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From Swindon to Survival
Whilst most preservation activities of our two engines has been well documented over the years and is fresh in our memories, it is probably worth just having a look further back to the time of GWR/BR ownership and recalling their movements during those times. A little potted history really.

Our two Manors - 7802 Bradley Manor and 7812 Erlestoke Manor - were from a class of thirty engines, designed by C.B.Collett and built at Swindon Works from 1938. Just twenty of these were built before the onset of World War II and the remainder were built in 1950 under BR auspices. Our two engines were of the earlier batch and in good GWR fashion contained many parts from scrapped older classes, especially from 2-6-0 Moguls! (7802 is reputed to be a rebuild of 4321, and 7812 of 4325). The boilers though were an entirely new GWR type specially designed for these lightweight (68 ton), go-anywhere, engines.

'Bradley' was amongst the first batch of Manors to leave Swindon Works in January 1938, and 'Erlestoke' followed twelve months later, one of the last batch built prior to the war. Initially 'Bradley' was dispatched to Old Oak Common, the first of the class to be shedded there, quite possibly to show off the new class in the London area. In truth, probably very little useful work would have been found for it and within four months it was transferred to Bristol where, shortly to be joined by 'Erlestoke', it was employed on cross country work around Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset and South Wales. In April 1946, 'Bradley' was transferred, after a brief spell at Oswestry, to Aberystwyth, and thereafter stayed resident in one or other of the ex Cambrian sheds, (except for a very brief period at Tyseley), until it was withdrawn in late 1965. During this period, it became a well known performer on 'The Cambrian Coast Express'.

'Erlestoke' was delivered directly to the Bristol/Bath area in January 1939 and, likewise with 'Bradley', worked both passenger and freight trains to such places as Salisbury, Weymouth, Weston Super Mare and Cardiff. In mid 1948, 'Erlestoke' was moved further westward to the Plymouth and Cornwall area and was often assisting with long distance expresses on the Devon banks. It was not until late in 1960 that it finally arrived in the Oswestry/Shrewsbury/Cambrian area where it would work again alongside 'Bradley' until they were both withdrawn together at Shrewsbury on 6th November 1965. Shrewsbury shed had become part of the LM (as 6D) in 1963 and these very Great Western engines were actually on the LM books at the time! They were moved together to Dai Woodhams yard at Barry in June 1966 to be cut up for scrap! That of course didn't happen.

Interestingly, the recent boiler swap between the two locomotives was not the first, for in April 1948 'Erlestoke' was relieved of boiler number 14/6406 for a replacement and this was subsequently fitted to 'Bradley' in November of that year following repair. Also tender number 2353 was used by each engine at some point of their lives. During GWR/BR running, 'Bradley' used eleven boilers and dragged fifteen tenders, whilst 'Erlestoke' used ten and thirteen respectively. At the time of withdrawal 'Bradley' had covered approximately 900,000 miles and 'Erlestoke' had clocked up 800,000, each receiving six heavy repairs at Swindon along the way.

Following purchase and removal from Barry by the EMF in 1974, and subsequent repairs and renovations, 'Erlestoke' was the first to enter service on the Severn Valley Railway in September 1979 and ran through to 1985. 'Bradley' was purchased from Barry in 1979, first steamed in preservation in April 1993 and ran until August 2000 when it was withdrawn for the aforementioned boiler exchange. Returned again to service in May 2002, 'Bradley' gave stirling service once again, and ran over 110,000 miles in preservation before being withdrawn from service at the end of the 2010 season. It is now under overhaul (chassis at Tyseley Loco Works and boiler at SVR Bridgnorth Boilershop) with a view to completion and return to use in early 2014. Erlestoke is currently in regular SVR service having returned to use in 2008.

Both locomotives have visited other heritage railways and will no doubt continue to do so when conditions permit.

Both locomotives have run on the main line in preservation, the last occasion being an exhilarating return from Minehead by Bradley Manor on 28th March 2007. Whilst neither is currently registered for Network Rail use the current overhaul of 7802 is being conducted to the relevant standards with the exception of OTMR & GMSR fitting. Should a sound business case for the use of this loco on NR arise, return to the mainline will be actively considered.

Last updated: June 26, 2013


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