Bewdley, Autumn Gala 2009
Photo: K Hardy

GWR 813

The Port Talbot Railway & Docks Company was incorporated in 1894 to acquire and extend the existing docks at Port Talbot and to build new railways inland to open up access to the coal producing Llynvi and Garw valleys. For shunting and trip working a stud of nine 0-6-0 saddle tank locomotives was acquired between 1898 and 1901. The first three (PTR 2, 3 & 15) were supplied by Robert Stephenson & Co. in 1898, followed by a further six of almost identical design (PTR 22 to 26) built by Hudswell Clarke & Co. of Leeds in 1900/01.

What was later to become GWR 813 was completed by Hudswell Clarke (works number 555) in June 1901 at a cost of 2189. As PTR 26 it was set to work from that Company's engine shed at Duffryn Yard, Port Talbot. Prompted by a desire to thwart the westward expansion of the Barry Railway beyond Bridgend and into the Swansea area, the GWR entered into an agreement with the Port Talbot Railway in 1908 under which the GWR took over the operation of the PTR (excluding the docks) in return for guaranteeing the level of annual dividend paid to PTR shareholders. From that date Port Talbot locomotives (with the initial exception of a few retained for docks use) were added to GWR stock. However, as they were technically on 'loan', they were not re-numbered into the main GWR engine series until the 1923 Grouping. Also from 1908, the PTR locomotive shed at Duffryn Yard was transfered to the GWR Neath Division, PTR footplate staff were transferred to GWR employment and standard GWR locomotives drafted into Duffryn to work alongside the local PTR engines. After the 1908 Agreement major maintenance of Port Talbot locomotives was undertaken at Swindon and (after 1926) Caerphilly. Thus commenced the gradual process of 'Swindonisation' which, in the case of No.26, included the provision of standard GWR fittings such as injectors, tapered buffers, whistles, safety valves and numerous cab and boiler mountings and fittings. The boiler itself was 'westernised' and provided with a new smokebox complete with 'Dean' style smokebox door. A later and more substantial alteration involved the provision of a standard GWR pattern 2 ton coal bunker which required the fabrication of a 6" extension to the back of the locomotive to support a second rear buffer beam. Perhaps the most characteristic feature identifying the Swindon connection was the inevitable brass safety valve bonnet mounted somewhat incongruously on top of the dome.

Following the Railways Act of 1921, the PTR was fully absorbed into the GWR on 1st January 1922 and all locomotives were allocated numbers in the GW series proper. No. 26 became GWR 813 although it did not assume its new identity until emerging from Swindon Works in March 1924 after a visit lasting some 17 months.

From the late 1920s the GWR embarked on a programme of replacing much of its ageing fleet of shunting engines together with many of the non standard types inherited from companies absorbed at the Grouping and, in furtherance of this policy introduced the ubiquitous 5700 class pannier tanks in 1929. Early victims included the PTR saddletanks and, by 1934, all had been withdrawn from service. Five were sold for further service with the coal industry - three (808, 812 & 816) to pits in South Wales and two (813 and 815) via Robert Stephenson & Co. to collieries in the North East of England.

813 itself was placed on the GWR Sales List in March 1933 and eventually sold direct from Duffryn to Robert Stephenson & Company on 25th January 1934 for 360. After a few modifications, which included the fitting of Ross Pop valves in place of the GWR safety valves and brass bonnet, Stephenson in turn sold the locomotive to Backworth Collieries Ltd. near Newcastle-on-Tyne. There it was re-numbered 12 and put to work on the Backworth system which extended from the pits owned by the Company to coal shipping staithes on the River Tyne. In 1947 the locomotive passed to the newly formed National Coal Board, becoming NCB 11 in 1950. In the same year a new boiler was supplied by Hudswell Clarke followed by a replacement firebox in 1962. The latter was, undoubtedly, a contributing factor to the survival of the locomotive into the preservation era.

By 1966, with the contraction of the coal industry and availability of more modern locomotives, NCB11 was relegated to the status of spare engine at Backworth and in the following year was offered for sale to the newly formed GWR 813 Preservation Fund for the sum of 320 (40 less than the amount realised by the GWR in 1934!).Following hectic fund raising activities, purchase was eventually completed and the engine moved to the fledgling Severn Valley Railway on 25th November 1967.
Restoration work commenced almost immediately but a lack of expertise and resources and the general run down condition of the locomotive meant that it would be almost nine years before it would be steamed again and a further twenty five years before restoration to full working order would be satisfactorily completed.
In 1975 813 was cosmetically restored to GWR livery and participated as a static exhibit at the Rail 150 Anniversary celebrations at Shildon, County Durham. Mechanical renovation was completed the following year and the engine returned to steam. However, progress came to an abrupt halt following a major mechanical breakdown at the September 1976 SVR Steam Gala. Further renovation work led to re-entry into service in 1984 followed by an appearance in steam at the GW150 Exhibition at Didcot in May of that year. Yet more mechanical problems again halted progress shortly thereafter and the engine was once more sidelined, having seen only a few days in service since its return to steam. After much soul searching and serious fund raising, renovation work eventually resumed in 1996 with the bulk of the work being undertaken under contract by the Severn Valley Railway Locomotive Department.

Over the following four years a comprehensive programme of work was completed at the SVR Bridgnorth workshops including complete overhaul of the motion, axleboxes and running gear, replacement of wasted platework, provision of new GWR type safety valves and injectors, repairs to saddletank and chimney, re-creation of 1920s style cab interior layout including pipework and appropriate boiler fittings, provision of vacuum brake gear, retubing of and repairs to the boiler and fabrication of a new smokebox incorporating a replacement Dean style smokebox door (original removed in 1950). Following completion of the project the locomotive was successfully steamed in July 2000 and released for final painting at the end of that month. Before that could be completed, however, the engine had to be pressed into emergency front line Severn Valley passenger service for a few days in August following a sudden spate of boiler failures that left the Railway with a serious shortage of motive power.

Apart from the SVR, the locomotive visited some 26 different railways and centres between its return to service in 2000 and withdrawal from service for overhaul and heavy boiler repairs in 2009.

Main Dimensions
Driving Wheels: 4ft 0 in Boiler Pressure: 160 lbs psi
Tractive Effort: 17410 lbs Wheelbase: 13ft 3ins.
Cylinders (2): 16 x 24 ins Weight (Full): 44 Tons
Water Capacity: 900 gals Coal Capacity: 2 Tons
Grate Area: 13 sq ft GWR Power Group: Yellow C