Stanier Class 7P "Princess Coronation"
LMS "Princess Coronation" class no. 46233 "Duchess of Sutherland" at Bredon, 17th August, 2017
No. Built : 38
Introduced : 1937
Wheel arrangement : 4-6-2 "Pacific"
Wheel arrangement : 4-6-2 "Pacific"
Although the "Princess Royal" class was a vast leap forward in LMS motive power, improved services by the LNER to Scotland and the fashion for streamlined locomotive design in the mid-1930's meant that the LMS needed something to top the "Princess Royal" class. Stanier threw away a lot of his earlier design policies inherited from the GWR and came up with what is considered to be his finest creation, the "Princess Coronation" class (sometimes referred as the "Duchess", or occasionally the "City" class); this despite the fact that he personally felt (and probably with some justification considering later events) that streamlining was a waste of time, at least with the facilities that the LMS had at the time. The LMS wanted a engine capable of hauling long-range expresses in excess of 100mph; on the 29th June 1937, the first engine of the class 6220 "Coronation" exceeded these expectations, reaching a speed of at least 113mph on the inaugural run of the "Coronation Scot", the LMS's new London-Glasgow express (although the run nearly ended in disaster when the express hit the Crewe approaches at excessive speed; fortunately the train stayed on the track).
The effects of the streamline casing are debatable, but it is generally accepted that the increased performance generated by the casing was usually offset by its weight, and only became an advantage on high-speed, non-stop runs. The casings also made maintenance more difficult, and it is not surprising, that with the demise of the "Coronation Scot" train, the casings were eventually removed post-war, and by the early fifties, all "Princess Coronations" were unstreamlined. As a further improvement, smoke deflectors were added post-war. The class was withdrawn between 1962 and 1964.
Preserved Members of the Class
6229 "Duchess of Hamilton"
Although 6229 is now part of the British National Collection of locomotives, its survival is down to Billy Butlin (of "Butlins Holiday Camps") who during the 1960s bought several locomotives to be used as static exhibits at some of his holiday camps in order to entice holidaymakers. 6229 was one of this locomotives, chosen because it was the one that had gone to the United States just before World War II, and was dispatched to Minehead in Somerset after withdrawal.
However, seaside holiday camps weren't the best places to display locomotives in the open air, and by the early 1970s, concerns were growing that the locomotives' condition were deteriorating due to the effects of corrosion and the general public. Blooms of Bressingham made an arrangement with Butlins to transfer all of the Butlins' locomotives to their base in Norfolk, but in the end not all of them would make it there; a legal challenge would ultimately result in 6229 ending up in the National Railway Museum at York on a twenty-year loan in 1975. With the embargo on operating steam on British Railways no longer in force, the plan was to restore 6229 to mainline operations, and the locomotive was steamed again in 1980.
A second overhaul took place from 1985, at which point the NRM purchased the locomotive outright from Butlins. A second period back on the mainline began in 1990, producing some record-breaking runs for preserved steam over the Settle and Carlisle route. The second period ended in 1996, and the locomotive was retired back to York.
Although it was intended to overhaul 6229 back to operational condition, various issues at the end of the 1990s meant that proposed financing of the work never materialised. However, funds were raised to put the locomotive back into its original streamlined condition, and this was completed in 2009. Whether the locomotive will ever steam in this condition remains to be seen (and it is something I'd to like to see).
6233 "Duchess of Sutherland"
Like 6229, 6233 owes its survival to Butlins. It initially went to their Ayr holiday camp, but unlike 6229, it was successfully transferred to Blooms of Bressingham in 1971, who attempted a major restoration of the locomotive for use on their short operating track. The locomotive was steamed in 1974, but problems soon developed and the locomotive became a static exhibit in 1976. Bressingham bought the locomotive from Butlins in 1989.
A study of the locomotive was made in 1993 with a view to returning it to operational condition. However the estimated cost was prohibitive, and by this point storage space at Bressingham was at a premium, and it would have been extremely difficult to undertake the necessary work there. The locomotive was sold to the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust (owners of "Princess Royal" class 6203 "Princess Margaret Rose" in November 1995, who restored it back to mainline status; the locomotive running again in 2001.
The locomotive has had a succesful mainline career in the years since then, with perhaps the high points being rostered to haul the Royal Train with the Queen in 2002, and then again with Prince Charles in 2005. It has been liveried in LMS Maroon, LMS Black (a wartime livery), and in BR Green as 46233.
6235 "City of Birmingham"
Of the three surviving members of the class, 6235 has the greatest claim to to have been "officially" saved for the nation. During the 1950's, Birmingham Museum of Science and Technology approached British Railways with a view to displaying a steam locomotive, and what better choice than the locomotive named after the city itself. British Railways agreed to the request, especially as the locomotive was guaranteed a home, and after a cosmetic overhaul at Crewe (that could possibly have been far more than cosmetic based on the time it was actually being overhauled), 6235 arrived in Birmingham in May 1966, where a purpose-built hall was built for it, eventually being finished in 1972.
In 1997, the locomotive was moved to Birmingham's new "Thinktank" museum, into a specially constructed new hall (in fact the building couldn't be finished until it had been moved in), and is still currently residing there at present. At the moment, there are no plans to steam the locomotive; removing it from Thinktank without demolishing the building would pose a very difficult challenge, and even if it was, converting it for use on the mainline in the 21st century would remove the historical authenticity that the locomotive has (something that 6229 and 6233 lost during their respective restorations for mainline use in the preservation era).
[As a postscript, I would say that it's a pity that neither 6220 "Coronation" or 6256 "Sir William A Stanier" survived, given their historical relevance to the LMS. 6220 was considered by Butlins in place of 6229, but they went with the latter instead because it was the locomotive that had gone to the United States on a publicity tour just before the Second World War. That saying, without their contribution, we would probably have no operational "Princess Coronation" class locomotives, and only one operational "Princess Royal" class locomotive in preservation.]