The 140,000 people who visited the Great Gathering in York must have noticed a rather large 4-8-4 steam locomotive sitting next to the A4’s. The locomotive is KF7; donated to the National Railway Museum by the Chinese government and is one of two known survivors of the KF class (the other at Beijing Railway Museum).
Twenty four of these large locomotives were built for the Beijing-Hankou Railway in the 1930’s by the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire (now in Merseyside). It’s incredible to think that this locomotive was built in the UK – it certainly looks like nothing that run’s in the UK and would be surprised if there any lines in the UK with a wide enough loading gauge to run something this size!
The class were successful and most lasted in service until 1970’s, although a few were destroyed in the 1937-1945 Sino-Japanese war. Interesting they were designed to distribute their weight widely to run over relatively weak bridges and the 4-8-4 wheel arrangement aided operating on sharp curves. They were worked hard too, on 2% gradients and around 250 metre radii curves.
Later in the 1930’s, this locomotive was transferred to work the Hankow and Changsha sections of the Changsha-Canton Railway. Here they worked distances up to 2,428km (1,509 miles). Putting this in perspective, this is around three and three quarters longer than London Edinburgh.
This locomotive, despite it’s appearances is British built and has had a hard, long working life. There’s certainly more to this steam engine than just being a book-end for 6 LNER A4’s! Interesting stuff, I hope you agree!
To read about other exhibits to be found in the National Railway Museum during this visit in 2013, please click here.