Robert Elsam


4-4-0 IN 3.5” GAUGE

This 3.5” gauge GWR County of Stafford 4-4-0 no 3837 was shown by Robert Elsam at the 2017 Midlands Exhibition. Robert started the loco, and an apprenticeship at Pegson Ltd at Coalville in 1969. The project was started with only hand tools and an electric drill. many ‘castings’ were fabricated. Later cylinders were cast at Pegsons, and machined at evening classes. A lathe, marriage and children all came along, and the locomotive was eventually finished in October 2016.

It was also in 1969 that Don Young started the description of his ‘County Carlow’ design in 3.5” gauge. It was a class that fascinated him from is days as a “clockwork railwayman”. The design made use of original Swindon drawings.

The Counties, introduced in 1904 in a batch of ten, were used for express passenger train work on selected routes. Two more batches followed in 1906 and 1912 with minor differences. They were designed by George Jackson Churchward, using standard components to produce a four-coupled version of his Saint Class 4-6-0. All were withdrawn in the early 1930s.

They were the last GWR 4-4-0 design, with inside frames and outside cylinders. They were effectively a shortened GWR Saint, providing engines powerful enough for the trains but with the four-coupled wheels essential on some lines.

They were rough riders but effective. All other GWR 4-4-0s were inside-cylindered and none had a piston stroke greater than 26", whereas the 'County' had a 30" stroke driving an 8' 6" wheelbase.

The County Class used the same cylinders and motion as Churchward's six-coupled locomotives and required the same mass to counterbalance the reciprocating parts of the motion. However, the weight required had to be divided between four driving wheels rather than six. The heavier balance weights produced a high level of wheel hammer blow; at 6 revolutions per second the hammer blow was 8 tons, compared with the 3.6 tons of the inside-cylindered City Class and the 6.4 tons of the six-coupled Saint Class.

None survived into preservation, but there is the Great Western Society project to create the next locomotive in the sequence, 3840 County of Montgomery. The project will be built at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.The locomotive is being built with both new parts and recycled parts from former Barry scrapyard locomotives.