Average mileages

18 March 1953, in a paper read at the Institution of Locomotive Engineers based on figures gathered through 1952, Mr R C Bond, BR Chief Locomotive Construction & Maintenance Officer, listed the average mileages run between general overhauls of pre-nationalisation classes.

The Stanier Black Fives with manganese steel axlebox liners topped the list at 97,291 miles. Next came the LNER A1 class with roller bearings on all axles at 93,363 miles. Then came four Great Western Railway classes – Halls, Counties, Castles and 28XX – all at around 87,000 miles.

The Journal of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers volume 51 published in 1961 reported in No 281 J F Harrison’s Presidential Address:

Includes an appreciation of the Gresley Pacifics: Harrison had been born in Settle, and following a very brief appreciation of Midland Railway locomotives he noted that A3 Pacifics had taken over working the major express trains over the Settle & Carlisle Line with photographs of them at Ais Gill, and on the Thames Clyde Express.

He noted that the Peppercorn A1 Pacifics “were intended to give a better performance than any previous Pacific, to be cheaper to maintain, and to run increased mileages per annum and between general repairs.

These five locomotives, Nos. 60153/60154/60155/60156/60157, have now been in service for exactly twelve years, during which they have run 4.8 million miles, one in fact having just completed 1,000,000 miles, or 228 miles for every calendar day since leaving Doncaster as a new engine.

The average miles between shopping of these engines is 120,000, and these figures compare with figures given by Mr. R.C. Bond in his Paper to this Institution in 1953 showing the best London & North Eastern mileages in those days as 93,363 with average annual mileages of 80,000.

The total miles run by the fifty engines, including the five roller bearing engines, since new, is approximately 48,000,000, an average of 202 miles per calendar day-figures which I know cannot be approached by any steam locomotive class in this country. I will refer to this figure later in my Address.

When one realises that these locomotives are better than the A4 Class, examples of which took part in the interchange trials in 1948, and which attained the best coal and water consumption figures per drawbar horsepower/hour, one realises that these latter locomotives were, and in fact still are, perhaps the finest steam locomotives in the world.

For some 105 years the Great Northern and London & North Eastern Railway had only four Locomotive Engineers, all of whom have a position in history, but I suggest none more so than Gresley who was honoured by a knighthood in 1936.

Surely there is a lesson to be learned from this continuance of a single policy for periods of up to twenty-five years each. This has been noticeable also on the Great Western Railway.

It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I pay this modest and brief tribute to the late Sir Herbert Nigel Gresley, who cannot be by-passed as the greatest Locomotive Engineer in this country in the 20th century if one judges these matters on the performance of the designer’s products over such a lengthy period of time.

It is surprising, however, to see that the British Transport Commission have only thought fit to preserve amongst their historic locomotives two examples of this great Engineer’s work, and then neither of the first two Pacifics he ever built.”


On 8 March 1969, GWR Banana Van 82554 arrived from Worcester.

It was originally built as a Mink A goods van to diagram V12, lot 576 at Swindon in 1908, and converted to the Fruit B in 1925, which involved removal of vents, and installation of insulation and end-centre shuttered louvre. It has a capacity of 10 tons.

Fruit B banana vans were built to transport bananas – with insulated bodies and fitted with steam heating to allow bananas to be shipped green and ripen en-route.

In GWR telegraphic code, Mink was a covered goods van and Fruit is obvious. The extra letter identifies variations, so the Mink A was a 16ft ventilated van versus the Mink G being a 21ft ordinary van.

82554 ended working life at Worcester, and was restored for storage use at SVR Bewdley. Following a major overhaul by the Wagon Dept completed in 1994, it is mostly used at BH MPD for storage.


On 7 March 2007 GWR 4930 Hagley Hall completed its loan to the Swindon Works now designer shopping complex, to return to SVR to feature in the new Engine House visitor centre, stopping off on the way at its namesake Hagley Hall home of Lord and Lady Cobham.

Another Collett design, it was built in 1929 and started at Stafford Road depot, then Chester, Tyseley and Leamington. Following service in the south west it finished at Old Oak Common and Swindon, and withdrawn in 1963 with a working life of nearly 1.3m miles. By May 1964 4930 was at Barry, and SVRH bought it in June 1972.

After six years of restoration 4930 entered service in 1979, and hauled the reopening train to Kidderminster in 1984. Main line appearances included the GWR 150 celebrations in 1985 with 4930 and 7819 double heading

The failure of several boiler stays towards the end of its ticket caused withdrawal in 1986, and into store in BH Shed. Opportunity arose to be a static exhibit at Swindon in 1999.

Since 2013 the Friends group have fundraised furiously with impressive results, and ESMP staff and volunteers have been working on the overhaul and restoration – supported in large part by the SVRCT.