Should we re-create The Great Bear?

Over the past few years the Great Western Society has made great strides to close the missing gaps with the new build 4-6-0 Grange, 4-6-0 Saint and the 4-6-0 County and of course the 2-8-0 Night Owl. Now the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway has just announced its intension to build the 4-4-0 County: add to this the progress in restoring the missing 2-8-2T 7200 class.

So when will we see GW Churchward’s 1908 The Great Bear? The first Pacific class in the UK, ahead of its time, but with an axle load exceeding 17 tons, its route availability was restricted to the London to Bristol route which lead to its early demise.

Now however it would not be restricted, as even the West Somerset Railway has upgraded to accept a 23-ton axle load.

Another missing link is the 4-2-2No. 3031 Achilles class making the collection of standard gauge machines almost complete.

A maker’s photograph of Churchward’s The Great Bear, the first Pacific in the UK.

What is pleasing to see is locomotives that were absorbed into the GWR in 1923, restored to their original livery. I refer to the Taff Vale locomotive in its splendid Victorian livery and George England’s 0-4-0 appearing again as a Wantage Tramway engine. It is amazing how a lick of paint can reinstate history: how many more of these early engines could be given back their true identity re-creating the history of the railways?

Elsewhere, there can be no doubt that Tyseley is one of the premier railway locomotive engineering workshops with the number of main line engines that they have returned to service. The problem is, that to achieve all this, smaller projects keep being put on the back burner.

Here I refer to the 2-2-2 ‘Bloomer’, illustrated in the railway magazines in the 1980s. I, and many more I’m sure, expected to see it in steam within about 10 years, but now, some 30 years later, those of us still here still live in hope of seeing it.

Recent reports suggested that completion would be in 2019, but now it appears to be off until the coming of HS2 and who knows when that will be.

Derrick Martin, Hornchurch, Essex

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