6023 Nameplate  King Edward II Project  6023 Nameplate

       The restoration of a single chimney Great Western Railway King locomotive from scrap yard condition

History of 6023 and the story of the restoration.

Shed allocation

 6023 was built for the GWR in 1930, coming into use in June of that year and in accordance with the intended use of the King class of loco spent most of its working life based in the West Country in order to tackle expresses over the Devon banks.  In July it was allocated to Newton Abbott loco shed, where it was based until November 1936, when it was re-allocated to briefly to Plymouth Laira, from whence it returned in December. It then continued to work out of Newton Abbott shed until February 1949, after which it was sent again to Laira until August 1956, when it moved to London's Old Oak Common depot - covering expresses to Wolverhampton. Its final months in BR service from September 1960 to withdrawal in June 1962 were spent at Cardiff's Canton shed, serving London trains. 6023's final mileage was 1,554,201 miles.

6023 steaming out of Paddington


The maintenance of high pressure boilers was a constant job in the days of steam, and the speed of boiler overhauls sufficiently slow to justify a policy of maintaining a boiler surplus across the King fleet, replacing boilers with new or rebuilt units during general (or heavy-general under BR designation) overhauls. 6023 had thirteen different boilers during its working life, only two of which, 4686 (original)  and 8621 (1955) were brand new. The current boiler on 6023 is 8619, originally issued to 6012 King Edward VI in 1954, and refurbished in 1956, before being removed for a total strip down in 1958, after which it was inserted in 6003 King George IV until 1960, when it was removed during a heavy general overhaul, and after retubing, inserted in 6023 in June 1960.


6023 has had 24 changes of tender during its life, and according to Swindon records, the current restored tender, 2640, was never mated to 6023 during its steaming life.


During the second world war, good quality steam coal found its way to the Merchant Navy, where the need was greatest. Poor steaming afflicted many steam locomotives, and after the war the shortage remained acute. In the early 1950s, significant performance improvements (30% more steam) were made by fitting a longer but narrower chimney liner, and a smaller diameter blastpipe (it is to this arrangement that KE2 is being returned). Further experiments took place through the 1950s, and a double blastpipe arrangement was found to increase the top speed to over 100mph.


The locomotive was withdrawn from service in 1962 but unlike the rest of the class, which were scrapped quickly, 6023 & 6024 were used as dead weights for a bridge test and so ended up at Woodham's scrap yard in Barry, Glamorgan. Unlike railway scrapyards across the UK, Woodham's slow pace of destruction led to the salvaging of significant numbers of locomotives when preserved railways created the right conditions for demand. 

Unhappily 6023 suffered a shunting accident whilst awaiting scrapping at Barry, which led to the rear driving wheel set being sliced through with a cutter's torch.

6023 was left in the open to rot at Barry for nearly 20 years. The marine air slowly ate through the boiler cladding and much of the steel plating. During this time, the locomotive was raided for parts and many of these were taken for use on other locomotives.

6023 sitting at Barry scrap yard, with rear driving wheels cut through.


6023 was finally bought by the Barry Steam Locomotive Action Group (BSLAG) for £15,000 in 1982. Before 6023 left for the intended restoration site in Brighton, it was sold on to Harvey's of Bristol (of Sherry fame) for 21,000 and moved to a bay platform at Bristol Temple Meads Station called the Fish Dock, for restoration by the Brunel Engineering Centre Trust. Here restoration began under a Manpower Services Scheme. 6023 was dismantled, much preservation work was done, parts were sent away for contract work or as patterns for new parts.

Restoration continued until the autumn of 1988 when work ceased when the MS scheme funding was withdrawn. By this time 6023 had been stripped to a kit of parts ready for restoration. Some parts that were away for contract work were scrapped when funds for the work were not forthcoming (notably the cab sides and tender tank).

In 1989 the Great Western Society (GWS) learned that 6023 was available and bought all the available components for around £16,000, including movement costs. The entire locomotive, stripped down to boiler, frames, wheels and tender, was moved from Bristol to Didcot Railway Centre, by train, in March of 1990.

The first big test of the project was casting new rear driving wheels, and a magnificent wooden pattern was made up for the castings. The locomotive was re-wheeled on 1st July 1995, exactly 65 years after being put into service.

Work then progressed gradually on the manufacture of new motion gear; 4 connecting rods, 3 coupling rods, 2 eccentric rods, 4 crossheads, 4 piston rods and 10 suspension springs. Surviving rods were refurbished.

6023 was received in double blastpipe and chimney form, but one of the aims of the project is to produce a 'single chimney King' as it was in its original guise. In 1997 a single chimney and blastpipe arrangement was reinstated.

The most time consuming aspect of the project has been the manufacture or refurbishment of hundreds of items such as steel cladding for the boiler, handles, levers, a huge amount of piping of various bores, hangers, steel flooring, buffers, nuts, bolts and various steam and vacuum valves, injectors and ejectors. The tender has been restored as a separate project at Severn Valley Railway

Long exposure of wheels being turned for valve setting.

With the manufacture and fitting of the valve gear  completed, work  progressed through 2005-6 on the complex job of setting the valves, which required the engine motion to be turned. The rear wheels were disconnected from the rest of the motion by removing the rear connecting rods, and small sets of rollers set up under the front and middle sets of wheels. Using an air-driven pump and a person turning each roller with a 6' long ratchet, the wheels were rotated slowly so that measurements and adjustments to the valve timing could be made. This took months of work, feeding the data back each week to our expert -  in New Zealand.

Boiler life is time restricted from the date of the successful boiler test, so throughout the project we have worked to have King Edward II as complete as possible before turning to the restoration of the boiler. Now the boiler has been tested, the clock is ticking on the boiler life, so we hope we are in a position to reassemble the locomotive without major hitches.

6023 was built to the GWR's 13'5" loading gauge, and will be restored to this height for use on preserved lines. If we are to consider main line use on Network Rail, then it must be shorn of 4" to meet the 13'1" loading gauge now in force. A shortened chimney, bonnet and cab are under construction, and we have reduced the height of some of the mechanisms and pipes in the cab.

Inside the firebox of 6023, looking forward.

Inside the rectangular rear part of the boiler, is a smaller inner rectangular space called the firebox. The only thing that prevents the boiler pressure of 250lb/psi  collapsing this huge structure onto the fire within is a regular array of 1261 metal stays that go through the wall of the firebox to its outer wrapper. These stays account for the huge number of bolts visible around the rear of the boiler when the cladding is off. The space between the firebox and wrapper is normally filled by water, which over the life of the boiler has a corrosive effect on each stay. Over 1100 stays have had to be replaced, and removal and replacement is now complete.

The boiler has been completely retubed, the ash pan fabricated, the mechanical lubricator pipes installed and myriad other jobs completed. The boiler has been steam tested, partially reclad and with a new ashpan in place, has been reunited with the frames for the first time in 4 years.

The superheater header and pipes, newly installed.

The superheater header and first two superheater rows are in. The clock is now ticking to get King Edward II back in steam.

 The restoration is dependent on donations. If you wish to support this project with a donation, use the following link: Donations!

Further links to the Great Western Society and other sites of interest are on the links page.