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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Knowle & Dorridge Station: gwrkd1601

Great Western Railway 4-2-2 3031 or ‘Achilles’ class No 3070 Earl of Warwick waiting at the original Knowle and Dorridge Station

Great Western Railway 4-2-2 3031 or ‘Achilles’ class No 3070 Earl of Warwick waiting at the original Knowle and Dorridge Station on an up express circa 1911. The locomotive's huge driving wheels were 7ft 8in in diameter and this lead to these locomotives being called ‘Singles’. No 3070 was built at Swindon works as part of lot 110 in February 1898. The design by the Great Western Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) William Dean was an extension of a broad gauge convertible 2-2-2 Singles locomotive arrangement of which ten were built in 1891, followed by twenty standard gauge 2-2-2 Singles in 1892. These locomotives were found to be unsteady and, following an accident at Box Tunnel in September 1893, the wheel arrangement was modified by lengthening the front end to incorporate leading bogies. The remaining locomotives of the class were constructed with this 4-2-2 wheel arrangement. The singles arrangement had fallen out of favour due to their lack of adhesion during starting, but the introduction of reliable sanding gear saw their reintroduction to many railway companies. Locomotives in this class had several different boiler types fitted during their life.

No 3070 originally had a straight barrel with a raised round top firebox and large dome (diagram B – R5 boiler), but this was changed during a major rebuild in September 1905 for a belpaire, non taper Standard No 2 boiler with a drumhead smokebox and no dome (diagram C - D0 boiler). At this time the cab was also enlarged. This arrangement lasted until June 1910 when a raised small belpaire boiler with a large dome was fitted (diagram F - BR5 boiler). The photograph shows No 3070 in this last condition. After a few glorious years, these express locomotives were relegated to secondary routes by the increased weight of passenger trains and the first of the class were withdrawn in 1908. A lack of suitable turntables had initially prevented their deployment to routes in the midlands, but in 1900 a larger turntable was installed at Stafford Road Shed in Wolverhampton and the singles were seen on Birmingham turns. No. 3070 was one of the last to be retired, being withdrawn in October 1914.

Robert Ferris