By Don Benn
Tyseley has announced that its fine GWR double chimney GWR Castle 4-6-0 No. 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe has been withdrawn for overhaul.
Although Bob Meanley is quoted as saying that the work shouldn’t take too long, it cannot be started until ongoing work on other locomotives is finished, so we may not see it back on the main line for a few years yet. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to pay homage to this superb and reliable main line performer.
No. 5043 was built in 1936 and originally named Barbury Castle. It had a double chimney and a four row superheater fitted in 1958, when steam was just beginning to be edged out by the Warship diesels.
It was allocated to Old Oak Common for most of the 1950s and then went to Cardiff Canton, before spending its last months before withdrawal in December 1963 at Cardiff East Dock (88L). It went to Barry, but was bought in 1973 by the Birmingham Railway Museum and stored at Tyseley, originally as spares for No. 7029 Clun Castle.
However, it was decided in 1996 to restore it to full main line running in its late 1950s condition and the long task was finally finished in 2008. It is looked after at Tyseley by Bob Meanley and his team, and it is always in immaculate external condition and it has been kept in tip-top mechanical condition as well.
Many will remember the outstanding runs of the ‘Cheltenham Flyer’, the non-stop ‘Marylebone Flyer’ and ‘1Z48’.
Driver Ray Churchill was always full of praise for No. 5043 and when I talked to him just after he retired, he told me he thought his top trip must be 1Z48 with No. 5043 on May 10, 2014, which re-enacted the railtour of May 9, 1964, and to be told on arrival at Bristol by the late Mike Notley that he had shaved some three minutes or so off the original record, making him and his fireman Alastair Meanley the fastest steam loco crew between Plymouth and Bristol.
Ray also mentioned the Inter City from Birmingham to Marylebone, ‘Marylebone Flyer’, where we were almost brought to a stand at West Ruislip by signals and, as the signal cleared, a great cheer went up all along the train as our non-stop status had been saved.
I asked him what he considered to be his favourite engine of all those he has driven and he thought for a moment and then said “fifty forty three”.
Yes, that’s No. 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe of course, which is no surprise really. I then suggested to him that Castles needed to have full or nearly full pressure to produce the best results and he agreed, adding that they were best worked in second valve with full boiler pressure and cut off adjusted to suit the conditions and to keep or regain time.
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