John Speller's Web Pages Churchward Locomotives

John Speller's Web Pages

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George Jackson Churchward, CBE (1857-1933) was arguably the world's most able locomotive designer in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Born the son of a country squire in Stoke Gabriel, Devon, he apprenticed under John Wright at the Newton Works of the South Devon Railway, moving to Swindon after the takeover of the SDR by the Great Western. There he rose through the ranks until by the 1890s he was seen as the heir apparent of William Dean. When Dean was stricken with Alzeimer's Disease in 1897, Churchward increasingly took over the running of Swindon Works until he became Chief Mechanical Engineer when Dean retired in 1902. Churchward's tenure as CME of the Great Western was from 1902 until his own retirement in 1922. An interesting film of "Star" Class No. 4041 "Prince of Wales" under construction at Swindon in 1913 may be seen here.

Belpaire fireboxes were introduced on the GWR at the end of the Dean era on the “Badminton” Class in December 1897. The first tapered boiler was fitted by Churchward to “Atbara” Class No. 3405 “Mauritius” in September 1902, and became the prototype for the Swindon No. 4 boiler. Mr. Churchward (or technically Mr. Dean since Churchward did not officially take over until 1902) was also responsible for introducing the familar pannier tank to the Great Western Railway. He initially fitted pannier tanks to two crane engines in 1901, where saddle tanks would have interfered with the crane. Then in 1903 he began fitting them to existing Armstrong and Dean locomotives, beginning with the Dean "1813" Class. It was left to his successor, C. B. Collett, to build new pannier tanks with the "57xx" Class. Pannier tanks fitted much more easily onto Belpaire fireboxes than saddle tanks, and indeed it was Alfred Belpaire himself who had first used pannier tanks in Belgium in 1873.

One of the Directors of the GWR once asked Churchward why he had never married. He responded, "It is all well and good for you Directors in the daytime, when you are influential and powerful men. But when you get home to your wives you are all nothing but worms, bloody worms!"
Churchward 4-6-0 No. 175, built in 1905 and named "Viscount Churchill" in 1907
Churchward "County" Class 4-4-0 No. 3823 "County of Carnarvon." Illustration from the "Locomotive," July 1905
The first British "Pacific" Locomotive -- George Jackson Churchward's magnum opus, No. 111 "The Great Bear"
Preserved Churchward "38xx" Class 2-8-0 No. 3850 photographed by John Speller at Bishops Lydeard in June 2009. This was one of the later members of the class, built in June 1942
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