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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Whitnash Cutting: gwrwh3910

Great Western Railway 2-6-0 26xx (Aberdare) class locomotive heading south through Whitnash Cutting

Great Western Railway 2-6-0 26xx (Aberdare) class locomotive heading south through Whitnash Cutting (away from Leamington Spa) with a train comprising a large number of Greaves Cement Vans. The locomotive is carrying a class K Lamp Headcode (Ordinary Goods Train, stopping at intermediate stations). The photograph date is not given, but believed to be early 1920’s. Because of the large number of Greaves Cement Vans in the train are almost certainly destined for the Harbury Cement Works (see 'Greaves Sidings'). For a close up of these vans see 'gwrwc3910a'.

The Aberdare class locomotives were designed as freight locomotives principally for the South Wales Coal traffic and although relatively few in number, they proved to be a successful and long lived class. Many worked mineral trains between South Wales and the Northern Divisions of the Great Western with a strong allocation at Newport and Oxley sheds. The first Aberdare class locomotive (No 33, later changed to No 2600) entered service in August 1900 featuring a typical Great Western short cone domeless standard boiler with a Belpaire firebox and this standard No2 boiler was also fitted to the following forty locomotives (Nos. 2621 - 2660). The boilers in these initial locomotives operated at a pressure of 180lbs, but the next twenty locomotives (Nos. 2661 – 2680) were built with a slightly larger diameter (standard No4) long coned boiler operating at 200lbs. This raised the locomotive’s tractive effort at 85% from 23,222lb to 25,800lbs (power group – D). With this larger boiler the maximum axle weight was 17tons, 10cwt which restricted the locomotives to main routes and a few branch lines (Route colour - Blue). For details of the Great Western Railway’s locomotive classification system see 'Engine Map'. The initial locomotives were subsequently rebuilt to carry the standard No4 boiler, and another twenty locomotives (Nos 2601 – 2620) were also constructed. Further improvements such as; superheated boilers were introduced in December 1908, and top feed apparatus added in March 1911. At first the top feed was a separate mounting, but later this was combined with the tall safety valve cover as seen in this photograph. By the late 1920’s short safety valve covers had been introduced. The first three withdrawals (No 2621, 2627 and 2641) occurred in September 1934 and the class then slowly reduced until only thirty-one were left by the end of 1938. With war clouds on the horizon the next five locomotives to be withdrawn were not scrapped, but kept as a strategic reserve so that they could be reinstated if war was declared. Withdrawals resumed in 1944, but twelve survived to serve British Railways and the last (No 2620) was withdrawn in August 1949.

Robert Ferris