A Precursor was our initial choice. The class, designed by George Whale, were the historic forerunners of a succession of modern 20th Century locomotives, which urgently needed to replace Webb’s increasingly obsolete engines of the 19th Century. Based on the Precursor, the Charles Bowen Cooke's George the Fifth class, while superficially similar incorporated a number of notable improvements over its predecessor, not least superheating. The George the Fifth class were at least 25 percent more powerful than the similarly sized Precursors. Thus in undertaking this new build we seek to celebrate the skill of two great locomotive designers of the early 20th Century, George Whale and Charles J. Bowen Cooke.
A George the Fifth is not a huge or complicated beast like 'Tornado', nor indeed a Claughton and unlike either engine it will be comparatively simple and inexpensive to build, with a potential heritage rail market sorely in need of engines of this size and complexity. Resplendent in LNWR 'Blackberry Black' livery (with the option to also present it in LMS livery) it would present a rare glimpse of an early 20th century British express engine; a classic four-coupled bogie express locomotive; a type so poorly represented in preservation, not least in operation. The LNWR George the Fifth class is an excellent example of the type for these were handsome engines with clean, uncluttered lines befitting a thoroughbred. And thoroughbreds they were; immensely powerful, reliable, highly regarded and eager pullers for their size!
With the momentum behind new-build steam as a means of going some way to correcting the preservation ledger and to ease the load on our preserved heritage thereby extending the lives of preserved steam engines, the time is right to forge ahead with LNWR George the Fifth new build!
As if this isn't sufficient reason for a new-build 'George', members Paul Hibberd and Tom Mainprize have studied the numbers (with thanks to the late O.S Nock) to assess how a 'George' would stack up against an 'LMS Duchess' on mainlines service:
"This short article is intended to give you an idea of the power and speed that the George the Fifth class was capable of in service on the ‘mountainous’ section of the West Coast Main Line, rather than a contest of ‘which is best’. The runs in comparison are 46233 Duchess of Sutherland on the Royal Scot PMR tour from Crewe to Carlisle on 9 June this year (reported in Steam Railway magazine, issue 404, p.81) and 1662 on the Crewe to Carlisle portion of the 10am Euston to Glasgow express circa 1912 (reported on p.89 of O S Nock’s book ‘The Precursor Family’).
Firstly one must put both runs into context and perspective. 46233 was taking a moderate load of 380 gross tons, 1662 was taking a load of 370 tons gross. So the loads are broadly comparable, perhaps even more so given the rolling resistance of the stock in use a hundred years ago. Secondly it is not entirely straightforward to ascertain what timing points Nock was using. For example was his ‘Shap summit’ the modern milepost thirty seven and a quarter, and his Tebay (the old station) appears to be half a mile south of the modern ‘Tebay North’. Thirdly 46233 stops in Carnforth loop for water (roughly 0.31 miles South of Carnforth Station), 1662 was probably doing around 65mph at this point and does not stop at Carnforth. So precise comparison is not possible but it does give a good indicator of the George’s performance. We can use 46233 as the benchmark (albeit a very high one!) being one of the most consistent and higher performing engines ever to grace British railways.
From Carnforth to Oxenholme verifies the above statement, 46233 from a standing start passed Oxenholme in 16.57, whereas 1662 took just 13.34,