history of 6989 'Wightwick Hall'(Revised 6 May 2019) 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 the loco 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. 6989's 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 six survived into preservation:
6960 Raveningham Hall.
6984 Owsden Hall.
6989 Wightwick Hall.
6990 Witherslack Hall.
7903 Foremarke Hall.
7927 Willington Hall was used as a donor for
Betton Grange and County of Glamorgan.
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with British Railways Western Region based at Hereford Shed, to replace one of the Saints that was withdrawn. 6989 was the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 Wightwick Hall,
located on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. The hall was built in the 1890s for Sir Alfred Hickman, MP and industrialist.
The Hall became a 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 6989 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 the loco 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 6989 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 the loco show it 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 6989
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 6989 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 6989 did get as far afield as Crewe and Bournemouth. The loco 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. 6989's career was not without drama. When based at Hereford the loco was working
a 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, 6989 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.
6989 often worked into Wembley on football or hockey specials. We have a picture of the loco 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 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
6989 gainfully employed and the loco was condemned on 1st June 1964, sold to Woodham Brothers Scrap Yard in Barry South Wales
on 17th July 1964, making its 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. 6989 then spent 13 years five months
languishing in the salt air of Barry, before being rescued by the Quainton Railway Society. The loco was the 88th engine to
leave Barry to go into preservation. Mike Lawrence Low Loaders moved 6989 and tender to Quainton. Mike recollects 6989 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. The restoration of 6989 was to take almost 42 years. 6989 made preservation history when it became the 150th
ex- Barry loco to steam when it moved under its own power on 11 December 2018. The loco performed its first passenger service
since 1964 on 2 March 2019 and was launched to the public on 3 March 2019.
(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.
Swindon Works Lot Number 366.
Class Modified Hall.
Wheel arrangement 4-6-0.
Driving wheel diameter 6 feet.
base 27 feet 1 inch.
Weight 75 tons 16 hundredweight.
Number of cylinders 2.
Valve gear - Stephenson
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
Heating surface 2,104 square feet.
Fire grate area 27.1 square feet.
Ash Pan - 3 hopper.
Tractive effort 27,275 pounds.
Coal capacity 6 tons.
Water capacity 4,000 gallons.
Weight 46 tons
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.
Engine and tender overall weight 121 tons 7 hundredweight.
Engine and tender
overall length 63 feet.