even more special.”

Home fleet locomotives planned to appear at the event are Churchward 28xx class 2-8-0 heavy-freight locomotive no. 2807, which having been built in 1905 is the oldest Great Western-designed locomotive in working order, and its successor 2884 class 2-8-0 no. 3850, built in 1942, which is close to the end of an extensive overhaul started at Toddington in 2015 and will run if completed in time.  This could be its first public appearance since overhaul.

Commented Tom Willson: “This spectacular show is a real feast of Great Western two-cylinder power.  These types of locomotives were the real ‘Western Workhorses’ handling both freight and passenger traffic throughout the Great Western Railway’s network.  It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy such a variety of motive power that recall the locomotives that once could be seen day in, day out on the railway we now call the GWSR.  And, uniquely, it’s the first time that all types of GWR two-cylinder 4-6-0s locomotives will have appeared together.”  He adds, however, that all locomotives are subject to availability at the time.

The final home fleet locomotive appearing, bringing the total to an expected eight, is the large and popular Toddington-based Southern Railway three-cylinder Merchant Navy class pacific no. 35006 Peninsular & Oriental SN Co, which once handled the heaviest expresses between London Waterloo and Exeter – making it very much the ‘odd man out’ at the Festival.

‘Early Bird’ tickets are available until 22nd April on the GWSR’s website at https://gwsr.vticket.co.uk/section.php/173/1/