You wait 40 years and three come along at once, to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

Ian Crowder
May 13, 2024

• Cotswold Festival of Steam features THREE newly-built steam locomotives* - 25-27 May 2024 • FIRST TIME in preservation that three new locomotives have appeared together* • Award-winning event “shaping up to be best ever”

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway’s (GWSR) first train in preservation, which steamed out of Toddington station on 22 April 1984.  That first service, comprising one coach hauled by a diminutive 0-4-0 tank locomotive called ‘Cadbury No. 1’, ran over only a quarter of a mile of newly laid track and back to the station.

Since then the railway has grown to its present 14 miles between Broadway and Cheltenham.  Over those 40 years, many preserved steam and diesel locomotives have visited the railway and this year is no exception: three visitors will grace the rails of this beautiful Cotswold railway for the award-winning Cotswold Festival of Steam, 25-27 May 2024.  

But the difference is that all three of those visitors are newly-built steam locomotives – one of which makes its debut at the Festival.  All three represent Great Western Railway types long gone.  They are:

No. 6880 Betton Grange, billed as the 81st locomotive in the ‘Grange’ class.  Had production not been interrupted by the outbreak of the second world war, this would have been the name and number of the next locomotive in the series.  All 80 of these outstanding 4-6-0 Western workhorses had been withdrawn for scrap by the end of 1965.  The 6880 Betton Grange Society set about correcting this omission, work starting in 2004 and which has just been completed at Tyseley locomotive works in Birmingham: just in time for the Cotswold Festival of Steam.

No. 2999 Lady of Legend, is the newest member of the celebrated ‘Saint’ class 4-6-0s introduced by G J Churchward in 1902, to meet the need for more powerful and faster express locomotives.  They were an outstanding success, incorporating many advanced features that influenced British steam locomotive design over the next 50 years.  Seventy-seven were built between 1902 and 1913 but all had been withdrawn by 1953 with none preserved.  No. 2999 was built by the Great Western Society at Didcot Railway Centre and, following 15 years of painstaking work this historic, brand-new locomotive moved for the first time in April 2019.  This is its first visit to the GWSR.

No. 9351 doesn’t have a name.  It is a 2-6-0 and is unique: it is based on a design that dates back to 1910, but was never actually built.  The locomotive, strictly speaking, is a rebuild of a 2-6-2 tank locomotive that was in scrapyard condition.  The tanks were removed, the cab and rear end of the locomotive modified and a new tender was built, giving the engine greater water and coal capacity.  It was created by the West Somerset Railway, entering service in 2004.  This is the locomotive’s first visit to the GWSR and only its second visit away from its home railway.

Tom Willson, chairman of the Cotswold Festival of Steam organising committee says: “Who would have thought at the end of steam in the 1960s, that preservationists would start building new locomotives?  Yet there are a few that are either now operational, under construction, or planned, most replacing classes that disappeared a long time ago.

“Everyone on the GWSR is absolutely thrilled that we have not one, not two, but three newly-built locomotives* visiting our railway this year, all perfectly fitting our theme ‘Western Workhorses’.  

“This is shaping up to be one of the best-ever Cotswold Festival of Steam events and not to be missed.  This is also the first time that three new-build locomotives have been seen together in preservation.  

“You wait 40 years for a new steam locomotive to turn up, then three come at once!”

The celebrated LNER-design Pacific no. 60163 Tornado was the first all-new main-line steam locomotive to be completed in the UK since 1960, entering excursion service in 2008.

The Cotswold Festival of Steam will feature up to eight steam locomotives including the railway’s resident fleet, working to an intensive timetable.  The event features goods train brake van rides; a rare opportunity to enjoy a footplate ride (bookable in advance), footplate visits, visits behind the scenes and much more.  The Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway will be running, while several full-size and miniature traction engines will be operating too – so there is plenty of steam to savour!

Full details of the Festival are on the GWSR’s website. Tickets can also be bought on the day.