Discarded for Scrap

The Duke was initially towed to Cashmore’s, Gwent for cutting up and it was only by pure chance that a former BR fireman, Maurice Sheppard, on visiting Cashmore’s yard in connection with his work, noticed that the destination label on The Duke read “Woodham’s, Barry”. He realised that the remains had been taken to the wrong destination and was instrumental in ensuring that the remains of The Duke were towed to their correct purchaser – Dai Woodham of Barry.

The Duke subsequently stood at Barry for seven years and, by 1973, consisted of little more than boiler, frames, inside cylinder (minus cambox), wheels, cab frame and rusting cladding. Souvenir hunters, other preservationists and the salty sea air had turned the once proud standard bearer for steam’s future into a forlorn and pitiful sight. Even its tender had been sold off to a South Wales steelworks where its chassis was used for the transportation of steel.

By 1973 the phenomenon of small groups purchasing rusting hulks from the large dump of ex – BR locos sitting at Barry scrapyard, for restoration and further use, was already under way. Locomotives in the best condition, requiring the least money spent on them were the ones that attracted the most interest. However, in the case of The Duke it was generally thought that the technology, skills and knowledge necessary to re-manufacture the two outside cylinders, together with their unique valve gear, was long gone. In any case, the likely cost would be prohibitive and anyway, the locomotive had proved unsatisfactory when in service, so what would be the point?

A schoolboy who had taken an interest in The Duke thought that such a unique example of steam history could not be allowed to disappear. He wrote an open letter to various railway magazines explaining how he felt. He received a reply from a Colin Rhodes who thought this should be followed up.

The Duke at Woodham’s with outside cylinders removed

The Dream Beckons

When Colin approached people for help they flatly refused saying that to restore such a wreck would be “AN IMPOSSIBLE DREAM”. This served to encourage Colin to prove them wrong and he set about the formidable task of restoration, the likes of which had never been attempted before.

At the beginning of 1973 Colin advertised for members and out of this the 71000 Preservation Society was born. To say that they were regarded as hopeless optimists chasing an impossible dream would be an understatement. A chance meeting with Hugh Phillips enabled the group to make significant progress as Hugh was a Caprotti enthusiast and had access to photographs of every drawing of the poppet valve gear. At that time the drawings were kept by Froude Engineering of Worcester who had manufactured the original equipment. Perhaps even more importantly, he had an introduction to Tom Daniels who, at the time of The Duke’s construction, was, as mentioned above, the representative from the Associated Locomotive Equipment Company which supplied all the original Caprotti valve gear. His wealth of knowledge and experience was to prove invaluable.

Initial fund raising by the group proved almost impossible given the widespread scepticism on the part of enthusiasts generally, and the Association of Railway Preservation Societies in particular. At the end of six months the princely sum of £124 had been raised. It was therefore proposed that Society members put their own money into the scheme in blocks of £100 and, to facilitate this, a limited company was formed. More than thirty members accepted the offer of shares in the company and, within three months, the sum of £4,950 had been paid to Woodham’s for the locomotive plus a tender from a 9F. The hulk was given a cosmetic coat of green paint plus smoke deflectors and double chimney, also from a 9F. On the 24th April 1974 The Duke, looking smarter than for many years, left Barry for its new home at the Great Central Railway, Loughborough, Leicestershire, to be followed seven months later by its new (9F) tender.

On 2 January 1975 the 71000 Steam Locomotive Limited was incorporated at Companies House with the intention being that interested parties could buy shares in the new Company and thus enjoy part ownership of this unique (that word again!) cultural asset. The owning Company, by way of a Deed of Trust, passed responsibility for the upkeep, maintenance and running of The Duke over in 1977 to a newly registered Trust – The 71000 (Duke of Gloucester) Steam Locomotive Trust (what was the 71000 Preservation Society) – for a period of Fifty Years.

71000 – The Impossible Dream

Complete Rebuild

The steps necessary to restore The Duke were divided into clear sections, each having a team leader and with specific tasks to carry out, with Colin Rhodes providing overall control and operating as a significant driving force. The restoring group had taken the decision at the outset that the locomotive was to be completely dismantled and rebuilt into “as new” condition and so they set out on their mammoth task. The project can, perhaps, only be properly described or indeed understood by those individuals who, over a number of years, faced and surmounted challenge after challenge. Here, again, we come up against that word “unique” as no other preservation/restoration group can have faced such hurdles, scepticism, derision or general shaking of heads. Nonetheless, throughout all of this the group ploughed forward, steadily making progress and gradually confounding their critics.

Initially the only institution to offer meaningful financial assistance was the Science Museum which, perhaps for obvious reasons, donated the large sum of £6,000 towards the cost of new cylinders and valve gear and Crewe Borough Council (as it then was) also made a financial donation. Once it had become clear that the restoration group was serious and was indeed making progress, even the previously dismissive Association of Railway Preservation Societies decided to grant the group Associate Membership status and, after that, offered all possible support.

A full description of the work involved in taking the rusting and stripped hulk of the Duke back to a fully operational locomotive can be found in Peter King’s comprehensive pamphlet entitled “71000 Duke of Gloucester – the Impossible Dream” published by Ian Allen in 1987.

Much of the above factual information has been obtained from Mr King’s work. Suffice it to say that the locomotive eventually returned to steam at the Great Central Railway in May 1986, initially without its rear coupling rods, and formal re-commissioning of the locomotive was undertaken by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester at Rothley station on the 11th November 1986. Rightly he praised the irrepressible determination, resourcefulness and individual skills that had brought about the resurrection of this great locomotive.

As-Built Duke Exhaust


Restoration Exhaust


So after 13 years of numerous setbacks, the restoration at the Great Central Railway was completed and The Duke returned triumphantly to the mainline in March 1990 on a loaded test run. This herculean effort proved what was possible given the right level of commitment and determination, providing encouragement for many subsequent restorations and ‘new builds’ that have followed.

The Impossible Dream became REALITY