Churnet Valley Railway has announced that an agreement has been reached with the Dartmouth Steam Railway in Devon for the Locomotive former GWR 42XX no. 4277 “Hercules” for it’s final journeys.
The local station will host the locomotive from mid-October until February 2018, but 4277 is nearing the end of her current 10-Year Boiler certificate, and will therefore be seeing out her final steamings in the Churnet Valley before withdrawal for overhaul. This will be the locomotive’s first visit away from Devon since joining the steam fleet at Paignton in 2008
As part of its farewell, a further agreement has been reached that will see the CVR repaint 4277 into unlined BR Black for the first time since 2003 – an authentic livery for this former South Wales veteran. Its public debut in this livery will be at the Churnet Valley Railway’s 25th Anniversary Gala over the weekend of 20/21/22 October, matching the livery of fellow CVR25 Guest no. 7820 “Dinmore Manor” that has already been previously announced.
The 42XX’s were designed to haul the heavy Mineral traffic in South Wales being generated by the Coal and Steel industries. Built in 1920 at the Great Western Railway Company’s Swindon Headquarters, they became the UK’s first 2-8-0 Tank locomotive, a smaller version of the GWR’s 2800 heavy freight locomotive with modifications to allow the locomotive to go round tighter curves than its bigger cousin.
4277 entered service at Newport Shed but was transferred to Aberbeeg less than a year later. Further transfers would see her move to Duffryn Yard, Swansea East Dock, Llanelli and Severn Tunnel Junction before a return to Aberbeeg. In June 1963 she was reallocated to Severn Tunnel Junction, from where British Railways would withdraw her after a service life of 44 Years that saw her cover 718,637 miles.
Sold for scrap, the locomotive was rescued in June 1986 from Barry Scrapyard by the Cotswold Steam Preservation Limited and moved to their Toddington base for restoration. However their time was occupied with their other locomotive, bigger cousin no. 2807, and so 4277 was sold on in 1992 to Peter Best who was able to return the locomotive to service for the first time in preservation on 21st March 1996. After operating on various preserved railways, she was withdrawn for another overhaul in 2003, which upon completion saw her sold to the Dartmouth Steam Railway in 2008 – where she has solely operated ever since.
The visit of 4277 will be the first of an original 42XX to the Churnet Valley Railway, with modified sister 5224 having visited in 2002. This visit will be the first time a member of the class will venture onto the steeply graded Cauldon Branch to Ipstones, which should prove no problem considering her Welsh Valleys background. After featuring in the 25thAnniversary Gala, 4277 will stay on the line for the CVR’s Santa and Winter Warmer specials throughout December before a final Farewell ahead of her withdrawal on Saturday 10th February 2018. We are grateful to the Dartmouth Steam Railway for agreeing to this hire, and allowing us to both repaint the locomotive and operate her for her final few months of this ticket.