Region GWR Cylinder Size 16″ x 28″
Built June 1930 Max Boiler Pressure 250 psi
Total Built 30 Fire Grate 34.4 sq ft
Designer C B Collett Tractive Effort 40,300 ib
Built at Swindon Works Tender Water Capacity 4000 Gallons
Classification 8P Tender Coal Capacity 6.5 tons
Wheel Arrangement 4-6-0 Entered Service 5 July 1930. Following restoration 2 Feb 1989
Total Length 68′ 2″ Shed Allocation Plymouth Laira 1930 and 1948, Newton Abbot 1934, Old Oak Common March 1959, Cardiff Canton 1962
Working Order Weight 135Tons Withdrawn June 1962
Driving Wheel Diameter 6′ 6″ Total Mileage 1,570,015
Valve Gear Inside Walschaerts and rocking shafts Current Owner 6024 Preservation Society Ltd
Number of Cylinders 4, 2 inside, 2 outside Last Major Overhaul Jan 2003-Oct 2004
6024 King Edward1 History
The Kings were built partly as a desire by the GWR to regain the ‘Most Powerful Express Passenger Steam Locomotive In Britain’ title which it had lost to the Southern Railway in 1926 with the introduction of the Lord Nelson class, the sole remaining example of which resides here at the Mid Hants Railway. Prior to the Lord Nelsons arrival, the title had been held by the GWR Castle class.
The Kings worked famous passenger express trains such as the Cornish Riviera Limited from London Paddington along Brunel’s ‘Billiard Table’ Great Western Railway to the coast.
The history of the ‘King’ class has been chronicled many times before. No. 6024’s life received full attention in the excellent work researched and described by Chris Brown in his “King Edward I – A Monarch Restored”, published in 1991. Drawing on Chris’ work, we set out below a chronology of some of the significant moments in No. 6024’s history in the ownership of the GWR, BR and the Society.
25 July 1929 – Extract from the Minutes of the Meeting of the GWR Locomotive Committee: “Referring to Board minute No. 7 of the 27th November 1925, it was agreed to recommend the construction of …….. rolling-stock (100 locomotives) on renewals account, at an estimated cost of £901,460, to replace condemned stock (100 locomotives) ……… 10 No. 4-6-0 ‘King’ Class, estimated cost £75,000 to be built”. Described as Lot 267, twenty ‘Halls’, thirty 51XXs, ten 2-8-0Ts and thirty “Auto engines of new type” were also ordered.
30 June 1930 – the construction of No. 6024 was completed at Swindon Works. It was fitted with standard No 12 boiler No. 4687 and attached to a new 4,000 gallon tender No. 2552, at a total cost of £7,175 including tender. Three days later the unique and iconic set of photographs of seven ‘Kings outside the Works was taken.
5 July 1930 – No. 6024 was “set to work” for the first time, and taken to Plymouth Laira depot.
12 January 1932 – With 96,532 miles on the clock, No. 6024 was “stopped” for 45 days for its first heavy intermediate overhaul at Swindon Works. Remaining united with its original tender, No. 6024 continued working until it returned to Swindon Works on 7 April 1933 for light factory work and a tender change. In January 1934, No. 6024 was allocated to Newton Abbot shed.
9 November 1934 – Now with 237,871 miles under its belt No. 6024 returned to Swindon Works for its first heavy general overhaul, including a boiler change. In four years and four months since July 1930, No. 6024 was available for 1,400 days for operating, and averaged 1,189 miles per week (almost 62,000 pa.). Further heavy general overhauls were carried out in 1938 and 1944 and the locomotive was again “stopped” on 16 July 1947 for its last overhaul under GWR ownership, when No. 6024 had completed 864,212 miles. During a light repair in 1945 the outside cylinders were renewed with 16” diameter types. In December 1948 it was re-allocated back to Plymouth Laira depot.
