The King class, was Collett's upgrade to his own already extremely successful Castle class, which in turn was an upgrade on Churchward's Star class, all of a 4 cylinder design and 4-6-0 wheel arrangement. The King's were of course the most powerful class of locomotives built by the Great Western Railway, a total of 30 (not 31 as is erroneously held out in some quarters) being built for working crack passenger trains between London Paddington and the Midlands, and the South West.
6023, King Edward II was built under lot 267 in 1930 at Swindon and spent most of its life based in Newton Abbot or Plymouth Laira, from where it would have been engaged in hauling expresses between Plymouth and London Paddington. Its final shed was Cardiff Canton, from where it was withdrawn in June 1962 (the year that all King's were withdrawn).
Post withdrawal, both 6023 and 6024 (King Edward I) were used as dead weights to test a bridge near Caldicot, and after that were sent to the legendary Barry Island Scrap Yard for disposal rather than Swindon. That of course resulted in them both being saved for posterity, though 6023 suffered the ignominy of having a driving wheel cut through after a derailing incident in the scrap yard. For this reason, many potential rescuers deemed it too difficult a restoration project and it remained at Barry until December 1984, becoming the 159th departure after waiting for 22 years. She had been acquired by Harvey's of Bristol, who moved her to the fish dock at Bristol Temple Meads station for restoration, and it was subsequently purchased in 1990 by the Great Western Society based at Didcot Railway Centre.
The King that 6023 is named after, was the fourth son of Edward I, born on the 25th of April 1284 and dying on the 21st of September 1327, succeeding to the throne in 1307. As King's go, he fared poorly, aspersions were cast about his personal life and in particular the possibility of a (for that time) improper relationship with Piers Gaveston. He famously lost the battle of Bannockburn to Robert the Bruce in 1314. After a civil war led by his wife Isabella & her lover Sir Roger Mortimer against him, Edward II was forced to abdicate in 1327, dying later that year in suspicious circumstances whilst being held prisoner in Berkeley Castle (not 4085, but the building in Gloucestershire).
Although two other Kings survive, 6000, King George V and 6024, King Edward I, 6023 is the only one at the time of writing that has a current boiler ticket. She is turned out in the attractive BR passenger blue livery worn by the class in the early BR period and sports the early lion and wheel crest on her tender. In BR ownership, she wore this livery from August 1950 until March 1952. The restoration project by the Great Western Society took over 20 years to complete, with 6023 finally moving under her own steam again in 2011.
Kings were originally built to a loading gauge of 13'1", which is too tall for use on the mainline today, so she has been trimmed down a few inches by lowering the cab roof and safety valve bonnet, as well as canting the whistles over to one side. As built originally, 6023 had a single chimney, which was replaced by a double chimney in June 1957. She now has a single chimney again in keeping with her early 1950's livery, although she now sports a four port blast pipe in her smoke box to aid performance.
Eagle-eyed readers of this blog will have noticed that in September 2017, 6023 was a guest at the Old Oak Common open day, displayed alongside our own home fleet engine, 7903 Foremarke Hall.
|6023 & 7903 around a turntable at Old Oak Common in 1960, photo courtesy of Dick Blenkinsop|
|6023 & 7903 together again at Old Oak Common in 2017, photo courtesy of John Cruxon|
Further announcements regarding the details of the gala and further visiting loco announcements will be made on this blog and the main GWSR website nearer the time. The official gala pages on the website went live about 5 minutes before this blog post, and can be found by clicking this link.