British Steam - Castles and Kings

An Introduction from the Author:

The year 2010 marks the 175th anniversary of the Great Western Railway. This publication pays homage to Charles Benjamin Collett who was certainly the GWR’s most prolific Chief Mechanical Engineer. Collett presided over the introduction of 15 new locomotive classes and eight rebuilds or additions to other designs, an incredible combined total of some 2589 steam locomotives.

Collett served the GWR from 1893 until 1941, and having joined the company as a junior draughtsman steadily advanced through the ranks to become deputy CME to the great CJ Churchward in 1919. Upon Churchward’s retirement the GWR board appointed Collett to the post of CME in 1922, a post he held for 19 years. At the time of his appointment the company had a locomotive shortage in general and in particular an urgent need for fast reliable modern express passenger locomotives.

Addressing the problem Collett took the earlier Churchward Star class design as the basis for his new four-cylinder 4-6-0 design, and thus the Castle class was born. Right from the delivery of the first locomotives the GWR realised that enlarged Star or not, in the Castle design they had a real winner. By the time British Railways dropped the last Castle and King fires the Collett four-cylinder designs had earned the respect of thousands of railwaymen and millions of rail travellers, over the best part of five decades.

As the Castle was an accepted development of the Star class then it was not surprising that the Collett King class engines, introduced in 1927 were at first seen as enlagr ed Castle class engines. But by incorporating new design features and in part moving away from standard GWR engineering principles of the time Collett produced yet another winner. Indeed the unique King class was claimed by many knowledgeable commentators to be the best British express locomotive of its day, and some even claimed the engines to be the finest 4-6-0 locomotives to ever run on the UK railway network! However the one question always asked is why only 30 Kings were produced, when after all 171 Castles were built?

Thanks to the UK rail preservation movement in conjunction with private locomotive owners and organisations like the Great Western Society, the charismatic Castle and exquisite King class designs can still be admired, with thankfully examples often to be seen in steam and even hauling trains on the national railway network. There are eight Castle class and three King class locomotives in preservation.

This British Steam GWR 175 special edition contains all the relevant facts and figures appertaining to Collett’s four-cylinder 4-6-0 Castle and King class locomotives. In addition there are over 130 photographic images, the majority of which are published for the first time. British Steam – Castles & Kings was written compiled and edited in the spring of 2010.