August/September 1950 – No. 6024 completed one million miles in GW and BR service. On 8 June 1953, with its mileage at 1,144,028 it returned to Swindon Works for a Heavy General overhaul and emerged from the Works on 11 September 1953 fitted with its first high-superheat boiler and “self-cleaning” smoke-box arrangements (in common eventually with the entire class, to cope with variations in coal quality). With the subsequent modifications throughout the fifties the class was rejuvenated and performances more than matched the traffic demands resulting from BR’s Modernisation plans. In August 1954 it was allocated to London Old Oak Common depot.
16 June 1955 – With the mileage now at 1,320,206, No. 6024 was fitted with Swindon’s “improved draughting” smoke-box arrangements and new-pattern single-chimney (to sharpen the exhaust following steaming problems resulting from the new-style spark arresting. This is the version adopted by No. 6023 in its rebuild). On 2 November 1957 it was fitted with the final-form double-chimney at Swindon Works, designed to relieve cylinder back-pressure. In final form, on a number of occasions No. 6024 was recorded at over 100 mph. It returned to the Works for heavy intermediate overhauls twice more, in September 1958 (mileage 1,408,510) when it was also fitted with the final-form of “basket” spark-arrester and in April 1960 (mileage 1,475,631) when it received its fourteenth and final boiler (No. 8610, still carried at present, which had previously been fitted to Nos. 6027 King Richard I, 6018 King Henry VI and 6000 King George V). In September 1961 No. 6024 was allocated to Cardiff Canton depot following the class’ replacement by diesel-hydraulic traction on the principal West of England and Midlands traffic.
19 June 1962 – No. 6024 was condemned, with 1,570,015 miles on the clock, aged 32 years, and sent to Swindon. Boiler No. 8610 had done 424,070 miles since new in February 1953. The locomotive was sold, first to TW Ward Limited of Briton Ferry on 10 October 1962, who then sold it on to Woodhams Brothers on 26 November 1962 following access problems beyond Cardiff.
April 1972 – The “King Preservation Society” was formed and in April 1973 the purchase of No. 6024 was completed for £4,000. The locomotive moved by road over four days to the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre at Quainton Road.
Almost sixty years after it first moved, on 2 February 1989, after seventeen years’ restoration work at Quainton Road, No 6024 resumed its career as a working machine, moving under its own power the few hundred yards at Quainton. On 26 April 1989, it was re-commissioned by HRH The Duke of Gloucester. On 9 October 1989, No. 6024 and tender were hair-raisingly loaded onto road vehicles and transported to the Birmingham Railway Museum at Tyseley.
8 February 1990 – The locomotive returned to the mainline between Birmingham and Derby for its test-run. At this time steam-hauled passenger trains were restricted to a handful of secondary mainline routes, often without entering busy centres. Light engine movements were possible on certain principal routes, but at night. No. 6024 was further barred from some routes because of its height. Therefore, ambitions were limited to getting onto the mainline rather than having any high hopes of re-tracing the steps of the ‘Kings’ in their heyday.
15/16 April 1990 – the first-revenue-earning work in preservation, over the short distance between Birmingham and Stratford Upon Avon. On 24 June 1990 No. 6024 covered 188 passenger miles between Newport and Shrewsbury and returned to Swindon Works as part of the National Railway Museum on Tour Exhibition. There, it briefly met up again with classmate No. 6000 King George V. The locomotive made more long-haul trips to Derby and elsewhere in 1991. On 9 September 1991 No. 6024 ran from Swindon to Hereford hauling the Society’s newly-acquired (but unpainted) Mark 1 Support Coach No. 35333
7 December 1991 – No. 6024 made its return to Paddington for the first time in preservation, running to Stratford along the “New Road” via High Wycombe. On 22 March 1992, again working out and back to Paddington, the safety-valves caught the underside of the steel bridge at Ladbroke Grove. After repairs and a light engine run proved that this disaster had had no lasting ill effects, the locomotive resumed its programme, including its first revenue-earning run on the line through the Golden Valley when it demonstrated that it had plenty in hand on this tricky climb.
