Better than BR

In the final part of our series marking 30 years since unique BR 8P Pacific No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester returned to steam, Ian Murray looks at the record-breaking performances of the locomotive beyond which it could have achieved under BR.

No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester heads a southbound ‘Cumbrian Mountain Express’. JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH/BR
No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester heads a southbound ‘Cumbrian Mountain Express’. JOHN SHUTTLEWORTH/BR

The year 1986 was to prove pivotal in many ways for the No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester restoration team.

Twelve long years since the butchered remains of the Class 8 prototype Pacific had arrived on the then nascent Great Central Railway, the finishing line was in sight.

The Duke was complete, fully painted and lined… but had two rather important components missing – the rear sections of the coupling rods which had still to be delivered from Brush. Undeterred the team elected to run a members’ special on October 3, 1986 along what had become, by then, a GCR of respectable length, the locomotive running as a 4-4-2-2! This event ranks as one of the more bizarre episodes in the life of this unique locomotive, although the team had, by that time, run several trips up and down the line with the locomotive hauling just two coaches.

The feelings of elation and excitement of members finally being hauled by the machine they toiled on for so long is hard to imagine.

Read more in the latest issue of HR

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