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GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

Wood End Platform: gwrwe2886

GWR 4-4-0 Atbara class No 4120 ‘Atbara’ emerging from Wood End tunnel on a Wolverhampton to South Wales express

Great Western Railway 4-4-0 Atbara class No 4120 ‘Atbara’ emerging from Wood End tunnel on a Wolverhampton to South Wales (via Stratford-upon-Avon) express circa 1924. On the first ‘Atbara’ class locomotives their name was incorporated with the number on the cab-side oval plate.

‘Atbara’ was built in April 1900 at Swindon Works as the first of twenty locomotives ordered on lot 125 and normal practice was followed with the class being named after the first locomotive. The name chosen for these twenty locomotives reflected the popularity of various recent conflicts in the expanding British Empire; the Battle of Atbara being Lord Kitchener's pivotal victory in the Sudan during 1898. The locomotive originally carried the number No 3373 and was part of the ongoing development of a new breed of 4-4-0 express passenger locomotives that replaced the uncoupled Victorian ‘Singles’. Starting with the ‘Duke’ class locomotives in 1895, the Belpaire firebox was introduced in 1897 on the ‘Badminton’ class locomotives and a domeless boiler in 1899 on the ‘Camel’ class locomotives. For the ‘Atbara’ class, the main driving wheel diameter was increased to six foot, eight and half inches and a standard No 2 parallel boiler (D0) was fitted. Visually the straight top to the double frames was also a noticeable departure from previous Swindon practice. The boiler pressure was originally 180 lb producing a tractive effort at 80% of 16,010 lbs, but after coned boilers were introduced, this was increased initially to 195 lb and then 200 lb, producing a tractive effort at 80% of 17,790 lbs. The locomotive ‘Atbara’ was fitted with a standard No 2 short coned boiler (D2) in June 1904 and subsequently with a long coned version (D3) in October 1910. Top feed apparatus was introduced from 1911 and a superheated boiler was fitted in September 1913.

Ten ‘Atbara’ class locomotives had been fitted with larger standard No 4 boilers after 1902 and became the prototype of the City class. By 1912 several other 4-4-0 locomotives had also been modified, so in December of that year the Great Western Railway carried out a wholesale renumbering exercise to group together those locomotives with similar tractive effort. No 3373 became No 4120 and twenty ‘Flower’ class locomotives, which had been built with standard No 2 boilers were added to the ‘Atbara’ class and all of the locomotives were re-numbered in sequence from No 4120 to No 4168. When the Great Western Railway introduced their classification system (see 'engine map') the ‘Atbara’ class locomotives were allocated to Power group A and Route colour Red. The semi-plug piston valve had become standard in 1910 and were fitted to locomotive No 4120 In November 1925. This Locomotive was originally allocated to Tyseley Shed (TYS) and was also known to have been allocated there in January 1921. No 4120 was finally withdrawn from Leamington Shed (LMTN) in September 1929. There is another view of this locomotive at Snow Hill station in image 'gwrbsh57'.

The leading clerestory coach appears to be a ganged corridor, brake third with toilet, four compartments, guard's compartment with lookout and a large luggage area. This is probably one of the 56 foot long diagram D30/D31 coaches built in 1900 under carriage lots 931, 953 and 955. All three lots were each for ten coaches, but half of lot 931 and all of lot 953 were arranged with the corridor on the other side (hence the two diagram numbers). The other visible coaches are more recent toplight type coaches, the first being a ganged corridor, brake third with toilet, three compartments, guard's compartment and luggage area. This is probably a 57 foot long diagram D56 coach, a type which were built under five lots between 1913 and 1920. Another two lots had been planned to be built, but because of the First World War these were completed as ambulance stock. After the war these were re-purchased from the Government and altered to their intended layout.

Robert Ferris