S&HLR Locomotives and Rolling Stock


Information on which locomotives ran on the Highworth branch is patchy. The normal procedure was for one of the Swindon works shunters to operate the branch trains in between turns of moving rolling stock around various parts of the works. While Swindon records give the dates between which certain engines were allocated as shunters it is not known specifically when or how frequently these engines went down the branch. The other source of information is photographs and personal records of crews such as diaries and letters. These may only record events of certain dates.

Of those engines allocated as Swindon works shunters in the period 1917-1926, and known to have worked the branch, the following will be modelled:

  1.  4-4-0 saddle tank number 13. This locomotive was something of an oddity as it was a one-off build and used by the GWR as a basis of several experiments. It began life in October 1886 as the GWR's first 2-4-2 tank under lot number 72; Swindon works build number 1094. It was rebuilt to a 4-4-0 configuration in 1897. It served on the Highworth branch between 1897 and 1901 and then spent some years on the Liskeard and Looe Railway in Cornwall before returning to Swindon around 1922. It is known to have worked the Highworth and Tetbury branches between 1923 and 1926. It had 4ft 1½ in diameter driving wheels and 2ft 8in leading wheels. It weighed just under 36 tons, had two inside cylinders of 17in bore and 24in stroke and boiler pressure of 140 lbs. producing a tractive effort of 13,328 lbs. We know of two photographs of this loco, one taken at the Liskeard and Looe Railway and another probably at Swindon in the 1920s. There are detail differences between the two pictures, most notably an extended smoke box, a different style of safety valve bonnet, re-arranged injector piping on the lower right side of the firebox and a solid steel plate rear panel replacing the earlier brass bunker rails (no doubt to increase bunker capacity). The locomotive to be depicted on the model will be as per her later configuration.

Loco No. 13 

  1. 517 class 0-4-2 tank number 529. Members of this class of Wolverhampton built engine operated the branch as early as 1902. Again this locomotive spent many years at Swindon. We have modelled her because she carried the GWR's experimental khaki livery during the 1920s which is something unusual. Modelling members of the 517 class is problematical as they had many detail variations. Number 529 will be based on a standard drawing of the class plus a photograph of number 535 taken in the early 1920s. This locomotive sported a beautiful polished brass dome.
  2. 850 class 0-6-0 saddle tank number 992. This class of engine also worked the branch prior to, throughout and after the Great War. This particular locomotive was rostered to Swindon during much of the 1920s and worked the branch fairly frequently. Photographs of members of this class are quite common although we have yet to find one of 992 until after her rebuild. Many of these engines, including 992, received Belpaire fireboxes and taper boilers during their 1920s rebuilds and were converted to pannier tanks. Number 992 will be depicted in her earlier guise.
  3. Freelance 0-4-0 tank locomotive number 1, "Vorda". The 1922 25in to the mile Ordnance Survey shows that the ammonium nitrate works had its own locomotive facilities which included a two-road shed, coal stage and water tower. We have therefore assumed that the plant operated some industrial engines to shunt wagons around their own sidings. These were most likely small 0-4-0s typical of Hunslett or Peckett types. Lacking any further information we will indulge ourselves and build a model of a 4mm to the foot freelance engine made in the 1960s by Tri-ang. This was the first loco one of the authors was given as a gift by his father for his first train set. The 00-gauge model on which the nitrate works engine is based is still running, more than 35 years on. We make no apologies for this piece of non-historical indulgence but since the locomotive type is fairly typical of small industrial engines we don't think we've gone too far. She will be modelled in a colour best described as "unkempt black".
  4. 5800 class 0-4-2 tank number 5802. This locomotive worked the branch from the 1930s until 1958. We will model her because she operated the line when the Vickers Branch was open and she is therefore the correct engine to work the branch in that period, and to haul the bogie "B" set coaches.
  5. We may model a 2-4-0 Metro tank. These engines were used on the line just before and during the Great War although they were not as frequently seen as the 517 class due to lack of power to climb Butts Bank.
  6. A locomotive to work ammunition trains onto the mainline might be modelled. We are considering a 2301 class 0-6-0 Dean Goods engine to fill this slot, the archetypal GWR freight engine of the Edwardian era.

