63601 (GCR 102, LNER 5102, LNER 3509, LNER 3601 & BR 63601)

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63601 was built as GCR class 8K number 102 at a cost of £3,352 at Gorton and in January 1912.

Throughout this time all overhauls of No.102 were carried out back at Gorton works. Minor repairs were carried out at the running sheds. As was usual during general overhauls a newly refurbished boiler was normally fitted, the locomotive retaining its identity through its frames. It was originally built with boiler No.1438 with Ramsbottom safety valves and an 18 element Schmidt superheater. At its first overhaul in 1916 it was fitted with boiler No.1429 which had a Robinson 22 element superheater. It retained this type of superheater for the rest of its life with Ross “Pop” safety valves first being fitted in 1919. It ended its service life with boiler No.22877, built in 1940, the boiler which it still carries.

During its working life 63601 was allocated to sheds serving the very arduous Pennine route from Manchester, through the Woodhead Tunnel, to Sheffield and on to Immingham. Its first allocation was to Gorton in March, 1912 and then followed allocations to Sheffield, Mexborough, Barnsley, Doncaster, Frodingham (near Scunthorpe) and Immingham. Traffic to Immingham was on a massive scale and included coal, pig iron, iron ore, wood pulp, timber, pit props, grain and other products. Imports included wool from Australia for the West Riding of Yorkshire. The O4s were heavily engaged in this work and in the build up of the steel works at Frodingham where iron ore was shipped in and finished steel rolled out.

Motive power depot allocations.

Date ArrivedDepot
March 1912Gorton
September 1921Gorton
January 1924Mexborough
December 1939Barnsley
December 1940Mexborough
September 1945Immingham
July 1946Mexborough
December 1946Doncaster
January 1948Frodingham
June 1951Immingham
October 1953Gorton
July 1954Frodingham

After a hard working life of over fifty years hauling heavy freight trains over the GCR’s Pennine route 63601 was withdrawn from service at Frodingham in June, 1963 where it had spent many years supporting the Iron and Steel works there.

As an example of one of the most successful steam locomotive designs ever and one of the last three 8Ks surviving with a Belpaire boiler 63601 was selected for preservation in 1960 shortly after its last general overhaul. With so many locomotives preserved and with no signs for the proposed National Transport Museum locomotives had to be housed in whatever space was available.

63601 then suffered from numerous transfers in common with other locomotives. As a result immediate restoration was not forthcoming, the locomotive first going to Doncaster works before leading a nomadic existence (Stratford & Brighton) before returning to Leicester to be housed in the proposed Leicester Museum of Technology at Abbey Meadows Technology Museum. This project was not to be and in 1976 63601 was sent to the former GCR shed and preservation centre at Dinting.

Before going to Dinting 63601 was the subject of a thorough appraisal by the Dinting Locomotive Department staff on a visit to the Leicester Museum in September, 1975. It was concluded that the locomotive was restorable for a sum of £2,500 provided the majority of the work was carried out by Dinting staff. Items that needed particular attention included a new tender tank, some bent and missing motion rods and the left hand driving axlebox on the third coupled axle which was scrap. 63601 was sent to Longsight depot to have the axlebox repaired. This had badly overheated on the move from Brighton to Leicester in 1972, the whitemetal of the bearing having melted and the brass bearing becoming scored and largely destroyed. The axle journal had also become scored and was repaired at the NCB workshops at Walkden, near Manchester.

It was not the first time this axlebox had given trouble. In 1964 63601 left Doncaster in the first week of October en route to Stratford but ran a hot box and was stopped at Oakington near Cambridge. It did not reach Stratford until November. In 1967, on the return to Leicester, it ran a hotbox at Luton.

On arrival at Dinting leaf springs were repaired by Dinting staff. In October, 1977 it was noted that a completely new tender would be required as the one fitted to the locomotive was vacuum and not steam braked.

Little other than cosmetic work was then carried out at Dinting and with the impending closure of the Dinting Railway Centre in 1990 63601 was sent to the National Railway Museum in York.

Calls for the restoration of the locomotive to working order grew louder and in 1996 a successful campaign by Main Line Seam Trust Ltd and Steam Railway magazine resulted in the NRM owned locomotive arriving on the GCR in June, 1996. Although largely complete a thorough overhaul was undertaken.

The restoration was supported by Steam Railway which ran an appeal campaign, starting in 1997, to raise the £70,000 cost of the restoration. Main Line Steam Trust Ltd immediately chipped in with a massive £25,000 contribution to get the appeal off to a flying start.

Restoration proceeded under the direction of Craig Stinchcombe, the GCR’s Locomotive Engineer, with the assistance of staff and volunteers. Shortly after arrival stripping down started to facilitate the overhaul. All boiler fittings and tubes were removed. The rear buffer beam on the locomotive was removed to be replaced by a new one. In November, 1996 the boiler was lifted off the frames to allow them to be stripped and cleaned. The frames were then lifted to allow the wheelsets to be removed and sent to Swindon for re-profiling. A completely new front buffer beam was fitted and the bent frames, caused by a heavy shunting accident, straightened. 1998 saw the re-assembly of the wheels and frames and the build up of the motion parts. By September of that year the boiler was ready for a re-tube. The tender wheelsets were re-profiled and the tender tank rebuilt.

In June, 1999 the re-tubed boiler was successfully steam tested and the boiler returned to the frames. Major efforts saw the locomotive in light steam for the Steam Railway gala held in August of that year. At that time the tender still required completion and the locomotive needed a coat of paint to bring it to the mid 1950s BR black livery.

In January, 2000, 36 years after it last steamed, 63601 moved under its own power.

In 2001 leaking side stays necessitated a boiler lift when hundreds of copper side stays were replaced. Stripping down started on Good Friday and the boiler was out on Easter Sunday. As the boiler was being re-stayed the opportunity was taken to fit a new smokebox together with a new LNER pattern chimney. The locomotive was back in service in the summer.

In 2006 all the small tubes were replaced and a new brick arch built.

In 2007 a full valve and piston examination was carried out. Because of the arrangement of the inside piston valves it was necessary jack up the locomotive to remove the pony truck to complete this work.

During 2011 the superheater elements were taken out and re-ended before replacement. The brick arch was taken out to do this work and was rebuilt when the elements were re-fitted.  During this time the firebox lap joint rivets were taken out and replaced with patch screws

63601 visited a number of heritage railways as well as attending the National Railway Museums for Railfest in June 2012. Later that month it hauled passenger trains on the GCR before being taken out of service as a ten year overhaul was due.

It is considered that the mostly likely future for the locomotive is to become a static exhibit at the new Leicester North museum which is still to be built.

By September 2018 the decision had been taken to overhaul the locomotive for another period of service on the Great Central Railway.

By October 2019 the overhaul was reported to be underway.

The boiler was lifted off the frames of the locomotive at Loughborough in July 2020.

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
Great Central RailwayUnder overhaulNational Railway Museum NRM Object Number{1975-7027}
63601 on Frodingham shed along with other O4 class locomotives – date unknown
63601 at the Dinting Railway Centre - April 1977.jpg
63601 at the Dinting Railway Centre – April 1977
63601 at Oxenhope on the KWVR - June 2009.jpg
63601 at Oxenhope on the KWVR – June 2009
63601 at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2011
63601 at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2012
63601 at Quorn & Woodhouse on the Great Central Railway – January 2012
63601 with Stanier 2-8-0 48624 at Loughborough – January 2012
63601 at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2013
63601 with Stanier 2-8-0 48624 at Loughborough – January 2016
63601 at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – January 2019

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