ACE Trains E/22 Great Western Railway (GWR) City 4-4-0 Locomotive
The enigmatic E/22 class of locomotive known as ‘Cities’ were originally conceived by William Dean but further developed by George Jackson (G.J.) Churchward. Their design encompassed a look and feel that came to epitomise the Great Western Railway (GWR) in the early part of the 20th century. An initial batch of ten 4-4-0 class locomotives was built to provide high-speed express passenger services principally between Paddington, the Midlands, South Wales, Bristol and the West of England. GWR already had plans to create non-stop running further west to Plymouth using the Pylle Hill loop to capitalise on burgeoning liner traffic between Europe and North America. In addition, GWR saw an opportunity to ‘clean up’ by constructing a large harbour at Fishguard (which could accommodate three liners at a time) by coaxing Cunard and White Star from their existing home bases at Liverpool.
GWR wanted to maximise their successful experience of meeting passengers and mail off liners in Plymouth which they had been doing so since the mid-1890s. The New York and Plymouth route was considered the quickest North Atlantic crossing (although Fishguard was nearer by 55 miles) but GWR faced stiff competition with the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) for Plymouth landed traffic and also liner traffic for their developing Southampton port operation. With fast steamers now regularly stopping off at Plymouth, GWR’s imperative was to build a new generation of fast, high-performing locomotives that could bring passengers (and lucrative mail traffic) to London saving (at the time) almost half a day’s ocean passage over docking further east.
City class 4-4-0s were involved in a series of very fast runs during 1903 and 1904. On 9th April 1904 No: 3442 City of Exeter ran the 75.6 miles from Exeter to Bristol in 65 minutes 24 seconds. A month later on 9th May No: 3440 City of Truro (a true Great Western hero and best known engine) was involved in the ‘Record of Records’ and its place in railway folklore with the Ocean Mail Special – the first regular service to achieve a record breaking run of 100 miles per hour. This particular train comprised five heavily-laden double-bogie eight-wheeled postal vans carrying gold bullion and was estimated to have weighed some 148 tons excluding locomotive and tender. Despite this loading City of Truro worked the record speed downhill at Wellington bank in the first half of the run to Bristol where mail was separated. At Bristol No: 3065 Duke of Connaught, one of Dean’s single wheelers then continued the train to London Paddington completing the 246.5 mile journey in 3 hours, 46 minutes and 45 seconds. When combined with German liner Kronprinz Willhelm’s record transatlantic crossing, this had brought New York and London together in record breaking times by a combination of ship and train.
Although the Mauretania had sailed from Fishguard when it first opened as early as 30th August 1906, it was not until 1909 that Cunard started using the port’s new facilities regularly with up to eight liner crossings per month requiring three to four special boat trains to accommodate each ship’s call. Double headed City class 4-4-0s frequently headed heavy first class passenger special services known as the ‘Ocean Express’ to and from the port to Paddington. This position was not to last unfortunately as Fishguard lost its liner traffic to Plymouth and Southampton (who were in a better position to service European travellers from Cherbourg and Le Havre) as the result of WW1. GWR’s considerable investment in developing Fishguard as a port was further compromised by its inability to attract the same volumes of passengers and commercial traffic across the channel to Ireland. Despite building four fast turbine ships in 1905/06 named after saints and considered to be well-equipped, comfortable vessels more akin to miniature ocean liners, GWR very simply could not match London & North Western Railway’s (LNWR) long-established and competitive ‘Holyhead Route’ to Dublin.
The ‘Cities’ enjoyed a comparatively long-life but all members of the class were eventually withdrawn between October 1927 and May 1931 apart from City of Truro which was retained for the national collection as the country’s first ton-up locomotive at York Railway Museum. In 1957 British Railway’s (BR) Western Region arranged for City of Truro to be transferred from static display at York to Swindon where she was restored to her former glories and original GWR livery. She ran on very popular specials but was also used for regular services on the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton route before being retired to BR Swindon in 1961 and later returned to the National Railway Museum (NRM) at York. In 2004, City of Truro underwent a second period of restoration and is currently on loan from the NRM to the Gloucester and Warwickshire Railway.
The ACE Trains version captures the essence of the times and comes with double ETS motors, two clutches and 44 mm driving wheels. 2/3 rail 24 Volt DC.