John Speller's Web Pages - GWR Broad Gauge Locomotives
Great Britain
One of the "Iron Duke" Class, possibly the fastest of the bunch, was "Great Britain," built at Swindon in July 1847 and scrapped in September 1880. It was normally the locomotive assigned to the royal train.

The locomotive was assigned to the celebrated J. Michael Almond, or "Mad Sandy" as he was known, was born in Houghton-le-Spring in 1817. He was perhaps second only to Casey Jones as the most famous engineman of the nineteenth century. On 11 May 1848, Driver Almond and his Fireman Richard Denham took the 9.15 a.m. express to Bristol behind "Great Britain" over the 53 miles from Paddington to Didcot in 47 minutes. This was an average speed of 67 m.p.h., with maximum speeds in the range of 75 to 77 m.p.h., and was for many years the fastest journey on record. Richard Denham was later promoted to driver and put in charge of "Pyracmon" Class 0-6-0 "Steropes." He was slightly injured when "Steropes" exploded at Bull's Bridge between West Drayton and Southall. Such accidents were commonplace until Gooch introduced the hydraulic testing of boilers.

Despite his nickname Driver Almond was a very safe driver who averted major disasters on more than one occasion. Once he valiantly chased and caught a runaway engine. The incident was described as follows:

"Tuesday, June 27th,[1853] the engine "Witch" ["Firefly/Priam" Class] (engineman Cuthbert Davison) ran away from Didcot, up the down line, without its tender. This may appear strange, but is true. The turn-table at Didcot was too small to take both engine and tender, so they had to uncouple, and while the tender was being turned the regulator flew open, and the sudden start jerked Davison to the ground, and away she went. Engineman M. Almond, engine " Great Britain," was standing in the yard, and seeing what had happened started in chase up the proper line, and overtook her before passing Goring, where he got the switchman to pull over the cross over, and so let the "Witch"' follow on the up line, for which feat Almond was awarded 10 by the directors" [T. Houghton Wright in "The Railway Magazine," 1898, pp. 347-48].

In later life Michael Almond was promoted to be a Locomotive Inspector, and in this capacity he was on the footplate of a royal train carrying the Sultan of Turkey. As they were traveling at speed his eagle eye spotted some points that had been incorrectly set a mile or so away, and he was able to avert disaster by stopping the train in the nick of time.

It is not entirely clear whether "Lord of the Isles" or "Great Britain" was the locomotive used on the occasion of the Royal Wedding of 1858. Whichever engine was used the privilege of driving it was given to the 14th. Earl of Caithness, James Sinclair, F.R.S. (1821-1881), who was a skilled mechanical engineer and inventor of a steam road carriage. The fireman was Daniel Gooch.
Royal train at Windsor, 25 January 1858, on the occasion of the wedding of Princess Victoria to Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia. Perhaps the only illustration ever of a driver in an ermine-trimmed robe. It is not certain whether the locomotive was "Great Britain" or "Lord of the Isles"
"Great Britain" as rebuilt with Armstrong chimney, shortly before withdrawal in 1880
Archibald Sturrock's coal-scuttle, made from the haycock firebox of Gooch 4-2-2 "Great Britain" when it was replaced in 1870. Does it still exist?
Site Contents Untitled