Mark Smithers pays a visit to the Timothy Hackworth Industrial Estate in Shildon to see a future star of the heritage railway movement taking shape – the new-build G5 0-4-4T.
The north-east of England is rapidly becoming an important centre in new-build locomotive construction for the domestic heritage railway scene.
From the high-profile projects such as the A1 Tornado and the P2 Prince of Wales to the ‘smaller’ products of North Bay Engineering, the influence of two Darlington-based enterprises in this field cannot be overstated.
Away from these there are several other relatively ‘unsung’ extinct steam loco classes which offer new-build opportunities. It is one such project that forms the subject of this feature – the LNER G5, or NER ‘O’ Class.
Why the NER O Class?
One difficulty with the way the domestic heritage railway movement has evolved in the post-Second World War era is that where surviving steam locomotive designs are concerned, there are major imbalances in the areas of both design chronology and operational geography.
While the early designs are well represented in one form or another, as are most of the last surviving main line classes, there are significant gaps in the ranks of mid-to-late 19th century classes.
The reasons for this are that the novelty of the pioneering railways provided an impetus to recreate, say the Steam Elephant, while locomotives such as the ‘Black Fives’ in their latter revenue-earning careers represent a living, if fading, memory for the surviving older enthusiast.
The geographical imbalance in the ranks of our remaining steam fleet arises from the fact that many of the locomotives which came into the preservation scene via Dai Woodham’s Barry route are of 20th century ethnic Great Western Railway or BR Standard origin – LNER types did not fare well in this respect.
In order to fill one of the late 19th-century ‘gaps’ in the ranks of our heritage railway steam capability, a group of Northern-based enthusiasts formed the G5 Locomotive Company with the objective of recreating a full-size NER ‘O’ class 0-4-4T – later known as the LNER G5 class.
Read more and view more images in Issue 249 of HR – on sale now!