Momentous achievement as locomotive boiler reaches Severn Valley Railway

The Severn Valley Railway has welcomed back the overhauled boiler of its flagship locomotive following an extensive amount of work at a specialist engineering company.

After decades of work the boiler will soon be ready to be used again. Photo: Lesley Carr
After decades of work the boiler will soon be ready to be used again. Photo: Lesley Carr

The return of the 4930 Hagley Hall boiler marks 18 months of work by Northern Steam Engineering (NSE), which previously built a brand new tender tank for Hagley Hall at its premises in Stockton. Work carried out on the boiler has been substantial, including new side sheets, throat plate and doorplate sections on the firebox, the insertion of a patch in the boiler barrel and a complete retube.

Prior to the boiler’s return to the Severn Valley Railway (SVR), a steam test was carried out, where the safety valves lifted for the first time since the locomotive last dropped its fire in October 1986.

Danny Dymott of NSE said: "This has been a major overhaul with the inner firebox being removed from the boiler and stripped to component parts. It’s included a 75 per cent new outer firebox, a new front tubeplate, produced by ourselves at Northern Steam Engineering using traditional methods, and fitting of all-new fire box stays produced at Bridgnorth by the Severn Valley Railway’s engineering team.

4930's boiler arrives at Bridgnorth from Northern Steam Engineering. Photo: Bob Sweet

“The Covid-19 pandemic caused slight delays to the project but we are very pleased to announce that the boiler is now complete, bringing to an end a successful project that has been delivered on target and to budget. We look forward to seeing the progress at Bridgnorth with the locomotive’s overhaul, and its return to traffic as soon as possible.”

Martin White, the SVR’s head of engineering, added: “The return of Hagley Hall's boiler is the conclusion of 32 months of collaboration between the SVR and NSE. An excellent working relationship has been developed between our two organisations, and although the work has been carried out at NSE premises, there are many components in the boiler, which were produced by SVR personnel at Bridgnorth and shipped to NSE at Stockton. In the overall Hagley Hall project, delivery of the boiler is just one task that is now ticked off, albeit a fairly large and substantial one.”

After decades of work the boiler will soon be ready to be used again. Photo: Bob Sweet

Thirty-five years after Hagley Hall’s last steaming on the SVR, project leader David Fulcher-Insull is confident that the return of this key component brings the loco’s return to service a significant step closer.

“It’s always been a bit of a concern whether it would be ready," said David.

"The delivery of the boiler now means we’ve got everything to move on to complete the project. We’re on target.”

Once the flagship locomotive of the SVR, Hagley Hall was built in 1929 by the Great Western Railway and clocked 1,295,236 miles in its 34 years of service. Withdrawn in 1963, it was rescued from Dai Woodham’s yard in Barry by the SVR Holdings Company in June 1972.

After decades of work the boiler will soon be ready to be used again. Photo: Lesley Carr

Restored to running condition in 1978, Hagley Hall soon became one of the stars of the SVR, hauling the reopening train for Kidderminster Town Station in 1984. Hagley Hall also represented the railway further afield in mainline appearances, such as the 1985 GWR150 celebrations. In a memorable run, it stormed over the South Devon banks in a double headed run with 7819 Hinton Manor, having stepped in at the last minute to deputise for the failure of King class locomotive, ‘King George V’. Withdrawn from SVR service in 1986, the locomotive was initially in storage, followed by a period as a museum exhibit until October 2013 when the long awaited overhaul and restoration process began.

The boiler is now in its new temporary home at Bridgnorth, on a wagon that will allow volunteers access as the restoration continues. The 4930 has now been under SVR ownership for longer than it ran on Great Western Metals and when Hagley Hall finally steams again it will be the culmination of the efforts of many, in particular the Friends of Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall which raised more than £100,000 since its formation. The return of Hagley Hall to steam service will be the crowning moment of decades of tireless fundraising and work by the group.

4930 boiler following its arrival at the SVR in Bridgnorth. Photo: Bob Sweet

Chairman of the friends group, Paul Hobson, said: “The Friends of Locomotive 4930 Hagley Hall group are delighted that a significant milestone in the restoration of the locomotive has been achieved with the completion and return of the boiler to Bridgnorth; for which we extend our thanks to our friends at NSE.

“The fundraising initiative, begun by the friends group in 1999 and since admirably supported by our faithful donor friends over many years, now has the finishing line in sight. Together, with the generous support of the SVR Charitable Trust and the £95,000 contribution from our grant-aid partner The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we should see the reassembly and completion of the overhaul of 4930 by the engineering team at Bridgnorth Works over the next 12 months. We can all now look forward to being able to see, hear and smell our flagship locomotive Hagley Hall in steam for the first time in 35 years, which will be a moment to savour indeed.”

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