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Tom Winterbourn is an active member of the NDMES Club who can be seen driving his 7.1/4 inch Black 5 Locomotive or helping out on Club run days. He was a past President of the Club, and has been for many years a co-editor of the Club newsletter, Steamlines in partnership with Jim Clark

A Lifetime Love of the Black 5

Leominster Station, 27th June 1950

As a young boy living in Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, I used to travel regularly by train from Snow Hill station to Worcester and then onto the branch line to Leominster, my “ancestral” hometown. It was on one of these journeys when I was about seven that I became aware of a large steam loco at the head of the train, which had just arrived from London. It was blowing off steam and so attracted my attention.

My father later recounted that, according to its name, it was a “King” – the ultimate in steam power on the Great Western Railway. It would have been about 1946, the year before nationalisation, and the creation of British Rail, so the “Great Western” was still in existence. That surely was the spark which triggered a life-time interest in railways – mostly British.

Many a summer Saturday I spent at Leominster Railway Station, on the “North and West” line, via Shrewsbury and Hereford. The scheduled trains and the many excursions from the industrial north of England to seaside resorts in South Wales and the West Country roared through, hauled from a range of former G.W.R. and L.M.S. steam locos, but mostly Great Western.

It was in those days that I started my love affair with Stanier’s Black 5s, a loco designed and built with much Swindon influence, as William Stanier was deputy to G.W.R. C.M.E. C.B. Collett before he was head-hunted by the L.M.S.

My Gauge 1 Black 5 on the Garden Railway Tracks at Balcatta.

Tom driving out of the tunnel on his 7.1/4 inch Black 5

Leominster station with Castle on express

I can recall at least two scheduled services a day, the 8am at Leominster which I used to catch to work in Hereford. This loco turned around at Hereford and then hauled a through express from the West Country to Manchester, loaded with between 11 and 13 carriages. Taking this train over the Church Stretton Hills was a mighty achievement for a class 5 Black 5.  The other working was a semi-fast service, calling at Leominster at 11.42 and, again turning at Hereford, came back through Leominster on another semi-fast service shortly after 2pm.

There were, of course, many more fancied engines stopping at or passing through Leominster, including G.W.R. Kings, Castles, Halls and Granges and L.M.S. Royal Scots, Jubilees and rebuilt and un-rebuilt Patriots.  But it was the Black 5s that I admired the most. A go anywhere and do anything loco widely regarded as perhaps the most successful loco built in the UK.

So, here we are today, and I have two Black 5s! One has been around the club for many years. It is a 7¼ steam loco, which underwent a major overhaul a couple of years ago with the help of Phill Gibbons, Ron Collins, Noel Outram and Clive Jarman. My other Black 5, recently acquired from the UK, is an electric-powered Garden Railway gauge 1 loco, with remote control and a sound card which, to all intents and purposes, sounds like the real deal, with four chuffs to each evolution of the wheel and a whistle. I have also recently acquired four fully detailed “blood and custard” BR Mk 1 carriages.