LMS 8F Class 2-8-0 No.48305

Back in the 1930s the railways remained the principal means of transporting large quantities of goods of all types from coal, raw materials, manufactured products and foodstuffs. In the case of the LMS Railway there was a need for a more modern design of locomotive capable of pulling 1000 ton trains - in today’s terms each train keeping some 40 large lorries off the roads.

In 1932 the LMS Railway recruited William Arthur Stanier (who was later knighted in 1943) from the Great Western Railway to undertake the task of modernisation. Whilst the LMS had more urgent locomotive priorities it was not long before Stanier produced his 8F heavy goods engine. It was to be one of the most successful locomotive designs of all time. It operated all over the LMS system hauling the heaviest of goods trains. After Nationalisation in 1948 the locomotives operated over most of the railways throughout Britain.

Stanier 8Fs were no strangers to the GCR having worked many heavy freight trains on the London Extension from Nottingham to London in the latter years of the line’s operation. But the affinity with the GCR goes much further than that. Whilst the GCR O4 (see No.63601) was chosen by the War Department for large scale production in the First World War the Stanier 8F was similarly chosen for the same role in the Second World War. So we have the unique prospect before us in that we can compare, side by side, the heavy goods locomotives from two different eras as No.63601 of 1911 and No.48305 of 1935 stand together on the GCR.

The Stanier locomotives were first introduced in 1935 when a batch twelve engines, with domeless boilers, was built at the Crewe works of the LMS. These were classified 7F. An improved domed boiler was rapidly introduced and the class became the now recognised 8F. Such was the success of the class on the LMS that the design was chosen by the War Department for large scale production in the Second World War. Engines were built at many locomotive works and large numbers went overseas immediately for service in many theatres of war. Eventually 852 members of the class were built and with such a large number there were many detail differences.

No.48305, as No.8305, was completed at the Crewe Works of the LMS in November, 1943. In 1950, it was working from Wellingborough shed on the coal trains to Brent Sidings, Cricklewood, and to Toton. In April 1957, it transferred to Northampton, remaining there for the next five and a half years until its next transfer to Crewe South in December 1962. After two years there, it went to Northwich for three months before it made its final transfer to Speke Junction in Liverpool. It was withdrawn from there in January 1968, the last year of steam operation on British Railways. It arrived at Woodham's scrapyard at Barry in September 1968.

No.48305 was bought for preservation from Barry scrapyard. It is famous for having “Please don’t let me die” painted on the smokebox door. That was not to happen and the locomotive arrived on the GCR, at Quorn & Woodhouse, on 20th November, 1985. It was hauled to the Locomotive Department at Loughborough where dismantling soon began. It then underwent a long and comprehensive restoration which included the acquisition of a new tender. The locomotive was completely stripped down to its component parts and those repaired and restored or replaced before reassembly. Missing parts were made or found from other sources and the locomotive gradually developed into a complete machine once again. It was completely restored to running order and after running-in trials and final adjustments entered traffic on 25th February, 1995 at the GCR Winter Gala. It worked extensively on the GCR’s passenger and freight services and was particularly at home of the “Windcutter” train, the train of 16 ton mineral wagons so reminiscent of the original GCR. No.48305 proved a free steaming and free running engine and was well liked by all the locomotive crews who had the privilege of driving her.

She became a much travelled locomotive in preservation, spending periods at the Midland Railway Centre, North Norfolk and Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railways. No.48305 made an appearance at the GCR(N) at Ruddington in 2000 before going to the Churnet Valley Railway at Cheddleton, Staffordshire in June of that year for a five year period. Whilst there boiler repairs became necessary and although some repairs were completed at Cheddleton, it was then sent to L&NWR at Crewe for a ten year overhaul. Once there it became apparent that the boiler repairs required were more extensive, and thus more expensive, than at first anticipated. A complete re-tube was required and attention and replacement was necessary to the crown stays. Work proceeded as funds allowed.

During this period a desire was expressed to bring the locomotive back to the GCR on a permanent basis. With funds made available from The David Clarke Railway Trust the boiler repairs where completed and the locomotive returned to the GCR on 13th April, 2006. After some further remedial work to the motion and general tidying up of locomotive and tender paintwork the engine returned to traffic in May, 2006. Since then the locomotive has operated regularly on the GCR with both passenger and freight trains.

Towards the end of 2011 No.48305 was taken out of service for a full ten year overhaul. Tubes were removed from the boiler in October, 2011 and the boiler lifted from the frames in November and the frames lifted and the wheels rolled out. In January, 2012 the driving wheels were painted.

45305 is currently nearing the end of a major overhaul and is expected to return to service in January 2019 for the Winter Steam Gala.

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