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  • Writer's pictureChris Hoskin

Bigger is better

Updated: Aug 20, 2018

One constant source of difficulty in creating or returning any locomotive to the mainline is all the necessary requirements that must be met to enable safe operation. This is not a place to discuss the relative merits of "the olden days" and today but just to note we must comply with what the industry complies with. Even with all the processes and procedures in place, things do not always go to plan, as proved by our friends at the A1 Trust the other month when Tornado dropped its middle expansion link on the East Coast Main Line.

The other issue that is an issue, particularly for Great Western locomotives is that the railway is smaller now than it used to be. This may seem madness but it is primarily a result of having to fit electrification into an already small loading gauge. When you compare our standard C1 loading gauge with that used in mainland Europe you start to appreciate the engineering skill that goes into producing everything "in miniature" compared with almost all other standard gauge railways in the world.

UIC A loading guage as used in mainland Europe

To return to imperial units, our C1 loading gauge enables vehicles to be 13' - 13'1" tall whereas the standard height for GW locomotives is 13'6". This disparity is obvious when you look at a picture of a GW loco cleared for the mainline and one that isn't - the chimney and safety valve are invariably squashed to fit.

6023 King Edward II showing full height safety valve bonnet (left) and cut down bonnet (right)

Thus any organisation has to decide what is most important for their current needs. An organisation such as the A1 and P2 Trust aims to generate revenue through mainline operation. However, the 1014 County Project team has taken the decision that, currently, given the difficulty of operating on the mainline, particularly with the additional requirements, and with the necessary compromises to the locomotive, 1014 County of Glamorgan will not be a mainline locomotive and will be restricted to heritage railways. Obviously this will be a disappointment to some, (the webmaster included who would have liked to see it challenge Tornado's Shap standing start to top record), but common sense must prevail and this will enable an authentic County to be produced.

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