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Avon Bridge Power Station: misc_abps171

A Great Western Railway 30xx class 2-8-0 locomotive crosses a swollen river Avon during the 1947 floods

A Great Western Railway 30xx class 2-8-0 locomotive crosses a swollen river Avon during the 1947 floods. The water has almost reached the top of the four columns which formed each supporting pier of the plate girder railway bridge. The water pressure exerted on the columns under such circumstances would be considerable.

In the middle of the First World War a simple heavy haulage standard gauge locomotive was identified as a priority by the Railway Operating Division (ROD) of the British Army in France. The locomotive design selected was a 2-8-0 variant of the Great Central Railway’s 8K class, designed by their Chief Engineer JG Robinson. The UK Government ordered 518 locomotives of this type to be built by five locomotive manufacturers; North British Locomotive (NBL) Co Ltd (369), Robert Stephenson & Co Ltd (82), Nasmyth, Wilson & Co Ltd (32), Kitson & Co Ltd (32) and Great Central Railway (4). They were constructed between 1917 and 1919, but the war ended in November 1918 and by the end of March 1919 only 305 had cross the channel for service on the continent. In 1919, the Government declared them surplus and they were placed up for sale.

The Great Western Railway purchased twenty of the newly built 2-8-0 locomotives in 1919 and hired a further eighty-four, but these hired locomotives were returned after a few years. By 1924 the UK Government had only sold fifty locomotives and desperate to recoup some of their expenditure they brought in George Cohen & Armstrong Whitworth Disposal Corporation to sell the remaining locomotives at the highest price possible. At £1,500 each, the Great Western Railway purchased eighty locomotives in May 1925 under their lot 240. Many had of these had been standing idle for the last five years and it was decided, after placing them in traffic for about four months, to identify the best thirty locomotives, which would then be overhauled under lot 241, while the remainder would be patched up, painted black and run into the ground. The overhaul at Swindon Works, included replacing the steel firebox with a copper firebox, removing the Westinghouse brake apparatus, providing standard Swindon fittings and painting green.

The 30xx boiler operated at 185 lb and the locomotive had a tractive effort at 85% of 32,200 lb, which meant it was classified in power group D. The maximum axle weight of 17 tons, 7 cwt restricted the locomotives to all main lines and some branch lines (route colour – Blue). The tenders purchased at the same time as the locomotive were allocated to GWR tender lot A115. They could hold 4,000 gallons of water and had a 6 ton coal capacity.

The 30xx class had a steam brake making them unable to connect with fully fitted or partial fitted vacuum braked rolling stock, but they found a role hauling heavy unfitted goods trains. Many were allocated to South Wales’ sheds for the frequent long distance coal trains of private owner wagons or to Banbury shed for the iron ore traffic. By the end of 1947, sixteen of the first twenty purchased and twenty nine of the second batch purchased were still in service and the last three 30xx locomotives (No 3011, 3015 and 3024) were not withdrawn until October 1958.

Robert Ferris