EXCLUSIVE: The Duke – The Impossible Dream – Past, Present and Future

71000 in 1961
Credit: BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust

We recently covered an update about steam locomotive 71000 Duke of Gloucester, and the new appeal to cover the cost of new bearings. You can still help get The Duke back in steam by donating here.

Following on from this, we are delighted to announce that we have been contacted by The BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust and they have provided us with an exclusive update on the history of the project, written by Trevor Tuckley. The update below is in its original unedited version

“Much has been written about ”The Duke” which chronicles his life from conception in 1952 to restoration and triumphant return to the mainline in 1986, which quite rightly was recorded as the fulfilling of “The Impossible Dream”. This pioneering achievement helped to show all who wished to embark on both new builds and renovations that nothing was impossible.

71000 shed plate revealed
Credit: BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust

His life since then has been eventful. The agreement that existed between the owning Company and the original Trust did not meet the requirements of the Charity Commission insofar as charitably donated monies could be seen as being used for the benefit of the shareholders of the Company. When in September 2013 the old Trust relinquished responsibility for the Duke a new Trust, BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust, was created.

From its onset, one of its priorities was to organise matters in a way that both satisfied the Charity Commission and ensured that its members’ donations would only be used for the long term upkeep of the Duke and could not benefit the shareholders of the owning Company.

After both lengthy and costly negotiations with the Company, an agreement was reached which gave sole control to the Trust and its members for the future of the Duke on a rolling basis for as long as the Trust wished this to continue.

71000 Tender
Credit: BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust

To clearly demonstrate to its members that the Duke was now their locomotive it was decided that he would carry the Duke family logo on his tender when the current overhaul is completed. This logo is proudly worn by everyone who purchases items of clothing from the Duke shop and identifies them and the Duke as being part of the same family.

The Duke is the only unique steam locomotive to run on the mainline. It is one of a class of one which sets him apart from all the others which are either new builds of classes that existed previously or rebuilds of a member of a previous class. He was the final development of BR express steam locomotive which originally was intended to be a class of locomotives that would continue with steam traction until the introduction of electric traction on to the mainlines of the country.

A change of heart by the then Government in 1955 decided to introduce its modernisation plan which would use Diesels as an interim measure between steam and electrification. BR’s interest in fine-tuning the Duke ceased.

The business model that the Trustees have set up will generate circa £2,000,000 of income over a ten year period once the current overhaul has been completed. This, along with a rolling maintenance programme which has been put in place with Tyseley Locomotive Works, will ensure the maximum availability of the Duke to earn income over the long term.

It was decided that the current overhaul would involve a complete strip down in order to carefully evaluate matters and the resulting rebuild would return him to the mainline in the most reliable condition possible.

71000 in pres
Credit: BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust

As can be imagined this was an enormous undertaking with a machine which had been built some 65 years ago and despite the Trust’s best endeavors, non-anticipated costs have arisen.

This means that as at today’s date we are short of £75,000 plus the as yet unknown costs for the work necessary to repair/replace the crank axle. Our best guess for this is around £20,000 and as yet we have not been able to source the required steel.

If we are not able to close this funding gap then our long-held target of returning the Duke to the mainline by the end of 2020 will go back by up to 18 months depending on how successful we are at raising additional cash to fill the shortfall.”

How Can I Help?

We hope that our readers can help support the trust in reaching their 2020 target of returning The Duke to the mainline.

You can donate in a number of ways. The first way is easy, you can donate however big or small via the Just Giving page – which you can view here.

The second way is you can sponsor one or more of the bearings, you can do that by emailing [email protected]

Finally, you can send a cheque payable to the BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust and send them to:

BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust
Aurora House
Deltic Avenue
Rooksley
Milton Keynes
MK13 8LW

We would like to thank the BR Class 8 Steam Locomotive Trust for this exclusive update and we are already looking forward to bringing you further updates over the next few months.

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