Swindon Works-The Collett Era Part 2

9 March 2020

On 9 March we welcomed Society President Brain Arman to present Swindon Works The Collett Era Part 2. Having been appointed CME in 1922 to succeed Churchward, Charles Collett inherited a rolling stock that was somewhat neglected owing to lack of maintenance during WW1 and also stock from the 1923 grouping which were mainly in a similar state. In addition some newly constructed freight locomotives were immediately stored owing to lack of traffic because of the 1926 coal strike and that some overhauls were taking up to three years in works. He developed a system of Light, Intermediate and Heavy General works visits for all rolling stock to minimise time out of traffic and also improved some of Churchwards designs as well as introducing his own. The Castles and Halls were developments of the Star and Saint classes with a general increase in performance and reliability and modern versions of Pannier and Prairie tanks were also constructed. He designed and built the thirty strong King Class,the most powerful 4-6-0 seen in the country Some pre grouping classes were modified to increase their performance and the Grange and Manor classes built utilised some components from earlier withdrawn locomotives with standardisation of components a policy requirement. The previously stored tank engines were converted to 2-8-2 tanks for increased range on coal traffic duties. He pioneered the use of optical alignment equipment used in the aviation industry to set up locomotive cylinders during overhauls. The 1925 Exchange trails with the LNER saw the GWR fleet outperform the Gresley Pacifics on both networks. A tour of the Swindon Works site was shown which in 1927 employed over seventeen thousand people and covered an area larger than either Doncaster or Crewe as locomotive,carriage and wagon repair shops were on the same site. Collett retired in 1941 aged seventy.