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TS18: The Final Frontier

Main photograph above: copyright Ben Brooksbank.

A story started in the early 1900s, GWR’s successful two-cylinder locomotive design came to a crescendo with the County Class in the latter days of steam, and this notable fleet is coming soon to Train Simulator, courtesy of Partner Programme developer Victory Works!

1905 saw the introduction of a revolutionary locomotive as designed by CME George Churchward, the GWR 2900 ‘Saint’ Class, which was built to attain a level of standardisation across the Great Western network.

The Saint Class was a two-cylinder locomotive, and its success built the foundations for the four-cylinder ‘Stars’, ‘Castles’ and ‘Kings’; while itself directly being evolved into the ‘Halls’ and ‘Granges’ (all key locomotives for the GWR, and through the effort of many, make an appearance in Train Simulator).

Fast forward to the early 1940s and the now-CME, Frederick Hawksworth, was looking to develop what would be the last two-cylinder design from the GWR, the ‘County’ Class – named so in recognition of a previous fleet with the same name.

Hawksworth developed the county off of the success of the Modified Hall Class, his dream was to build a 4-6-2 Pacific locomotive, however the war effort put paid to such a project, and so the more aspirational aspects of the Pacific were put to the test on a new approved batch of 4-6-0s, the Counties.

Certain design features of the County Class made them quite unique in comparison to older locomotives, and at one point they even had more tractive effort than the Castles thanks to a 280psi boiler pressure – with the boiler itself somewhat related to that of the LMS 8F, which were built in GWR’s Swindon Works during the war.

A total of 30 County Class locomotives were built between 1945 and 1947, and being mixed traffic they did everything from passenger expresses to menial freight. They weren’t without their opposition, however were also considered as useful and successful locomotives which powered through to the end of steam.

The Counties became a lost piece of GWR history, as none survived into preservation, however the Didcot Railway Centre are building a replica from other donor locomotives; and soon, you will be able to take in the two-cylinder finale footplate experience, as Victory Works bring the County Class to Train Simulator! ■

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