A Chinese Beast from Lancashire

2013 National Railway Museum York - The Great Gathering - 1935 Chinese Government Railways 4-8-4 KF7 Class Vulcan Foundry

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!

2013 National Railway Museum York - The Great Gathering - Chinese Government Railways 4-8-4 KF7 Class & LNER A4 4489 Dominion of CanadaThe 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.

2013 National Railway Museum York - The Great Gathering - 1935 Chinese Government Railways 4-8-4 KF7 Class Vulcan FoundryLater 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.

2013 National Railway Museum York - The Great Gathering - 1935 Chinese Government Railways 4-8-4 KF7 Class Vulcan FoundryThis 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.

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3 thoughts on “A Chinese Beast from Lancashire

  1. I agree fully Dave and it does beg the question of where locomotive design for domestic use might have gone in Britain, had the national loading gauge been less restrictive.
    One thing that I always not in UK steam designs for export is the often more modern appearance and higher technical specifications such as air braking, mechanical firing and electric lighting. It seems our domestic operators were rather conservative in outlook by comparison.
    This locomotive has long been a favourite of mine at York. She certainly stands out in the crowd!

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    • Some very valid points there, this locomotive demonstrates both how advanced the UK could be in terms of locomotive design but also how restricted the railways of the UK were (and still are in many respects!)

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  2. Reblogged this on Loco Yard and commented:

    Seeing as today is the first day of the Chinese New Year, we thought it would be a good time to recap and look at one of the National Railway Museum’s most unusual exhibits!

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