Great Western Society Saint Project • Didcot Railway Centre, Oxfordshire OX11 7NJ • Registered Charity No 272616
The Saint Project The Great Western Society's 'back-coversion' of a 'Hall' class 4-6-0 to create a new Churchward 'Saint'
The Great Western Railway 'Saint' class locomotives, introduced by G J Churchward in 1902, represented one of the most important steps forward in railway traction of the 20th century. The class incorporated many revoulutionary advances in design and the 'Saints' are now acknowledged to have had a profound influence on almost evey aspect of subsequent steam locomotive development.
Unfortunately no example was saved for preservation, the final engine, No. 2920 Saint David, being withdrawn from service and scrapped in 1953, ending a distinguished half century of work by the class.
Since the early 1970s the Great Western Society had cherished the ambition to re-create a 'Saint', a task potentially made much easier by the high degree of standardisation achieved at Swindon works by Churchward and his successor, C B Collett.
In 1974 the GWS purchased 'Hall' class 4-6-0 No. 4942 Maindy Hall from Barry Scrapyard with the specific intention of using it as the basis for a new 'Saint'. Collett had produced the pioneer 'Hall' class locomotive in late 1924 by rebuilding 'Saint' No. 2925 Saint Martin and fitting 6ft driving wheels, and in the Saint Project the GWS is reversing that rebuild using many parts from the 'Hall', a class that is already well represented in preservation.
No. 4942 Maindy Hall outside the shed at Didcot on
4 November 1995 before the rebuild began.
In the late 1970s the Great Western Society's first attempt to launch a 'Saint' Project envisaged a rebuilt 'Saint' with curved drop ends at the front of the frames and beneath the cab, in the style introduced from No. 2911 onwards. Whilst undeniably elegant, GWR 4-6-0s with curved framing proliferate in the preservation world. Also, the first 'Saint' Project did not succeed as it was thought by many at the time to be beyond the capability of preservationists.
However, restoration of 'King' class No. 6023 King Edward II, which among other things involved construction of a new driving wheel set, proved that the Great Western Society could successfully undertake major reconstruction and refurbishment projects, and the Saint Project we have today was born. A thorough review following the first abortive project led to the decision to revert to the original 'Saint' design featuring an inside steam pipe cylinder block, straight frames and square drop ends at the front in the style of the early 'Lady' and 'Scott' locomotives.
Not only is this period of design historically significant and has not previously been represented in the Great Western collection at Didcot, but it also creates the opportunity to convert the new 'Saint' to a Churchward 4-4-2 'Atlantic' from time to time (all the Atlantics used the straight frame design).
The locomotive will also feature the original lever reversing gear and will carry top feed, as applied progressively to the class from 1911.
Final paint finish will be the handsome, fully lined Edwardian livery with 'garter' arms and full brass embellishments as carried up to the outbreak of the Great War. The locomotive is being rebuilt to the standards required for main line running and will also work on suitable preserved railways.
Down Weymouth express at Kensal Green behind straight-frame 'Saint' No. 2904 Lady Godiva.
The Saint Project has been magnificently supported. Major new components that have been manufactured include three new driving wheel sets, two bogie wheel sets, two identical 'half' cylinder blocks and the lever reverse. The frames from No. 4942 have been modified and strengthened to suit the 'Saint' design and many other components, including the boiler, are being refurbished. Full Details of the progress made since the Saint Project was launched can be found in the Archive News pages on this website.
Much has already been achieved but work remains to be done on the boiler, brake gear, motion, tender and mechanical systems. In order to complete the job the Society still needs help and you can support the project in several ways. If you are able to make a one-off contribution or a regular donation, please complete the form here.
Anyone who contributes £1,000 or more, either in one amount or by monthly payments, will be enrolled as a member of the Saint Partnership and have their contribution recorded on a plaque to be attached to the cab roof of No. 2999 after the resoration is complete.
High summer for the Edwardian 'Saints': No. 2907 Lady Disdain backs onto a train for the west at Bristol Temple Meads soon after being named in 1907.
Partners will also receive priority booking on the inaugural run undertaken by Lady of Legend and the chance (subject to our host's agreement) to ride on the footplate on a preserved railway.
A project such as this relies on a little help from a lot of people. Whatever you can give will help to bring closer the day when No. 2999 steams, re-creating an icon of the 20th century for the pleasure and enlightenment of the 21st century.