30/31 August 1992 – No. 6024 made its much-awaited return by rail to Quainton Road. On 22 August 1993 a run from Didcot to Worcester and return via Oxford and Gloucester contained a number of “firsts”: the first run ever by No. 6024 along the Cotswold Line and the Midland route from Worcester to Gloucester (probably by any ‘King’) and the first steam-hauled passenger train along the GWML between Swindon and Didcot for many years. 1993 was very significant, the changes within the railway industry preparing for privatisation strongly suggesting many new steam routes were becoming available.
30 January 1994 – The Society took a gamble and promoted its first mainline charter, the “Red Dragon” to Cardiff. On 4 April 1994 the locomotive and coach ran to Bristol Temple Meads to run a rail-tour, the first scheduled steam-hauled passenger train in Brunel’s great station since the GWR 150 Celebrations in 1985. The route included the climb of Filton bank to Bristol Parkway and Westerleigh Junction and then through Cheltenham to Gloucester; yet more new routes were opening up.
On 24 April 1994 No. 6024 used the GWML from Paddington through Reading to Didcot with a passenger train for the first time in preservation since KGV ran in 1979 as a part of the Paddington 125 celebrations. On 29 April 1994 No. 6024 made the first steam-hauled passenger train movement to Exeter since 1985, for the Rail-Fair. After the event, the engine headed westwards light with the support coach along the South Devon sea-wall to the dramatic Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway, where it ran service trains for a couple of days.
20 May 1994 – Although in BR days No. 6024 ended up shedded at Cardiff it never got further west in traffic so to run to Swansea was another first for the engine. On 2 October 1994 No. 6024 ran from Newport to Paignton via the Severn Tunnel, the first steam-hauled passenger train through the tunnel for many years and the first time for No. 6024 since 1962. 1994 was the locomotive’s busiest year yet. Almost 2,700 mainline miles were completed with some fascinating visits to different locations, as well as regular running on familiar routes. Significantly, however, the engine’s height was never far away from people’s concerns and in March 1995 the renewal of the boiler ticket was upon us, to be undertaken at the military base at BAD Kineton near Fenny Compton.
23 September 1996 – After eighteen months hard work, a modified ‘King’ – air-braked and with its height reduced – saw daylight again at the end of the summer, in readiness for a series of trains retracing the steps made by pioneer classmate No. 6000 King George V when it ran its “Return to Steam” tours in 1971. These rail-tours were arranged to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of KGV’s tours. On 2 October 1996, No. 6024 ran from Hereford to Birmingham SH via Severn Tunnel and Didcot, and on 5 October 1996 from Stourbridge Junction to Paddington via Birmingham SH and High Wycombe, to return to Didcot
9 November 1996 – No. 6024 made its much-anticipated return to Plymouth from Paddington, double-headed from Newton Abbot with ‘Mogul’ 2-6-0 No. 7325, and on the return to Kidderminster and the Severn Valley Railway on 30 November 1996. On 15 March 1997 the locomotive ran to a brand new location, the West Somerset Railway. The train ran through to Minehead.
5 April 1997 – The ‘King’ went to Plymouth again, this time unassisted. 1997 ended well but with the banning of all steam between the beginning of June and the end of August to avoid line-side fires, the amount of work done by the engine was below average, with 1,400 mainline miles completed. 1998 dawned with a large and ambitious programme planned, including a month of intensive work in the North of England with two runs in each direction between Crewe and Carlisle on the S & C and a further first being a run to York and a visit to the National Railway Museum.
9 May 1998 – No. 6024 made the second unassisted run over the South Devon banks by steam in modern times and it also made the first recorded sortie by a ‘King’ into Cornwall over Brunel’s famous bridge over the Tamar. The engine stabled at the delightful Bodmin & Wenford Railway for three weeks and returned from Cornwall on 30 May 1998. Another first for No. 6024 took place on 22 August 1998 when the locomotive worked from Newport to Carmarthen. On 5 September 1998 it made a first-ever visit by a ‘King’ to Weymouth and on the 19 September 1998, the first ever ‘King’ run through Cornwall to Penzance, returning the following day from Falmouth. After a run to York on 14 November 1998 (Table 11), on 22 November 1998 the locomotive transferred to Leeds to replicate the 1948 Locomotive Exchanges between there and the capital on the ECML by No. 6018 King Henry VI. On 20 December 1998 the locomotive ventured even further east, to Cambridge and Norwich, and completed the Society’s busiest year yet with No. 6024 covering almost 4,000 miles.
