7027 Thornbury Castle at speed at Taplow 7027 Thornbury Castle at Paddington station 7027 Thornbury Castle at Paddington station 7027 Thornbury Castle at Paddington station

The History of 7027 Thornbury Castle

Our locomotive can trace its roots back to 1907 when the Great Western Railway introduced the 'Star' 4-cylinder express locomotives. Later, under Chief Mechanical Engineer C B Collett, the 'Star' design was improved and enlarged to produce the 'Castle' class of 4-6-0 locomotive and the first of these emerged in 1923. The new express locos were very successful and eventually 171 were built.

No 7027 'Thornbury Castle' was built in 1949, part of one of the last batches to be built. By that time the railways had been nationalised so 7027 was actually built by British Railways (Western Region) although the design was virtually the same as the first batch.

Along with its classmates, 7027 hauled top express trains over the former GWR network and was based at Plymouth, Old Oak Common (London) and Reading before withdrawal from service in 1963.

Along with 100s of withdrawn steam locomotives, 7027 was acquired by Woodham Bros, scrap merchants of Barry, south Wales. Many locomotives departed from that famous steam graveyard for a new life in preservation and Thornbury Castle's turn came in August 1972 when she was bought by the Birmingham Railway Museum for eventual restoration. However, 7027 was never fully restored, other Castle locos in the Museum having priority.

Eventually the loco passed to pop impressario Pete Waterman who also intended to fully restore it to working condition but once again, after some initial work, the project stalled.

By now 7027 had been stripped, with parts being stored at several locations in the UK. The mortal remains of the once-proud express loco - merely a boiler sitting on a frame with just 6 driving wheels beneath - sat forlornly at the end of a siding in Derbyshire.

In 2016 Thornbury Castle was bought by JJP Holdings SW Ltd and arrived in Weston-super-Mare by low loader during the summer of that year. Rails had been laid inside the Crosville Motor Services bus depot (part of the JJP Holdings group) and the Collett loco took its place alongside Crosville's buses and coaches. Fittingly, some of these are as old as 7027 and are part of the Crosville heritage fleet.

The remains of the loco were soon joined by a tender (plus a spare tank) and several container loads of parts gathered from across the country. With 7027 now safely under cover, plans are being drawn up to fully restore the loco to mainline running condition. In due course it will move to the Tyesley Locomotive Works (ironically its first home in preservation) after its stablemate 4936 Kinlet Hall is outshopped after overhaul.

In future it is planned to use Thornbury Castle on the national network once more, hauling charter trains from a new base in the westcountry.

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