STEAM holds a historically significant collection of locomotive name and number plates.
The name and number plates are complemented by a collection of approximately 50 locomotive tender and wagon plates and approximately 15 locomotive shed plates.
The GWR only gave a name to its passenger locomotives. The names that were chosen followed a wide variety of themes, varying from flowers and saints, through to Kings and Castles. With only two name and number plates being produced for each locomotive, they can be considered unique and as such are highly sought after.
The standard gauge nameplate collection includes those from famous express passenger locomotives such as Rhuddlan Castle, Hinderton Hall, Penhydd Grange, Baydon Manor and the Castle Class locomotive Swindon. The nameplate Broome Manor is a locally significant addition to the collection in that the locomotive was named after a manor house in Swindon. Most recently, STEAM has received the bequest of the name and number plate from Earl Class locomotive No. 9065 Tre Pol and Pen. Also at STEAM are a small collection of British Rail Western Region diesel nameplates, including Iron Duke, North Star and Lady Diana Spencer.
The nameplate collection is complemented by a selection of plates on loan from the National Collection. These include locomotive plates named after the notable Great Western figures Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Sir Daniel Gooch and J. G. Churchward.
All GWR and BR Western Region locomotives were given a number plate which denoted the class of engines it belonged to and its sequential number within that class. The number plates in the collection at STEAM include those from some iconic locomotive classes, including Castles and Kings, and Stars and Manors. There are also some early numbers, including number plates 15, 77, 90 and 96.
Locomotive tenders were built to be largely interchangeable, so that an individual engine could have any number of suitable tenders attached to it. In order to identify which tender was which and what class of engine it was suitable for, a number plate was attached to each GWR tender. They were made of either brass or cast iron and detailed the tender number, in some instances the date of build, and the water capacity of the tender in gallons. Swindon Works on these plates indicates where the tender was built.
In 1846, following the Gauge Wars between the GWR’s Broad Gauge and the Standard Gauge railways, a parliamentary commission decided that all rail networks in Britain should be standard gauge. Despite this the GWR’s final broad gauge lines were not converted until 1892. At this moment broad gauge locomotives became obsolete. Many of the engines were sent to the Broad Gauge Dump at Swindon Works where they stayed until they were either scrapped or converted into standard gauge engines.
Nameplates are some of the few remaining components from the GWR’s Broad Gauge locomotives. They are much slimmer than the later standard gauge nameplates, but were still made from cast iron with bright brass lettering. The classes of engines were named after various themes including mythology, astronomy and famous battles. STEAM is fortunate to have a number of broad gauge nameplates on display, including Tornado, Iron Duke, Emperor and Great Western.
*On loan from the National Railway Museum.
Locomotive No. 7037 Swindon was built at Swindon Works in August 1950 under the umbrella of British Railways. Swindon was the last in the line of the GWR’s famous Castle Class express passenger locomotives; and to mark the Borough of Swindon’s jubilee not only was it named after the town in which it was built, it was given the unique honour of being the only engine that was decorated with the Swindon coat of arms on the centre driving wheel splasher.
An official naming ceremony was carried out at Swindon Works on the 15th November 1950 by the then Princess Elizabeth. Then, along with the others in the class, locomotive No 7037 began working the main lines until being withdrawn from service only 13 years later in 1963.
For many years the nameplate and splasher had been apart, until STEAM purchased the splasher at a specialist railwayana auction using donations by members of the public to the Museum’s Acquisition Fund. It is through the kind donations of our visitors that we are able to secure such historically important items for the collection at STEAM and have been able to reunite one of Swindon’s nameplates with its splasher.