Continuing to go further afield, on 23 January 1999 the first of two visits to Holyhead were made and on 14 February 1999 an excursion to Salisbury and Basingstoke saw No. 6024 visit more uncharted waters. On 26 March 1999 No. 6024 made a forgettable northbound attempt on Shap, and an unforgettable southbound run before returning to home territory for the remainder of 1999, during which year well over 3,000 miles were covered.
18 March 2000 – No. 6024 made its first ever visit to another London terminus, this time Victoria, before a spell at Didcot and returning to York; then it returned to its regular routes in the west including Plymouth again before 10 February 2001 when it made another visit to the S & C. After much-improved performances by the ‘King’ during 2001 following some much-needed repair-work, a driving-wheel hot-box came out of the blue and was an unwelcome set-back. Being particularly sensitive to precise weight-distribution and balancing because of its overall weight, it inevitably took the ‘King’ some time and a couple of trials to get things right again and finally prove the repairs. 2002 saw the complete rehabilitation of the locomotive with fine runs on home territory and in the Spring of 2002 it made its way under cover of darkness to Guildford and Alton to spend a couple of sunny months running on the lovely Watercress Line. After a successful summer there followed by more mainline work including an astonishing record-breaking performance between Plymouth and Exeter on 31 August 2002, in October 2002 No. 6024’s second mainline ticket came to an abrupt end and a major overhaul was started at Tyseley, to be completed in October 2004. After a series of test trains, No. 6024 resumed duties on home territory where it generally stayed apart from briefly on the 26 February 2005 when it made its first assault of the Lickey incline.
28 February 2005 – For almost a quarter of a century, more than anyone else, Bernard Staite had influenced and promoted preserved steam on the mainline. A train made up of the Venice Simplon Orient Express Pullmans (VSOE) was hauled by No. 6024 heading the Severn Valley Railway’s ‘Manor’ Class No. 7802 Bradley Manor, to celebrate a great career spent advancing preserved mainline steam and to mark Bernard’s retirement.
Having held an event for Society Members a week earlier at Old Oak Common(when I joined) to celebrate the engine’s 75th Anniversary, on 2 July 2005 the Society sponsored an ambitious rail-tour between Paddington and Kingswear, replicating a ‘King’-hauled named train of GW days over a traditional ‘King’ route. This was to celebrate almost exactly to the day the date (5 July 1930) the locomotive had been “set to work” seventy-five years earlier. Following this, No. 6024 became the usual traction for the summer “Torbay Express”.
Based in London or Bristol the locomotive continued to run trains over its now familiar routes for the remainder of 2005 but on 25 March 2006 it returned to South Wales as far as Carmarthen and then on 22 April 2006 it made a first-ever for the class run to Fishguard. More familiar routes filled the remainder of 2006 including, on the 21 October 2006 a welcome return to Cornwall and Penzance.
2007 saw more of the same, including runs without water-stops between Shrewsbury and Paddington on 9 June 2007 and Paddington and Yeovil (and return) on 16 June 2007, made possible by using the Society’s water-carrier. Both 2008 and 2009 saw restricted work by the locomotive due to extended winter maintenance periods but even with its availability limited to just the second half of each year the locomotive completed well over 5,000 mainline miles on its regular routes.
Already with a number of highly successful rail-tours completed in 2010, the year was another busy time for No. 6024 and saw the locomotive top 50,000 mainline miles in preservation since 1990 (plus many thousands working on private lines). Between May and September, including participating on a number of exciting events as a part of GW 175, No. 6024 amassed almost 5,000 trouble-free mainline miles, with a further 2,000 preserved line miles under its belt, which was the most concentrated period of work for the loco in its preservation history.
Now in the midst of heavy overhaul, we await the writing of further chapters in the history of our King.
(History courtesy of Tim Watson)
I hope you enjoyed reading this. Regards Shirl