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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Soho and Winson Green: gwrswg2290

Ex-Great Western Railway 28xx class 2-8-0 No 3865 passes through Soho and Winson Green Station on the up main line

Ex-Great Western Railway 28xx class 2-8-0 No 3865 passes through Soho and Winson Green Station on the up main line with class H headcode, indicating an unfitted through freight train. The first two wagons are both carrying containers and may have been positioned adjacent to the locomotive because they were fitted with vacuum brakes.

Locomotive No 3865 was built in November 1942 at Swindon Works as part of lot 346. Designed by the Great Western Railway’s brilliant Chief Mechanical Engineer ‘George Churchward’, the first of these powerful heavy freight locomotives was built almost forty years before, in 1903. The class comprised 84 locomotives when construction stopped in 1919, but after almost twenty years construction started again on a slightly updated version (known as the 2884 class). These had the same boiler operating at 225lbs and delivered a tractive effort at 85% of 35,380lb (power class E), but had new front ends with outside steam pipes, modified framing and motion bracket, side window cabs (except for those built during the war) and short safety valve bonnets. The maximum axle weight was 17 tons (route group Blue) which limited the locomotives to main lines and some branch lines. The locomotives were designed to haul heavy coal trains from the South Wales coalfields to London, but their duties gradually extended to other heavy freight turns (including the Iron Ore traffic from Wrexham) and the elite night express freight services. No 3865 was originally allocated to Oxford Shed (OXF).

In October 1945 the Great Western Railway converted a 28xx class locomotive (No 2872) to oil burning as an experiment because of the shortage of good coal. The experiment was to be carried out in conjunction with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. Ltd. to afford useful data for determining the extent to which economies could be effected by the use of oil instead of coal. By mid1946 a total of ten 28xx locomotives (including No 3865 converted in December 1945) had been converted and the oil burning experiment was deemed a success. In the early months of 1947 national coal shortages become so severe that domestic coal was rationed and the lack of coal for power stations resulted in power cuts. The government authorised a programme to convert to oil burning 1,217 locomotives (including 172 from the Great Western Railway). All the Great Western Railway oil burning locomotives were given new numbers and in December 1946, No 3865 became No 4851. Seven oil refuelling depots were commissioned allowing operation between; the South West, Wales and London and during this period No 4851 was allocated to Severn Tunnel Shed (STJ). Although the programme was technically a success, the cost of importing the oil was prohibitive and the logistics of supplying the oil to depots required unavailable capital expenditure, as a result the programme was officially abandoned in September 1947. No 4851 reverted back to coal burning and the original number (No 3865) was restored in April 1949. No 3865 was finally withdrawn from Croes Newydd Shed (84J) in March 1963 and sold to TW Ward Ltd for disposal.

Robert Ferris