GWR 813 Saddle Tank
0-6-0 saddle tank
On loan to Telford Steam Railway
Usually the smallest locomotive on Severn Valley Railway rosters, 813 was originally built for the Port Talbot Railway by Hudswell Clarke in 1900, where it was numbered 26. A diminutive 0-6-0 saddle tank with a maximum boiler pressure of just 160psi, 813 was built for shunting in the sidings on the Port Talbot Railway’s network, and for hauling coal trains to main line junctions where larger engines would take them on their onward journey. At 121 years old, 813 is the oldest locomotive operational on the SVR.
By 1922, the GWR had taken over the Port Talbot Railway and the then-No 26 was sent to Swindon for overhaul and renumbered GWR 813. Service under GWR auspices was brief however, as CME Charles Collett sought to standardise the fleet. After 11 years of service, 813 was sold to a Northumberland colliery, staying at the colliery through to the formation of the National Coal Board. A valuable locomotive to the colliery, 813 received a new boiler from its original manufacturers Hudswell Clarke in 1950, and a new firebox in 1962.
Withdrawn in 1967, 813 avoided the gas torch by dint of being unique, the rest of its kind having already been scrapped. The GWR 813 Preservation Fund was formed, and 813 was purchased for the sum of £320, just shy of £6,000 in today’s money. Arriving at the Severn Valley in 1967, 813 was first cosmetically restored, then later returned to steam in November 1976, but it quickly became apparent that years of constant service had taken their toll and further restoration was required. An eight-year overhaul followed and in 1984, 813 steamed again. Sadly, mechanical problems meant the locomotive was taken out of service just a year later and stored until 1996, when a thorough (and well-deserved) overhaul and rebuilding began at Bridgnorth.
In a story worthy of Rev W Awdry, the restoration of 813 was serendipitously completed in the summer season of 2000 in time to save the day during a temporary shortage of motive power. Despite the locomotive’s petite size, 813 came straight out of overhaul and into service hauling regular passenger trains.
More than 20 years and one more overhaul later, 813 has travelled to other railways on 75 occasions and has now covered 17,269 miles in preservation.