Monday, 26 July 2010

"All Rise For The Duke of Gloucester"...

Hi all. Today, after a good night's sleep last night following the RPMR's Mega Night-Run over the weekend, I headed out to catch an appointment with the Duke of Gloucester. "No", not THE Duke of Gloucester but none other than the unique BR 4-6-2 8P Pacific No71000 herself. The Caprotti Valve-geared Pacific was standing in for failed new-build "Tornado" on a railtour from London Victoria to Gloucester and back. The 8P had joined the train at Gloucester and had climbed the Lickey Incline before skirting Birmingham and heading for Leicester via Nuneaton and Hinckley. I, via push-bike, caught up with the "Duke" at Horsten Grange on the climb away from Nuneaton on the Leicester line. Hauling 13 coaches plus a rather ugly Class 66 ('Shed'), the "Duke" looked and sounded well. Constructed at Crewe in 1954, "Duke of Gloucester" was the prototype of a brand new Class 8 Pacific designed by Riddles. The loco was mainly built to "fill the gap" in the Midland fleet as Princess Royal Pacific No46202 "Princess Anne" had been completely destroyed in the horrific crash at Harrow in 1952. The "Duke" carried Caprotti valve gear, much more efficient than both Stephensons or Walschaerts, and had 3 cylinders. She was heralded by designers as the "New Breed" of Steam locomotive design. However, she never lived up to expectation and was ridiculed by crew's as being a 'poor steamer' and a 'fuel hungry beast'. Therefore, her working life lasted only 8 years and she was then sent for scrap in Barry. Below, see my video footage of today's run of the "Duke"; listen out for the different beat style due to the Caprotti valve gear...

For BR, the "Duke" was, due to upcoming Dieselisation, "not worth bothering with". Therefore, no further examples were ever built, making the "Duke" unique. On arrival at Barry, one set of valve gear (+ cylinder) was removed for preservation at the Science Museum. The other outside cylinder was then removed to rebalance the engine in readiness for scrapping. However, luckily, the loco was preserved in 1974 and was restored at the GCR at Loughborough. During restoration, TWO design faults were found. One was the fact that the chimney was far too small compared to other loco's of this size (resulting in bad draughting) and the other was that the Damper doors were too small, therefore resulting in poor oxygen supply and combustion! Would you ever believe it?! The restoration group also added a Kylchap exhaust system, as employed on loco's such as "Tornado". The loco, when released into service was "completely reborn" and was totally different from the failure that she had been with BR. Ironically, the "Duke" is now more powerful than the Type 4 (Class 40) diesels that replaced her! Fantastic! Happily, the "Duke" of course lives on today and can be seen regularly, wether on preserved railways or out on the main line, as I saw her today! The loco was running on time and looked beautiful. It was a pleasure to see her. Thanks for reading folks, time for a cuppa' now I think. Good Evening...

No comments: