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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

oor Street Station: gwrms2543

Ex-GWR 4-6-0 60xx class No 6026 ‘King John’ on the down Cambrian Coast Express crossing the bridge over the New Street approach tracks and about to enter Snow Hill tunnel

Ex-Great Western Railway 4-6-0 60xx (King) class No 6026 ‘King John’ on the down Cambrian Coast Express crossing the bridge over the New Street approach tracks and about to enter Snow Hill tunnel.

No 6026 was built in July 1930 at Swindon Works as part of lot 267 and was initially allocated to Old Oak Common shed (PDN) to haul the Great Western Railway's premier expresses. The King class locomotives were designed by the Company's Chief Mechanical Engineer Charles Collett to be the most powerful passenger locomotives in Great Britain and they certainly performed well over the stiff gradients of the West Country main line with heavily laden summer holiday expresses. Fitted with the massive No 12 standard boiler operating at 250 lb pressure, the tractive effort at 85% was 40,300 lb, but no power group letter was allocated to these locomotives. The maximum axle weight was 22 tons, 10 cwt, which required a new route classification of hatched red to be introduced on the engine route maps and this was indicated on the locomotive by two red discs on the cab sides (see 'misc_equip195'). The initial hatched red routes were between; Paddington and Plymouth, and Paddington and Wolverhampton. Previously the maximum axle weight allowed on any route was 20.5 tons and several bridges had to be replaced on these hatched red routes (see 'widneymanor'). Wolverhampton was the northern limit of the King class locomotives until April 1959 following the increase in platform clearances at Codsall Station. The other main obstacle was the Shifnal Viaduct, which was reconstructed in November 1953.

Excepting some modifications to the leading bogie and trailing coupled wheel springs to improve riding, there were no major changes to the King class before 1947, when a four row super-heater and mechanical lubricator were trailed and subsequently introduced to the entire class shortly after nationalisation. In May 1939 it had been identified that Kylchap double blast-pipes and increasing the size of steam passages could significantly improve the power and efficiency of the locomotive, but it was only in the 1950s as a result of inferior coal and increased labour costs, that these modifications were carried out. Self cleaning smoke-boxes were also introduced, as were larger radius steam pipes. No 6026 received a double chimney in March 1958. This was part of the improved draughting modifications as it reduced the exhaust pressure.

In March 1935, No 6026 was allocated to Stafford Road shed (SRD) near Wolverhampton and in October 1939 to Bath Road shed (BRD) in Bristol. In February 1943 No 6026 was allocated to Laira shed (LA) near Plymouth and finally returned in November 1959 to Old Oak Common shed (81A). No 6026 was withdrawn from Old Oak Common shed in September 1962 having completed a total mileage of 1,622,350 miles and was cut up at Swindon Works in December 1962.

Robert Ferris