Preservation of engines and lines have led to some strange bedfellows. Here GWR Hall, 4953, is seen on the former Great Central Railway at Loughborough ready for a return trip to Leicester North . I was fortunate to be on both journeys with my youngest Daughter and three of my four grandchildren. I am even more lucky that they love steam engines almost as much as I do.
4953 Pitchford Hall is a member of the Great Western Hall Class 5MT Mixed Traffic Locomotives. The engine was built for the Great Western Railway in 1929 at Swindon Works. She is one of the mixed traffic Hall class engines which did sterling work for the GWR and BR on all sorts of trains. Several of the type were allocated to Tyseley (Birmingham) shed for semi-fast, parcels and holiday excursions and they also worked the fruit trains to Moor Street goods depot including the famous broccoli trains from Cornwall.
Pitchford Hall was withdrawn from service in May 1963 and sold as scrap to Woodham Bros of Barry.After rescue from Barry, the loco spent some time at Thingley Junction before moving to Tyseley for restoration to mainline standards. After successful tests the boiler was reunited with the frames and the locomotive was lit up on Saturday 7th February 2004 when it moved under its own power for the first time in 40 years.
The Great Central Railway had its beginnings in a much smaller railway, the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire, which was incorporated in 1846 from three yet smaller companies.
The MS&LR would have remained a modest east-west provincial line had it not been for Edward Watkin, who became its General Manager in 1854 and Chairman in 1864. Watkin was a man of great foresight, whose ambition was to link by rail the industrial centres of Manchester and Sheffield with the expanding markets of Continental Europe.
This was not as impossible as it sounds, as he proposed to build a Channel Tunnel, and became not only Chairman of the South Eastern Railway connecting London with Dover, but also the Metropolitan Railway, then extending its suburban line north-westwards from London through Rickmansworth.
Watkin worked for years trying to achieve his dream, haggling with other companies to provide the links between the MS&L lines and London. But as the working arrangements were always to his advantage, the other companies would have none of it, and Watkin was driven to constructing his own line southward from Sheffield to link up with the Metropolitan. The “London Extension”, as it was known, branched out from the already established MS&L system. It was not opened until 1899, well after most other lines were built; two years earlier, the directors changed the company name to Great Central Railway, to befit its new trunk line status. However, Watkin retired through ill health before the rest of his ambition could be fulfilled.
The cost of construction was high – £11.5 million as opposed to a estimated £6 million – and the company never paid a normal dividend afterwards, but it certainly lived up to its slogan “Rapid Travel in Luxury”. It became noted for its handsome locomotives and trains, and its provision of cross-country through trains in conjunction with other railways. In the company grouping of 1923 it became part of the London & North Eastern Railway, and on nationalisation in 1948 part of British Railways (Eastern Region).
Camera: Nikon D300
Lens: Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 DC MACRO EX Lens
Exposure Program: Shutter priority
Speed: 1/4000 sec
Processing: Photoshop CS5
Filter: NIK ColourEfex