7754 was built by the North British Locomotive Company of Glasgow for the Great Western Railway as works number 24042, being completed in December 1930 at an approximate cost of £2,800.
7754 was allocated new to Reading in 1931; duties probably including working the Henley, Basingstoke and Newbury lines, as well as commuter trains in the London Division and shunting in the large marhsalling yards in Reading. The next allocation was to Old Oak Common (London) in 1936 from where duties would have been hauling empty coaching stock trains in and out of Paddington Station. An intermediate overhaul was carried out at Swindon in 1946, and a heavy general overhaul there in 1949.
The final allocation on the national network was to Wellington (Shropshire) in May 1949. From there passenger and pick-up freight trains on the local branches would have occupied 7754, and perhaps stopping passenger trains between Shrewsbury, Wellington and Wolverhampton. During this time 7754 had a light overhaul at Tyseley at Christmas 1951, a heavy intermediate overhaul at Barry loco works eight months later, and a heavy general overhaul at Swindon in May and June 1956.
During the late 1950s, British Railways (Western Region) withdrew many tank engines as surplus to requirements, the majority of the pannier tanks being sold to private and industrial users. 7754 was withdrawn in January 1959, and sold to the National Coal Board in July that year. It worked first at Talywain Colliery in South Wales, sharing the shed with another four tank engines. One notable event during 7754’s stay at Talywain colliery was 21st March 1970, when it hauled an enthusiasts’ special. This consisted of the five GWR box vans plus eleven open coal trucks, with one of the other tank engines banking.
A few months later, 7754 was transferred to a new colliery system at Mountain Ash, being hauled there over BR metals in a freight train. 7754 joined four saddle tank engines there, but required an overhaul and repairs before use. It was not popular with the crews there, having a main line type firebox and a habit of discarding parts of its anatomy along the track. It also played havoc with the lightly laid track, and both footplate and permanent way crews breathed a sigh of relief when a loose piston caused a cylinder cover to blow off in 1975. It was probably the dedication of one man at Mountain Ash, Howard Griffiths, an ex GWR steam fitter, that had kept 7754 running as long, and thus secured its eventual preservation.
At the time, there were many preservation societies who would have liked to acquire 7754 when withdrawn. However, the NCB were persuaded that 7754 should be donated to the National Museum of Wales, who could then place it on loan with any of the railway societies. Luckily, they decided that Llangollen were suitable candidates, and 7754 was placed on permanent loan to the Railway.
Restoration was a long-winded affair, mostly taking place outdoors, and turned out rather more expensive than expected, given that 7754 was supposedly withdrawn in almost running condition. The cylinder block was pronounced as beyond repair in 1988, and much of the motion turned out to be very badly worn due to years of neglect in its later life. The axleboxes’ white metal had worn right through, and even through the brass to the axlebox itself in one case. A spare set of frames and cylinders from 3612 were purchased from the Severn Valley Railway in 1990.
Restoration was assisted by a move into the goods shed the same year, and by 1991 a rolling chassis had been completed. The following year saw the boiler reunited with the frames. Work continued, with a first move under its own power on 20th August 1993, followed by running-in taking place during the Santa specials and a return to service in 1994. Sadly, after around 18 months’ service, it was taken out of traffic for major boiler repairs after the angle ring securing the front tubeplate was found to have a crack. As with all jobs in railway preservation the job got progressively bigger as time went on, ending up with a replacement tubeplate, tubes, stays, and repairs to cracks in the outer firebox. The boiler was replaced in early 1997 and the engine was quickly reassembled, becoming a mainstay of off-peak services.
7754 is now owned by the Llangollen Railway Trust, the voluntary body supporting Llangollen Railway. It has appeared in GWR green and BR black liveries.
7754 was the last 5700 class in industrial service and was donated by the National Coal Board to the National Museum Wales who placed it on permanent loan to the Llangollen Railway. It is now owned by the Llangollen Railway Trust.
At present 7754 is out of traffic undergoing its ten-year overhaul. By early 2017 all of the work on the frames, wheels and motion had been completed leaving the boiler to be worked on. Following the launch of an appeal for funds to undertake the outstanding work it was hoped that the locomotive would be back in operation by the autumn of 2018 in time for the opening of the extention on the Llangollen Railway to the new terminus at Corwen Central.
By July 2020 the expectation was that the locomotive would be back in steam in 2021 provided the Llangollen Railway could raise £10,000 to complete the overhaul. The plan is that the boiler is lifted back onto the frames in March 2021 followed by piping-up and testing during June or July 2021.
|Home Base||Current Status||Owner|
|Llangollen Railway||Under overhaul||Owned by the National Museum Wales but on permanent loan to the Llangollen Railway|