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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Bentley Heath Crossing: gwrbh27

GWR 4-6-0 29xx or 'Saint' class No 2924 'Saint Helena' on what is thought to be one of the ‘Two Hour Birmingham to Paddington expresses

GWR 4-6-0 29xx or 'Saint' class No 2924 'Saint Helena' on what is thought to be one of the ‘Two Hour Birmingham to Paddington expresses’ near Bentley Heath Level Crossing. Final ballasting of the two new outer tracks is required to complete the quadrupling work and trains were still using the original track at this time. The eight coach train includes a horse box (telegraphic code – Paco) attached between the first coach and the tender. This position at the front of the train gave a smoother ride for the occupants. In addition to the three horse stalls area, this horse box has both a groom's compartment and at the other end a small locker. Many horse boxes of this type were constructed around the turn of the century. No 2924 was built at Swindon works in September 1907 as part of Lot 170. No 2924 was constructed with a Standard No 1 tapered boiler (version D 4), superheating was added in June 1910 and outside steam pipes September 1933.

No 2924 was known to have been allocated to Wolverhampton shed in January 1921. In January 1934 was allocated to Stafford Road shed (SRD) in Wolverhampton and in January 1938 to Leamington shed (LMTN). At nationalisation, in December 1947, No 2924 was allocated to Hereford shed (HFD). No 2924 was finally withdrawn in March 1950. Most of the carriages are Collett designed standard 57 foot long steel panelled corridor stock built between 1923 and 1929. The first carriage appears to show the corridor side of a brake composite (probably diagram E113), which in addition to the end Guards compartment and two lavatories, had two first class and four third class passenger compartments. Despite the corridor, each compartment had its own door with commode style handle on each side. There were sixteen of the diagram E113 coaches built in July 1923, under Lot 1322 with running numbers 7949 to 7964. They all lasted well into nationalisation and were condemned in July 1962.

Robert Ferris

Nigel Newling writes, 'Can you have another look at the above photograph for me please? I think the train is an unlikely composition for a Paddington train. It looks more like a West Country formation with a branch Van Composite, 3rd pair followed by a 5 coach Van 3rd, 3rd, H38 restaurant, Composite, Van 3rd standard set (“M Set”?).

Robert responds 'from the doubling work we are looking at an estimated date of 1934. The early 1930s STT that I have seems to indicate that the West Country express services from Birmingham have a time for passing Henley in Arden indicating that they were using the North Warwickshire Line during this period, so I would not have expected to see them at Bentley Heath, unless diverted.

My best identification of the first coach is a diagram E113 brake composite, but I could be wrong. From the 1934 train formation information it would seem that most of the Birmingham to Paddington expresses started with a brake 3rd:
      07:40 Shrewsbury to Paddington
            brake 3rd, comp, 3rd, brake 3rd, restaurant, 3rd, comp, brake comp
      11:45 Birkenhead to Paddington
            brake 3rd, Comp, brake comp, Restaurant, brake 3rd, Comp, 3rd, brake 3rd
      16:00 Birmingham to Paddington
            brake 3rd, comp, brake 3rd, 3rd, Restaurant, comp, brake 3rd
      08:00 Birkenhead to Kent was a 8 coach train at this point with a brake composite at the start
            brake comp, 3rd, brake 3rd, brake 3rd, comp, restaurant, brake 3rd, comp

If anyone has any other information please let us know.