The Bluebell Railway-based Maunsell Q 0-6-0 No. 30541 was the star guest at the Great Central Railway’s winter steam gala, making its first-ever appearance on Britain’s only double track heritage main line, with nine other locomotives in steam, writes Robin Jones.
Around 5000 people attended the Great Central Railway’s winter steam gala over January 27-29, one of only a handful of events which provide a welcome break in the otherwise silent weeks of post-new year.
The guest locomotive for this year’s event was the Maunsell Locomotive Society’s 1939-built Q 0-6-0 No. 30541, the sole survivor of a class of 20.
Designed by Southern Railway chief mechanical engineer Richard Maunsell, the class was built under his successor Oliver Bulleid, just before the Second World War.
They were intended for use on medium-distance freight trains, replacing old
pre-Grouping types. However, their design was old fashioned in itself, and were soon eclipsed by Bulleid’s own and more powerful Q1s.
Nonetheless, the Qs were by no means obsolete, and remained in service until 1965.
It was thanks to Woodham Brothers scrapyard at Barry that one of the class survived. No. 30541 was bought by enthusiasts in 1973 and at first moved to the Dowty Preservation Society’s base at Ashchurch near Tewkesbury.
After five years it was taken to the Bluebell Railway where it has remained ever since. Its owning group merged with those of U class No. 1618 and S15 No. 847 to form the Maunsell Locomotive Society.
Major restoration work saw it return to steam in 1983, operating for the following decade in Maunsell livery as No. 541.
It ran until 1993 when its boiler ticket expired, and had to wait in the overhaul queue until work on returning it to steam again began in July 2011. It returned to service on April 28, 2015, carrying 1960s BR livery as No. 30541.
No. 30541 is not the first Q to have been taken over GC metals. No. 30538 was withdrawn at Fratton in June 1964 and scrapped at Ward’s at Killamarsh in Derbyshire later that year. No. 30532 also made its last journey by rail from Salisbury to Killamarsh around the same time, and would also have been taken over the Marylebone extension to meet its fate.
Also running during the gala were BR Britannia Pacific No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell, WR 4-6-0 No. 6990 Witherslack Hall, Stanier 8F 2-8-0 No. 48624, BR Standard 2MT 2-6-0 No. 78018, SR King Arthur 4-6-0 No. 777 Sir Lamiel, LMS ‘Jinty’ 0-6-0T No. 47406, ‘Black Five’ No. 45305 and Ivatt 2MT 2-6-0 No. 46521.
Both passenger and freight trains were run and the line’s Travelling Post Office set ran on the Saturday and Sunday. Witherslack Hall was withdrawn for half a day, reportedly with firebar problems, but everything else ran according to plan.
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