Origin Of The ‘Granges’
George Jackson Churchward was, at the turn of the Twentieth Century, Britain’s foremost locomotive designer. Preoccupied with engineering excellence, Churchward conducted wide ranging experiments on locomotives to better understand their performance. He studied the best of continental practice and even went so far as to acquire French ‘compound‘ locomotives as test-beds to run on the Great Western system for experimental purposes. Under Churchward, Great Western locomotives acquired a reputation for precise construction, free steaming and free running. They were quite simply the best in the land and gave the Great Western an advantage over its competitors.
It was at this time that Churchward mapped out a family of locomotives that he believed would satisfy all the Great Western’s requirements. Amongst the family was to be a locomotive with a 4-6-0-wheel arrangement, 5ft 8in diameter driving wheels and the standard Great Western ‘No. 1’ boiler. They would be mixed traffic locomotives, employed on a wide range of duties from express passenger work to heavy freight. The locomotive was never built during Churchward’s career, but thirty-five years later his successor Charles Benjamin Collet designed the ‘Grange’ class that exactly fitted the description. Actually the ‘Granges’, like their sisters the ‘Manors’, were partly ‘re-cycled‘, around half the parts coming from other life-expired locomotives. Construction began at Swindon Works in 1936 and was completed in 1939, at an average cost of £5,000 per locomotive. In all 80 were built, though it is likely that many more would have been built but for the onset of war and the imposition of Government control of national locomotive construction.