The recent sale of Class 9F 2-10-0 No 92203 Black Prince from the artist David Shepherd to the North Norfolk Railway has secured the long-term preservation of the locomotive.
No 92203 is one of nine of the class to have survived out of the 251 — Nos 92000-250 — that were built between 1954 and early 1960 when No 92220 Evening Star was completed at Swindon Works — the last main-line steam locomotive to be constructed by British Railways. The maximum number in service lasted for a short period of time — from the construction of No 92220 in 1960 through to early part of 1964 as, during 1964, 16 members of the class were withdrawn and by the start of 1968 only 18 members of the class — Nos 92004/09/54/69/77/88/91/94/118/53/60/65/67/212/18/23/33/49 — remained in service. Of these only No 92212 was eventually to find itself eventually preserved. Most of the class had barely a decade of active use before withdrawal whilst the later examples operated for less than 10 years; No 92220 itself, for example, only ran in service between March 1960 and March 1965 whilst the penultimate locomotive to be completed, No 92219, survived only from January 1960 through to September 1965.
Of the preserved locomotives, only two — Nos 92203 and 92220 — were preserved immediately after withdrawal; the others owe their survival to being sold to the famous Woodham Bros scrapyard in Barry. A further example — No 92085 — survived at Barry until August 1980 when it was cut up, some 14 years after it had originally been scrapped. It was the scrapping of this and another locomotive that provided the final stimulus to try and rescue the final unpreserved steam locomotives from the Barry yard. No 92085 was one of the class fitted with a single chimney; its demise made surviving No 92134 unique as all the other surviving eight locomotives of the class are fitted with double-chimneys.
No 92134 was completed at Crewe in May 1957 and was to survive in service until December 1966. Initially allocated to Saltley shed in Birmingham, it was withdrawn from Birkenhead before reaching Barry in June 1967. Secured for preservation in December 1980, the locomotive is currently under restoration at the Railway Age in Crewe and is destined for the Churnet Valley line once completed.
No 92203 was built at Swindon in April 1959 and, prior to its withdrawal in November 1967, was used for the iron ore trains from Bidston Docks to the steelworks at Shotton. Purchased from British Railways by David Shepherd, the locomotive was initially stored on the Longmoor Military Railway as part of the ultimately failed project to preserve the line, before being based on the East Somerset Railway from 1973 to 1998 after a brief period in store at Eastleigh. Following overhaul at the Gloucestershire-Warwickshire Railway, work which was completed in 2004, the locomotive was based on the G-WR until 2011 when it was moved to the North Norfolk Railway.
No 92207 was completed at Swindon in June 1959 and was based at St Phillips Marsh, Oxford, Southall, Banbury and Ebbw Junction during its career with the Western Region. Withdrawn in December 1964, the locomotive reached Woodham Bros in March 1965 and was to remain there until October 1986. Between then and 2005, No 92207 was based on the East Lancashire Railway, where some restoration work was undertaken. In December 2005 the locomotive was relocated to Shillingstone, on the former Somerset & Dorset line, where restoration work has continued.
No 92212 was one of the last 18 ‘9Fs’ in service, being withdrawn from Carnforth shed in January 1968. A Western Region for the bulk of its career, the locomotive was constructed at Swindon in September 1959 and was originally allocated to Banbury. Transferred to Bath Green Park, No 92212 operated over the Somerset & Dorset line — a route that was familiar haunt for some of the class and which saw the ‘9Fs’ unusually hauling passenger trains — before being transferred to Ebbw Junction and then Tyseley before its brief sojourn to north-west England. Reaching Woodham Bros in January 1968, No 92212 was secured for preservation in September 1979 and was finally restored at the Great Central Railway in September 1996. No 92212 is still operational and is now based on the Mid-Hants Railway.
Now named Central Star No 92214 was completed at Swindon in October 1959 and was withdrawn in August 1965. Rescued from Barry and eventually restored on the Midland Railway project at Butterley, No 92214 spent some years on the East Lancashire Railway before having a 10-year boiler overhaul in 2012/13. Based on the Great Central Railway since 2014, the locomotive is now owned by the railway’s chairman.
The penultimate ‘9F’ to be completed, No 92219 was built at Swindon in January 1960. Initially based at Bristol St Phillips Marsh, the locomotive was withdrawn in September 1965 when allocated to Cardiff East Dock. From there, the locomotive was transferred to Woodham Bros the following month. Secured for preservation in May 1985, No 92219 was initially preserved at Butterley on the Midland Railway, where it received no more than cosmetic restoration. Considered a long-term restoration project due to its lack of a tender and other missing parts, No 92219 was sold in October 2012 and transferred to the Stainmore Railway. In April 2014 No 92219 was moved again, this time to the Wensleydale Railway in North Yorkshire.
No 92220 was completed in March 1960 and was named Evening Star prior to entering service; the locomotive was the 999th BR Standard to be built and was the only ‘9F’ to receive a name officially during its BR career. Based on the Western Region and regularly used on the Somerset & Dorset line, No 92220 was to haul the last ‘Pines Express’ over the Somerset & Dorset on 8 September 1962. Withdrawn in 1March 1965, the locomotive inevitably became part of the National Collection. The only preserved Class 9F to have operated on the main line since preservation, No 92220 has been displayed in a static condition at York, Shildon and Swindon for a number of years.
No 92240 was one of the last of the class to be constructed at Crewe, being completed there in October 1958. Based at Newport and Old Oak Common before being withdrawn from Southall in September 1965, No 92240 was rescued from Barry by volunteers from the Bluebell Railway in 1978. The first of the ex-Barry Class 9Fs to re-enter service, No 92240 was finally restored in 1990. However, the locomotive was withdrawn from service in 2002 due to the condition of its tubes and it is currently on static display on the railway although plans are afoot to see it restored to service with work planned to start in 2016.
Numerically the highest numbered ‘9F’ to survive, No 92245 was another of the final batch to be built at Crewe, emerging from the works in November 1958. With a working life of only six years, No 92245 was withdrawn in December 1964 and was one of the final ten locomotives still on site at Barry in 1990 when Dai Woodham retired. As one of the so-called ‘Barry Ten’, No 92245 was transferred to Vale of Glamorgan Council. The fate of these ten locomotives has varied but No 92245 is scheduled to be displayed at Barry as part of a museum project to show a locomotive in unrestored condition.
Fifty-five years after the last of the class was completed, these surviving locomotives provide today’s enthusiasts with a reminder of the single largest class of BR Standard locomotive — a class that, due to modernisation and the post-Beeching reduction in the railway network, was never fully to fulfill its undoubted potential.