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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Queens Head Yard: gwrqhy2011

An unidentified ex-GWR 4-6-0 on a Type 4 working is working hard as it passes Queens Head Signal Box on 22nd July 1964

An unidentified ex-GWR 4-6-0 on a Type 4 working is working hard as it passes Queens Head Signal Box on 22nd July 1964. A development of the earlier Star Class, one hundred and seventy one Castles were built over a twenty sevens commencing in August 1923 and ending in August 1950. The total number built necessitated that they were numbered in several blocks No 4073 to No 4099; No 5000 to No 5099; and No 7000 to 7037. Although most were built new, sixteen locomotives were rebuilt from older locomotives: - fifteen Star Class locomotives; and the Great Western Railway's sole 4-6-2 locomotive, No 111 The Great Bear.

The origins of this highly successful design date back to GJ Churchward's Star Class of 1907. Stars were 4-cylinder 4-6-0s with long-travel valves and Belpaire fireboxes, and were an immediate success on the GWR’s top-link express duties to the west of England. However, with increasing loads the Stars had little in reserve to maintain the restored pre–World War One timings. CB Collett succeeded Churchward as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the GWR in 1922 and immediately faced the task of providing more power with little possibility of increasing axle weight. Thus the Castle class was born. When introduced they were heralded as Britain’s most powerful express passenger locomotive, being some 10% more powerful than the Stars. The Castle class locomotives had a larger boiler and cylinder bores were increased from 15 to 16 inches diameter. The first, No. 4073 Caerphilly Castle, made its debut at Paddington station on August 23, 1923.

Withdrawal started in the 1950s; the last to be withdrawn was Clun Castle at the end of 1965, which worked the last steam train out of Paddington in 1965. However, with preservation, that was not the end of the story for this long lived and popular class of express locomotives. On 4 March 1967 Clun Castle and No 4079 Pendennis Castle hauled specials from Banbury and Oxford respectively to Chester, to mark the end of through trains between Paddington and Birkenhead.