John Whale’s

The Saint class of the Great Western was one of the most significant designs ever. The two-cylinder design led onto the later Grange and Hall classes. The four cylinder Star class version developed into the Castles and Kings. Both influenced future designs through to the end of steam.

Engine no 100 first appeared in 1902, when William Dean was still in charge, although it seems likely that his chief assistant G J Churchward was mainly responsible. It represented a radical change in design which shocked the railway world. Another large 4-6-0 engine, no 98, was built, this time with a tapered barrel and cylinders that were cast with half of the smokebox saddle, bolted together as well as the main frames. Piston valves were 10” dia, directly driven by Stephenson link-motion with launch-type links.

Next came no 171 Albion, which was temporarily converted to 4-4-2 to be tested against French compound no 102 La France, purchased for trials by the GWR. Albion was the prototype for a batch of engines, followed in 1906 by ten more which went on to be named by ladies of fact and fiction. These became the standard, and the next batch were named after Saints, followed by the Courts.

Churchward’s objective was to produce a high-speed express engine with a drawbar load of two tons at 70mph. That was made possible via the design of the cylinders, ports and valve gear. And, of course, the Swindon Standard No 1 boiler. That ‘machinery’ design remained pretty well unaltered by his successors, Collet and Hawksworth, for GW two-cylinder passenger and mixed traffic engines.

No Saints survived into preservation. However, one is being ‘back-converted’ from Hall Class, Maindy Hall at Didcot. Model engineer Pete Rich has been very much involved in this project. He has also created a design in 5” gauge for which drawings and castings are available from Practical Scale, along with other GW two-cylinder engines. Saints make excellent models.

Lady of Quality is built in 5” gauge by John Whale and was photographed at Bristol 2013.