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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Hockley Station: gwrhd1964

A Great Western Railway 3206 (Barnum) class 2-4-0 locomotive with an ambulance train speeds past Hockley Station

A Great Western Railway 3206 (Barnum) class 2-4-0 locomotive with an ambulance train speeds past Hockley Station. This photograph appeared in the Great Western Railway magazine in January 1915, so probably shows one of the original ambulance trains.

The 2-4-0 Barnum class were classed as mixed traffic locomotives and are considered to be one of the most successful of the Dean era locomotives. All twenty were built at Swindon Works in 1889 under lot 75. They had outside sandwich frames and originally the springs of all the wheels were underhung. Over time the locomotives underwent a number of alterations, including repositioning the springs of the leading wheels to on top of the platform and changes to wheel and cylinder sizes. Boilers replacement reflected the rapid changes in boiler technology, which was taking place at the time and then during the war the use of reconditioned boilers. The locomotive in the photograph has a large domed belpaire boiler where the firebox top is flush with the boiler barrel (type B 4). This type was first introduced in 1903 and had become the standard boiler for the class over the next ten years. It had a boiler pressure of 180lbs giving a tractive effort at 85% of 17,415lb (power group A). With this boiler arrangement had a maximum axle weight of 15tons, 11cwt allowing these locomotives to travel on main lines and most branch lines (route classification – Yellow). With the introduction of more modern motive power the first of the Barnum class locomotives was withdrawn in 1926 and the last in 1937.

At the outbreak of the First World War the government ordered twelve standard ambulance trains to be constructed by the railway companies. The Great Western Railway were instructed to build two of these (No 4 and No 5), and by modifying existing carriage stock, these two trains had both entered service by 25th August 1914. The trains comprised nine eight-wheeled coaches fitted with both Vacuum brake and Westinghouse air brake systems to enable them to be used across the country. Each coach had a large red cross painted on a white background on each side and the roof. The individual coaches were:
· Two x Saloon brake coaches, with eight beds for orderlies plus a storage
· Restaurant car
· Pharmacy coach, divided by partitions to form dispensary, linen store and an operating theatre
· Four x Ward coaches, each containing eighteen beds for men
· Ward coach with beds for eight officer patients, plus accommodation for two doctors and two nurses.

In early 1915 two further ambulance trains were completed by the Great Western Railway, one (No 16) of these was destined for use in France. Again recently built steel-sided, toplight coaches were modified and railway staff were provided to supervise the transportation of this train and another built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company Ltd) named the ‘Princess Christian train’ (No 15) to the continent. Two further similar continental ambulance trains (No 18 and No 19) were ordered from the Great Western Railway in May and July of 1915 respectively, but during the transportation of the later, four coaches were lost when the Steam Ship ‘SS Africa’ was sunk off the Kent coast and replacement coaches had to be rapidly provided. These two trains were later named ‘Carina’ and ‘Yvonne’. In May 1916 two more continental ambulance trains (No 26 and No 27) were built and these were exhibited to the public at several major city stations (including Birmingham) to raise money, before they went abroad. These two trains were later named ‘Elizabeth’ and ‘Artic’. In August 1917 ambulance train No 33 (later Gabrielle) was built and in 1918 the final two continental ambulance trains (No 39 and No 43) were built. This last train was also exhibited at Birmingham. In total four standard and eight continental ambulance trains were constructed at the Swindon Works and in addition two special ambulance trains for the American government were built. After the end of the war most of the ambulance coaches were repurchased and by 1921 had been rebuilt into normal passenger coach stock.

For more information on the Great Western Railway in Warwickshire during the First World War please visit here.

Robert Ferris