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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Olton Station: gwro2247

Great Western Railway 2-2-2 No 55 'Queen' hauls the Royal Train through Olton station in March 1887

Great Western Railway 2-2-2 No 55 'Queen' hauls the Royal Train through Olton station in March 1887. Queen Victoria had visited Birmingham to lay the foundation stone of the new Law Courts Building on 23rd March 1887 and the Royal Train was photographed as it returned to Windsor. Locomotive No 55 ‘Queen’ was built at Swindon Works in September 1873 under lot 33. The locomotive was an enlarged ‘Sir Daniel’ class with underhung driving wheel springs and a two slide bar motion. The locomotive was originally built with a hybrid boiler and flush firebox. This had been constructed at Wolverhampton, but the tubes and external fittings were added at Swindon. The large polished dome was centrally positioned (type S3). The boiler pressure was 140lbs producing a tractive effort, at 85% of 11,016 lbs. No 55 had distinctive large polished gunmetal axle boxes on the driving wheels and ornate brass beading on the splashers. The locomotive was regularly used for Royal duties, carrying a plaque bearing the Royal Coat of Arms in addition to the official four lamp headcode.

Early modifications to No 55 included; partially enclosing the footplate, cast number plates, enclosed driving wheel splashers and a new chimney. A steam brake was fitted in 1878 and two years later, a vacuum brake was added. Various cylinders were also trialled. In August 1886 the locomotive was rebuilt and re-entered service with the large polished dome located further forward on the boiler (type S2). The locomotive's appearance changed again in August 1896, when the frames were extended forward by four inches and a boiler with a rear dome fitted (type S4). By the turn of the century the 2-2-2 wheel arrangement was considered obsolete and the locomotives relegated to secondary duties and in June 1905, Locomotive No55 was withdrawn. The third coach in the train is the eight wheeled standard gauge ‘Queens Saloon’ which was built in 1874 to replace an earlier broad gauge saloon. When, to honour the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in June 1897, the Great Western Railway wished to build a new royal saloon, Queen Victoria's insisted that her private saloon compartment should remain unaltered. As a result the entire central section of this coach was skilfully incorporated into a new lengthened carriage with only the vestibule doors being widened. This rebuilt coach served as a hearse for both Queen Victoria and King Edward VII and was scrapped in 1912. A section of the interior is preserved in the National Railway Museum.

Robert Ferris