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The history of 6989

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Paddington 26th September 1961, 6989 in charge of the 11:15 Worcester service. Photo R.J. Blenkinso

Taken at Gloucester Horton Road Shed. Photo RJ Stevenson.

The history of 6989 'Wightwick Hall'(Revised 23rd July 2017) Jeff Jackson.

In 1944, F. W. Hawksworth of the Great Western Railway introduced an improved version of the Hall class 4-6-0 introduced by his predecessor, C. B. Collett. The locomotive was classified as 6959 Modified Hall 5MT 4-6-0. Changes to the 5900 Hall Class engines were; plate frame 'one piece' mainframes (the originals were made in two sections joined together behind the cylinders), plate frame bogie, separately cast cylinders and a larger three-row super-heater and header regulator. New flush-sided tenders were paired with the engines, although these soon became swapped round as visits to the works for repair took place. 6989 ran with at least 10 different tenders and we have pictures of her in service with both Hawksworth flat sided and Collett flare sided types. Boilers were also routinely swapped between locos to keep them flowing through the workshops so 6989 ran with five different type 1 boilers. Her current boiler, serial number 9296, ran in 7902 Eaton Mascot Hall and 6979 Helperly Hall before being fitted to 6989 in March 1961, steaming 468,161 miles in total, 90,895 of them in 6989.

The Hall Class was a development of G. J. Churchward's 1907 Saint Class, so the original design was now on its third iteration. In all 71 Modified Halls were built between 1944 and 1950, of which seven survived into preservation:

            6960 Raveningham Hall.

            6984 Owsden Hall.

            6989 Wightwick Hall.

            6990 Witherslack Hall.

            6998 Burton Agnes Hall.

            7903 Foremark Hall.

            7927 Willington Hall was used as a donor for Betton Grange and County of Glamorgan.

Wightwick Hall was built at Swindon under Swindon Works Lot Number 366, was completed on 25th March 1948 and entered service the same month with British Railways Western Region based out of Hereford, to replace one of the Saints that was withdrawn. She was the second last steam locomotive to be ordered by the Great Western Railway Company before British Railways took over under nationalisation and cost £9,686 to build, including the tender.

(1)(2) The locomotive is named after Wighwick Hall, which is located near Wolverhampton. The 17th century part of Wightwick Manor was for a period known as Wightwick Hall, but as it was expanded by the Mander family it was renamed Wightwick Manor; thereby allowing the building that was built in the 1890s for Sir Alfred Hickman, MP and industrialist, to adopt the name Wightwick Hall. The Hall became a Special Needs school in 1956.

6989 was out shopped in G.W.R. lined green livery with the number on the front buffer beam and British Railways in capitalised G.W.R. style letters on the tender. This is confirmed by Angus Brymer, who was a cleaner at Hereford where she was assigned ex- Swindon and pictures we have of 6989 at Tyseley in 1949. (3) The following account sheds some light as to perhaps why she was not in B.R. black, as might have been expected. Around February 1948, B.R. gave instructions to Swindon that by the end of that week no more green paint was to be made in the Swindon Paint Factory. Five hundred gallons of Brunswick green was hurriedly made to beat the deadline and stored in unlabelled five gallon drums. Hence, when B.R. (WR) engines needed repainting and the drums were opened, they were found to be green and not the expected Black. Having opened the drums they had to be used! We have a picture taken in September 1956 by Dick Blenkinsop at Leamington Spa, where he confirms she was in B.R. black. (4) According to observations recorded at Swindon Shed in September 1955, class 6959 engines were being turned out post overhaul in Brunswick green, whereas non modified halls were being painted black. Most of the pictures we have of her show her sporting a smoke box number and shed plate, but we have one taken at Birmingham Snow Hill without these and showing the number painted on the buffer beam in Great Western style. Our conclusion is that she left Swindon Works in green, was repainted black at the heavy general overhaul in October 1950 and back to green at the intermediate repair in September 1956. We have a photograph of her on Swindon Shed in lined Brunswick Green that we believe was taken on 6th March 1961 after a heavy general repair.

Wightwick Hall covered 640,645 miles in 16 years of service, operating in an area mainly bounded by Cardiff, Paignton, Banbury and London, working in the fast freight and express passenger role. We know that she did get as far afield as Crewe and Bournemouth. She spent ten years working out of Hereford (shed code 85C), four years out of Worcester (shed code 85A) and finally two out of Gloucester Horton Road (shed code 85B). We have sightings of 6989 in all of these areas. Her career was not without drama. When based at Hereford she was working the 11:55 Hereford to Paddington train on 4th June 1956 when the engineman passed over a 15mph speed restriction at 45mph with no apparent ill effects! The driver probably did not get off so lightly

(5)During November and December of 1959, when allocated to Worcester shed, 6989 alternated with sister engine 6984 Owsden Hall on the Cambrian Coast Express between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton. We are informed by Geoff Peverill, who was a loco fitter at Worcester that 6989 substituted on top runs for failed Castles on several occasions. (6) In May 1961, she did a very fast run from Oxford to Paddington of 58 minutes, including a speed restriction running into Paddington.

