WE are delighted to announce that No. 3840 County of Montgomery could be based on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) once completed, following the signing of a new agreement between the Churchward County Trust (CCT) and the railway.
The agreement, which supersedes an earlier ‘agreement in principle’ between the GWSR and the CCT, gives the railway first option to be the home of the locomotive when it is completed. This would see the engine based at the railway’s Toddington, Gloucestershire locomotive workshops, where it would become part of the line’s operating steam fleet.
“While we clearly don’t know what our railway’s locomotive requirements will be in ten or 15 years, which is when the new ‘County’ is likely to be available, I’m thrilled that we are being offered first choice for the engine’s future base,” said GWSR Plc chairman, Richard Johnson. “That we are the Trust’s railway of choice for this brand-new locomotive reflects the highly professional standards achieved by our steam locomotive department. This new-build project has captured the imagination of the heritage railway movement so this is a real honour. It will be a delightful addition to our fleet of locos, and a great attraction in its own right. It is something that we all look forward to, and are very grateful to the Trust for offering it to us.”
The original ‘Counties’ had a particular association with the Stratford-upon-Avon to Cheltenham route, over 14 miles of which the GWSR today operates (between Broadway and Cheltenham). They were used to haul Wolverhampton-Penzance express services, thanks to a weight restriction over Stonehouse viaduct that at the time, precluded the use of larger engines (the viaduct was subsequently strengthened).
CCT chairman Gary Boyd-Hope said: “I’m both thrilled and grateful that we have been able to turn our previous ‘agreement in principle’ with the GWSR into something more formal. I’d like to thank the GWSR Board for its faith and belief that we will be able to complete No. 3840 to the high standards they expect. The line will – hopefully – make the perfect home for County of Montgomery, as not only is the route an historically appropriate one for the ‘County’ class, but the GWSR today remains a stronghold for beautifully restored and maintained Swindon-built locomotives. No. 3840 would therefore be in good company and safe hands.
“If in time the GWSR takes up this ‘first option’ offer, I’m confident that we will be able to see County of Montgomery proudly steaming out of Toddington station with its first train in plenty of time to mark 100 years since the last of the original class was withdrawn, in 2033.”