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Something Ancient Comes This Way

alacrity hoped and some 12 months after VJ Day there still remained over 6000 trained and much needed GWR staff in the armed forces.


The deterioration of Company property was of great concern not only in financial terms but that of presenting a moral boosting image in a rather dirty, badly battered and dark UK. Fresh paint and the rapid removal of black-out conditions were seen as a quick and cheap method of at least partially achieving these ends. Paint and quick fix would delay further corruption in property while also making it seem that things were returning to normal quicker than they were. The removal of wartime  “paraphernalia” was also given a high priority for the same reasons, hence the early removal of the blackout requirements at Paddington to again reveal Brunel’s splendid architecture. 


Swindon had been told to investigate and develop new forms traction and was already waiting for the delivery of its gas turbine loco for evaluation and “development” (anything the continentals can do we can do better), this apparent thinking (with hindsight) explains much of what went on in later years when BR decided to dieselise the loco fleet and Swindon was accused of “going it’s own way”. It seems that diesel electric would not provide what was required on the GWR (WR) and that finding something which was the best prospect would be pursued and then developed. This explains why the German Krauss-Maffei V200 was chosen and how Swindon produced the D800 Warship and had close contact thereafter with the German constructor to find how a V200 could be shoe-horned into a British loading gauge without too many complications. The D800 class was however known for the restricted access in the engine compartment.


Three locos were built and tested very hard, which quickly showed faults and some redesign of the bogies and cooling systems was required in the original design, but this testing was not fully completed before pressure from the political arena required locos to be built “en masse” before full testing. In the end Swindon became the “go-to” European source for all information regarding the production and running of hydraulic locomotives.


For The Future In 1946 plans were already afoot to rebuild a number of major stations to suit “modern” conditions and the growing number of the travelling public with lighter stations and more streamlined throughput (as modern jargon puts it) with a considerable number of older and “surplus” stations to be closed. Was the GWR to have a “Beeching moment” at a then propitious time?


The rebuilds were to follow definite guidelines and a summary of those new standards are listed:

A. Free and comfortable circulation planned as result of a scientific study of passenger movement ; circulation unencumbered by luggage trolleys for which separate means of access will be planned.

B. The various statin and platform buildings grouped into compact and continuous blocks.

C. Clearly distinguishable signs, illuminated where necessary, to guide and inform passengers at all points between entering and leaving .

D. Escalators to and from different levels, wherever the traffic is sufficient to justify their operation.

E. Island platforms to allow direct interchange from one train to another, without climbing stairs.

F. Full length platforms to avoid double stopping, protected from the weather for most of their length fitted with windscreens to protect passengers from cold winds and draughts.

G. Plentiful lighting in hours of darkness where all passengers may tread.

H. At the very large stations , interesting and well-stocked shops in which last minute shopping will become a pleasant experience.

I.  Shops, kiosks, automatic machines and advertisements arranged in compliance with a general station design and rigorously controlled so that order and dignity may never be lacking.

J. Light, airy waiting rooms, well heated, well ventilated, welcoming in appearance, decorated in light, cheerful colours.

K. Tea and coffee served in the waiting room, or refreshment rooms next door.

L. Bright, welcoming refreshment rooms and restaurants, with soft, intimate lighting, scrupulously clean underfoot, without advertisements, lined where necessary with absorbent materials that will reduce noise and clatter.

M. The windows of waiting rooms, refreshment rooms, buffets and restaurants arranged so as to give a full view of platforms and trains.

N. Lavatories lines with delicately coloured tiles and kept spotlessly clean at all hours of the day and night.


These rebuilt or new stations contain some which, with hindsight, may seem strange, while others will create a feeling that “it has taken BR 80 years to do that, while it also states what a “normal” train was to the GWR, 1 engine and 12 coaches, which makes a mockery of present provision, so here are a few planned ones:

Platform lengthening: Minehead branch, Barnstable branch.

Full rebuilds with platform lengthening: Newquay, Reading, Weymouth, Swindon, Westbury, Birmingham Snow Hill, Plymouth, Fishguard, Exeter, Bath, Weston-Super-Mare, Banbury and Oxford. At Oxford it was planned to enter intro an agreement with the LMS to rebuild both stations as one and move the goods facilities in order to accommodate a much larger station. Late in this rebuilding program (several decades) comes the biggest shock; Paddington. It was to be a complete rebuild, with postal services and suburban services to be moved in order to greatly expand the number of platforms, to include more platforms for, I quote: more suburban lines to be projected from Paddington to other parts of London”.  Is the GWR already thinking in terms of Crossrail? 

Don’t forget this was 1946 and now we shall never know for sure.


Having read Mr Barman’s book cover to cover, one thing is very definitely evident; this is not a Company which considers itself finished and down and out, it is one which has taken a beating but is dusting itself off and spitting on its hands, to come back stronger than ever in the future. MPT


So where did Mr Attlee and the Labour party get the idea that “The Company” and others were finished as entities? My own thinking, with the benefit of hindsight and years of experience of politicians and their machinations; is that the government of the time would not or could not meet reparations promised to the railways and rather than enter into disputes with some of the larger companies in the UK, they suggested that the independent companies were finished as viable entities, when all they needed was short-term funding to start a revenue flow and assist the initial backlog of repairs!  Nationalisation then being a high priory for the Labour party as a matter of ideological principal, not the provision of an up to date and functioning rail system.