6989 regularly worked the Cathedrals Express. We were able to borrow the original wooden pattern for the Cathedrals Express headboard and had a new one cast. This went missing for a number of years, but thanks to some detective work by Dusty Miller, it is now firmly back in our possession.

She often worked into Wembley on football or hockey specials. We have a picture of her at Neasden Junction on the occasion of the Schoolboy International held at Wembley on 30th March 1957. In the same month, 6989 was pressed into service on the Cornishman, filling in for a failed castle. During the dying days of steam in September 1962, 6989 was taken off a goods train to replace the failed D1000 Western Enterprise, which was only nine months old at the time, on a Birmingham to Paddington express. We have a picture in our collection of 6989 at Bridgwater in 1963 rescuing a Warship Class diesel heading the noon Penzance to Paddington Travelling Post Office.

Eventually, the shed was unable to keep her gainfully employed and she was condemned on 1st June 1964, sold to Woodham Brothers Scrap Yard in Barry South Wales on 17th July 1964, making her last journey on B.R. metals as part of a special train from Gloucester to Barry on 6th August 1964 in company with 6960 Raveningham Hall, 7F No 53809 and Class 48xxx No 48431. She then spent 13 years five months languishing in the salt air of Barry, before being rescued by the Quainton Railway Society. She was the 88th engine to leave Barry to go into preservation. Mike Lawrence Low Loaders moved her to Quainton. Mike recollects she was the fifth of over 80 engines he liberated from Barry.

The Wightwick Hall Appeal Fund was launched in 1975 and by 1977 had raised enough to buy the engine and  Collett pattern tender 2825, that was last coupled with 7927 Willington Hall. (7) Tender 2825 previously ran with 5998, 4934, 5908, 4098, 4991, 6939, 4939, 6995, 6972, 4956 and 5089. (8) The Collett tender 2933 that went into Barry with 6989 was acquired by the Great Western Society when it bought Drysllwyn Castle/Earl Bathurst and left Barry on 14th February 1970. Our tender arrived at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre on 24th July 1977. Tender 2825 was renumbered 4019 so as to bear a historically correct number consistent with all welded tank construction. A small batch of Collett pattern all welded tank 4000 gallon tenders were built under Lot A186, 4019 being outshopped in in June 1946. (9) Tender 4019 was scrapped sometime after June 1961 and had previously run with 7007, 4022, 7012, 7013, 5095, 5086, 6972, 7008, 5097 and 6911.

Wightwick Hall arrived at the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre on 9th January 1978.

Reference sources:

 (1) Around Tetternhall and Codsall, by Mary Mills.

(2)  David Bennett.

(3)   Bill Peto Great Western Society Limited.

(4)   Trains Illustrated, Vol 8, No 11, page 483, November 1955.

(5) B.R. Western Region 3 by Ed Chaplin.

(6)   Steam Days 1995.

(7)   Craig Astel.

(8)   P Chatman, Heritage Railway Issue 126 page 41.

(9)   Craig Astel.

Technical Details

Engine:           

Swindon Works Lot Number 366.                                       

Class Modified Hall.                                                 

Wheel arrangement 4-6-0.                                        

Driving wheel diameter 6 feet.

Wheel base 27 feet 1 inch.

Weight 75 tons 16 hundredweight.

Number of cylinders 2.

Valve gear - Stephenson (piston valves).

Cylinder dimensions 18.5 inches diameter, 30 inches stroke.

Boiler Type 1, serial number now 9296. As new 9241. Boilers 9236, 9281, 9264 and 9269 also fitted at various times.

Boiler pressure 225 pounds per square inch (at 85% boiler pressure).

Heating surface 2,104 square feet.

Fire grate area 27.1 square feet.

Ash Pan - 3 hopper.

Tractive effort 27,275 pounds.

Tender:

Coal capacity 6 tons.

Water capacity 4,000 gallons.

Weight 46 tons 14 hundredweight.

Tender No as new 4048.

Tender No on disposal 2933.

Current tender 4019  (Lot A158) renumbered from 2825 to be historically correct with all welded construction.

Tender and Engine:

Engine and tender overall weight 121 tons 7 hundredweight.

Engine and tender overall length 63 feet.

 

 

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Passing through Langley station. Date and photographer unknown.

Founder Member Rod Thomas handing over cheque to Dai Woodham for the purchase of 6989 on 8th January 1977. Photo Alan Vessey.

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6989 arriving at Quainton in January 78.



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Tender leaving Barry 23rd July 1977.

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6989 at Barry Easter 1977. Photo Keith Till. Copyright 6989 Restoration Group Collection.

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January 1978 leaving Barry.

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Early 1970s. 6989, still minus bogie, with 6024 and the new restoration shed under construction in the background. Photo D Matthews.

 

CONNECTIONS WITH 6989

If you have any connections in any capacity with 6989 contact Jeff Jackson - our historian on:

wightwickhall6989@sky.com
Alternatively, drop him a line to:

Jeff Jackson
6989 Restoration Group
Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
Quainton Road Station
Quainton
Nr Aylesbury
HP224BY