2023 sees 100 years since the forming of the big four railway companies – The GWR, LNER, LMS and Southern Railways. To celebrate the centenary, we are delighted to announce that the Nene Valley Railway will host GWR Saint Class no.2999 ‘Lady of Legend’ for a visit in September! This is the first time the loco or any of its class will have visited the NVR and the first time it has made a visit to the east of England – it may even be the first time any Saint has ever made it this far east! No.2999 is unique in being the only type of its class that is preserved as all the others were scrapped by the mid-50s, and no.2999 was painstakingly rebuilt and re-engineered from a later class of locomotive after steam was axed by preservationists at the Great Western Society.
The Saint class were introduced on the GWR from 1902, but by 1953 all were scrapped. Designed by G.J. Churchward, the Saint class proved to be a highly successful class of steam locomotive, which used innovative ideas picked up by Churchward while studying locomotive design practises in the USA. The class established the design principles for GWR 2-cylinder classes over the following fifty years. This was shown by Charles Collett, Churchward’s successor, who converted ‘Saint’ no.2925 ‘Saint Martin’ into the prototype Hall class of locomotives, as well as serving as a template for the other GWR 4-6-0s such as the Grange, Manor and County classes. Design aspects also influenced locomotives on other railways, such as the LMS Black 5, LNER B1 and even the BR Standard class 5.
No.2999 ‘Lady of Legend’ was developed and built by reversing what Collett did to no.2925 to become the prototype Hall, by taking Hall class no.4942 ‘Maindy Hall’ which was purchased from Barry in the early 1970s, with the sole intention always being to recreate a Saint. The project didn’t fully get underway however until 1995, due to the costs involved and the amount of work which would be required to undertake the back conversion. Major new components were required, such as three new sets of 6’ 8 ½” driving wheels to replace 4942s 6’ ones, two sets of bogie wheels, two new identical half cylinder blocks were required to recreate the inside cylinders which are fed by a straight steam pipe that was an integral part of the Saint design, a complete new lever reverser was made from new, and the frames were heavily modified and straightened, as well as other major components were thoroughly overhauled and rebuilt, while others were sourced from other GWR locos, which proves how well the standardisation of Swindon’s locos worked. A connecting rod from 2906 ‘Lady of Lyn’ and the whistle from 2910 ‘Lady of Shalott’ have also been used on the rebuild of no.2999.
The loco was numbered no.2999 as this would have been the next production number for a Saint, the last, no.2998 ‘Ernest Cunard’ being outshopped from Swindon in 1913 -110 years ago this year, and 106 years between both locos being completed!
‘Lady of Legend’ has been built in a way that it can be converted back even further, to run as an Atlantic class 4-4-2 of which 13 Saints were built but were later converted to 4-6-0s. The project cost a total of £825,000 to complete, and in February 2020 the project won the inaugural Chairman’s Special Prize at the Annual Heritage Railway Association awards and was also highly commended at the National Museums and Heritage Awards in September 2020.
While at the NVR ‘Lady of Legend’ will undertake two weekends of running, an evening fish and chip train running as ‘The Cambrian Coast Express’, a pasty and pint train followed by live music running as ‘The Cornishman’, driving experience courses and a full line day time photographic charter with the freight train. Full details of all the above will be announced shortly!
We would like to thank Didcot Railway Centre and the GWS for allowing ‘Lady of Legend’ to visit the NVR!