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Broad Gauge Locomotives - Intro

Brunel sent detailed specifications to several manufacturers that laid down his expectations for the locomotives they would build for the GWR.  These proved nearly unworkable with the technologies available at the time, and so quite an odd fleet was assembled.  Some had large driving wheels while others were geared; and some were not even conventional locomotives with tenders; all designed in order that the weight could be kept within 10¼ tons.  Few if any, were reliable.

However he did had the foresight to employ a locomotive superintendent to manage this aspect of the railway.  He chose Daniel Gooch, a young man who had worked on narrow gauge lines in the North of England, and he quickly obtained two locomotives from Robert Stephenson's workshops, the 'North Star' and the 'Morning Star'.  Gooch went on to order further 'Stars', and then designed his own version.  This new class, which included 'Fire Fly', was built by several different workshops, but Gooch insisted they all use standard interchangeable components.

Apart from some of Brunel's "freaks", most early locomotives were of the 2-2-2 type (two powered driving wheels with a pair of leading and trailing carrying wheels).  As locomotive design became more sophisticated other locomotives were built with coupled wheels, first 2-4-0s, and then 0-6-0s and 4-4-0s, but still using many parts that could be interchanged with Gooch's first designs.

His longest lasting design was a class of large 4-2-2s which included the 'Iron Duke's.  Thirty of this class were built between 1847 and 1855; as they wore out they were rebuilt or replaced by similar locomotives, the last of which left Swindon Works in 1888.

Gooch also designed locomotives for several of the connecting broad gauge railways, so many of their locomotives had a family resemblance.

Probably the most distinctive locomotives built for the broad gauge were designed by James Pearson for the Bristol & Exeter Railway (B&ER).  His design of 4-2-4 well tank locomotives had a large pair of flangeless driving wheels of up to 9 feet (2.75m) diameter !

Gooch left the GWR for a time in 1864, and was replaced by Joseph Armstrong.  The next few years saw more modern looking broad gauge locomotives taking to the rails, but in 1876 a significant change happened.  Armstrong had joined the GWR when it took over the narrow gauge lines north of Wolverhampton.  His responsibilities continued to include building locomotives for the broad gauge, and the GWR's expanding network of narrow lines.

From 1876 he started equipping narrow gauge locomotives with broad gauge wheels which, when the time came, could be converted to run on the narrow gauge.  He died in 1877, and his successor William Dean, continued to add to this fleet of 'convertible' locomotives.

When the broad gauge was finally converted to standard gauge, all of the Gooch 4-2-2 express engines were scrapped, but many of the 'convertibles' that were designed to work within the reduced width were converted to the narrow gauge, and some continued in service into the 20th century.