3803 was completed at the Great Western Railway’s Swindon factory in January 1939 at a cost of £4,285, including £1,147 for the boiler. (The cost of the tender is recorded as being £1884, but it was coupled with 1923-built tender no 2218 when completed, which would have cost around £1,000 when new.)  The GWR at the time was hoping for a large share in a probable Government grant for building new engines for the war effort at the outbreak of the war, which had formerly been intended for the GPO, and this is thought to have accounted for the unusual price of the tender.

3803 took part in the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials where it performed well against LMS 8F and WD Austerity 2-8-0 and 2-10-0 locomotives. It is believed that the GWR bored out the cylinders before the trials to improve its performance.

The 2800 and 2884 classes were only displaced when the BR Standard class 9F locomotives were introduced in 1954 although members of the class survived in service until 1965.

3803 spent most of its time plodding around the GWR system on heavy freight trains, being shedded first at Tyseley, then Banbury.

BR motive power depot allocations since 1948.

Date ArrivedDepot
January 1948Banbury
June 1948Old Oak Common
February 1949Southall
May 1952Cardiff Canton
August 1958Llanelly
March 1959Gloucester
January 1960Severn tunnel Junction

Whilst at Llanelly it spent about six months in store. After a service life covering 726,770 miles, it was withdrawn in July 1963 and sent to Woodham’s scrapyard in Barry. Rescued in November 1983, it came to Buckfastleigh where, after a lengthy overhaul, it returned to steam in 2005. Having cost less than £5000 to build, its restoration cost in excess of £350,000.  The restoration was achieved with the aid of parts, including a boiler, donated by 2873.

In 2011 offers for the sale of the locomotive were invited but it remains under the ownership of the South Devon Railway.

3803 was on hire from the South Devon Railway to the Battlefield Line Railway for the seasons of 2011-2014.

It was taken out of service in 2015.

In February 3803 and the remains of the 2873 were sold by the South Devon Railway to the Dartmouth Steam Railway.

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
Dartmouth Steam RailwayAwaiting overhaulDartmouth Steam Railway
3803 in Woodhams scrapyard at Barry – March 1981
3803 at Toddington on the Gloucester Warwickshire Railway – May 2010
3803 at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2013
3803 at Quorn & Woodhouse on the Great Central Railway – January 2013
3803 at Quorn & Woodhouse on the Great Central Railway – January 2013
3803 at Kingswear on the Dartmouth Steam Railway – August 2022

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