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GWR Night Owl

Image of IAN GARNHAMIAN GARNHAM looks at the GWR 47xx Class Locomotive.


At first, 'Night Owl' seems to be a strange name to call a rather large GWR locomotive but for a good reason. The 47xx Class was designed to haul heavy vacuum-fitted freight during the night. During the day they could be found in the depot simmering away, waiting to be called into further action the next night.

When not on nocturnal freight duties, they were used at weekends on passenger workings which made them only the second class of 2-8-0 locomotive to be essentially a mixed traffic engine.

The class was designed by George Jackson Churchward towards the end of the First World War and built at the Great Western Works in Swindon between 1919 to 1923. It looks slightly similar to the 28xx class, but with larger driving wheels and splashers. The drive was taken from the second wheel-set and not the third, which gave it a tractive effort of 30,460 pounds per foot.

Nine locomotives were produced in the class and most of their working life was spent between Paddington and Birkenhead. Withdrawals commenced between 1962 to 1964 with one member of the class managing to reach the dizzy heights achieving a staggering mileage of 1,656,000mi before making its way to the scrapyard. Unfortunately, none were preserved but there is a ‘new build‘ currently in the process of being constructed from a mixture of components from ex-Barry locomotives that have been laid aside for many years. New parts such as the frames and boiler are currently under construction at the Llangollen Railway Denbighshire, Wales.

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In terms of models, Heljan have produced the Night Owl in OO Scale. At time of publication, two models are still available.

Night Owl GWR 4705 Green Great Western Lettering

Night Owl G W Lettering

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