Passenger Stock

Until the 1940s the Highworth Branch train consisted of 4-wheel and occasionally 6-wheel vehicles. These changed regularly due to various vehicles being allocated from the pool of coaches at Swindon. The 1920s-1930s timetable required two sets as some services passed each other on the main line. A number of photographs of Highworth train vehicles have been studied to provide the six vehicles to be modelled for the route. Based on the Ratio 4mm/ft 4-wheel coaches and modified in details as required, the vehicles will be:

  1. 4-wheel Van Third number 2716. Built to diagram S17 in 1893 (Holden pattern)
  2. 4-wheel Composite number 6116. Possibly built to diagram U4 in 1894 (Holden pattern)
  3. 4-wheel All Third number 2744. Built to diagram S19 in 1894
  4. 4-wheel Van Third number 920. Built to diagram T34 in 1896
  5. 4-wheel Composite number 6613. Built to diagram U4 in 1894
  6. A 6-wheel Van of unknown number shown in a Highworth train at Swindon in the 1920s

The Holden pattern vehicles had round topped doors with distinctive semi-circular louvered vents built into them. This feature was intended to reduce the chance of damage in the narrow confines of the London subsurface lines for which they were designed. Note that while other railway companies usually called them "brake" coaches, the GWR used the term "van" to denote a vehicle in which a guard rode and which had a compartment for carrying parcels and other light goods. The origin of this is unclear but I surmise that in the days before continuously braked trains, the guard's vehicle was the only one apart from the locomotive that had a brake that could be applied when the train was in motion. For reasons of passenger confidence the GWR was unhappy with making this distinction and so used the term "van" to denote where passengers could leave bulky luggage, bicycles, etc. As far as passengers were concerned this was a more informative label.

In 1939 Swindon built six "B" set 57ft bogie coaches specifically for the Highworth branch to replace the worn out 4-wheelers. The "B" set was built to a special loading gauge and comprised pairs each of van thirds, van composites and all thirds. They had their ventilators placed lower down on the roof curvature so as to give clearance under some of the lower bridges on the line. Note that the Highworth loading gauge was one of the most restricted anywhere on the Great Western system. This and the tightness of many curves on the track severely limited which locomotives and rolling stock could use the branch. It appears the six Highworth branch coaches were intended for use in three paired sets with one set in store and rotated with the other two to allow for maintenance. We will model one of each type of the three vehicles but activities in the route will only use two coaches at any time.

  1. 57ft bogie Van Third number 1240. Built to diagram D125 in 1939.
  2. 55ft bogie all Third number 1238. Built to diagram C75 in 1939.
  3. 57ft bogie Van Composite number 6830. Built to diagram E161 in 1939.

Goods Vehicles

In order to represent the types of traffic seen on the branch we will require the following vehicles:

Milk Train

  1. A 6-wheel siphon.
  2. A 4-wheel siphon.
  3. An unknown 6-wheel passenger brake van converted to milk traffic use. This model is based on a photograph of such a vehicle marshalled in the evening milk train at Stratton and apparently painted overall fitted freight traffic brown.

Market Train

  1. 10ft wheel base wooden bodied GW cattle wagon
  2. 10ft wheel base wooden bodied MR cattle wagon
  3. 10ft wheel base wooden bodied GW horse box
  4. 10ft wheel base wooden bodied NE horse box

Timber Siding Train

  1. Pair of 9ft wheel base GW close coupled timber match trucks
  2. GW 40ft bogie bolster wagon MACAW H
  3. GW, MR & NE 5 plank opens
    (All of these to be modelled empty and carrying timber loads)

General Traffic

  1. 5 and 7 plank opens (these to be modelled both empty and with a variety of loads: sheeted, sawn timber, crates, coal, road stone)
  2. 3 plank opens (modelled empty and loaded with barrels/sacks, crates, scrap, farm machinery)
  3. 1 plank open (modelled empty and loaded with farm machinery)
    (All the above to be liveried in GW, MR, NE, GC, LSWR and LMS colours except the 1 plank which is to be GW only)
    (Empties and coal to be in a variety of PO vehicles, including Ocean, Parkend and Wilmer which are depicted in photographs of the branch)
  4. closed vans (these to be liveried as above and take various styles)

Special purpose vehicles

  1. GW brake van - wooden bodied 1920s style
  2. GW brake van - wooden bodied diagonal braced WWI style
  3. 10ft wheel base oil tank wagons (two different PO liveries)
  4. GW iron mink GPV (gunpowder van - two liveries)
  5. LNWR iron mink
  6. GW fruit van