THE Churchward County Trust has its origins in the 2005 ‘Three Counties Agreement’ signed between the Great Western Society (GWS) and Vale of Glamorgan Council, which saw ex-Barry ‘Modified Hall’ No. 7927 Willington Hall handed over to the GWS together with Large Prairie No. 4115, Churchward 2-8-0 No. 2861 and 2-8-0T No. 5227, together with a 3,500 gallon tender.
The agreement was for No. 7927 to form the basis of a re-created Hawksworth ‘County’ 4-6-0 (to be given the identity No. 1014 County of Glamorgan in recognition of the donor), and also a Churchward ‘County’ 4-4-0 and a Churchward ‘County Tank’ 4-4-2T. Similarly parts from both Nos. 2861 and 4115 would be used to build a new Churchward ‘47XX’ 2-8-0 ‘Night Owl’ – No. 4709.
The original plan outlined that the two ‘Counties’ and ‘47XX’ were to be constructed by the GWS, and the ‘County Tank’ by Vale of Glamorgan Council at Barry. Construction of both Nos. 1014 and 4709 are both now well underway at Didcot and Llangollen respectively, but the ‘County’ 4-4-0 project never quite took off. Yet the commitment made to Vale of Glamorgan Council remained.
Fast forward to 2013 when Gary Boyd-Hope, who had been working independently on a way to realise the ‘County’ dream, got together with David Bradshaw – the originator of the ‘Three Counties Agreement’. Gary argued that if the ‘County’ was to be built and the GWS meet its obligation, the 4-4-0 would need to be constructed away from Didcot and with a large degree of independence, possibly by a stand-alone organisation.
These discussions proved to be very productive and a draft proposal was submitted to the GWS’ chairman, who sanctioned further investigations. Subsequently in November 2017 the GWS board unanimously agreed to support the formation of an independent organisation to take on the 4-4-0 project and see it through to completion.
The Churchward County Trust Ltd (CCT) was set up as a wholly independent not-for-profit company (Limited by Guarantee) which, affiliated to the Great Western Society. Our primary objectives are:
- To build, operate and maintain a working example of a Churchward ‘County’ class 4-4-0 using a combination of new and existing GWR standard components.
- To create a lasting legacy in the form of an online GWR spares and patterns database; a one-stop shop where railways and owning groups can make known what spares they have available, and put out requests for parts they might require.
- To use the CCT’s property and assets to promote public knowledge, education, appreciation and understanding of the historical, scientific and cultural aspects of the locomotive, for the benefit of the public.
Thanks to the 2005 agreement, the GWS had already earmarked components for the 4-4-0 project, which are to be made available to the CCT. These include:
- Standard No. 4 boiler currently on No. 5227 at Didcot.
- Two 3ft 2in diameter wheelsets (plus horns and axleboxes) for the bogies.
- Four axleboxes
- Eight hornguides.
- Four spring hangers.
- Four brake hanger brackets.
- One reversing lever.
- A Churchward 3,500 gallon tender frame
The major components which we will have to manufacture are as follows:
- Two cylinder blocks.
- Four 6ft 8½in driving wheels – the GWS has the correct wheel pattern previously used for Lady of Legend. It may be possible to use existing axles.
- A new bogie to which existing bogie wheels, axleboxes and horns will be fitted.
- New main frame plates and stretchers – already a proven straightforward and ‘relatively’ cheap exercise.
- New extension frames – these can now be machined from solid rather than forged.
- New rear dragbox – pattern available from No. 4709.
- A full set of motion, though it is possible that a set of suitable short connecting rods and other motion parts may still exist.
- Other smaller standard parts can be easily made as many patterns have been manufactured and can be re-used.
- New tender tank.
The arrangement with the GWS will see the society retain ownership of the components for the time being. However, in a remarkable gesture of goodwill, the GWS has agreed to donate the parts to us once we have proven our ability to both raise appropriate funds and make significant progress. This will be upon the completion of the locomotive’s frame assembly, and subject to the successful awarding of charitable status.
The rate of our progress will also influence the project’s future home. Following positive discussions the board of the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR) has offered us a base at Toddington where, subject to contracts, we will complete the build. This will be a mutually beneficial arrangement that will eventually see No. 3840 based at the railway; an historically appropriate home as the original ‘Counties’ regularly worked over the route with Bristol to Birmingham expresses until the early 1930s.
However, we also hope that the completed County of Montgomery will not be the only legacy of the scheme. One of our parallel aims, therefore, is to create an online digital database for all Great Western spares and patterns held in different locations around the country.
The Swindon practice of standardisation has proven to be a great boon for preservation, and indeed it is what makes schemes such as the ‘47XX’, Betton Grange and ‘Saint’ projects possible. Yet over the years GWR loco restorers, owners, owning groups and other new-build projects have spent time and effort identifying sources of parts, or having parts manufactured, which other groups have then duplicated while hunting for their own supplies
Our central database will enable us to make known which components we are having manufactured and when, should any other group require similar, as well as list which patterns we have available. Furthermore, it will provide a one-stop shop where railways and loco owners can post details of the parts and patterns they have available for loan, or parts they intend to have produced – a Western ‘Swap Shop’ of sorts. Having such a resource available will benefit countless organisations and hopefully save precious pounds lost through duplication in the long run.