Nicknamed "Dukedogs" since they were an amalgamation of the chassis of a Bulldog with the boiler of a Duke, the parts of this loco are thus actually older than the "building" date suggests. A few of the class carried the names of Earls, but 3217 did not receive its allocated name until preservation days. At the time the Earls in question indicated to the GWR that, if their names were to be used, they would prefer their names on something a little more prestigious, and so they were transferred to new Castle class locomotives.
This class of locos was widely used on the Cambrian lines. At the time this loco was saved for preservation the Bluebell was the only line where it could run, and it has been in Sussex ever since, apart from a few years spent at the Great Western Society, at Didcot.
Right: In June 1973, 3217 doubleheads a northbound train with a Brighton Terrier. The photo was taken on the 1 in 75 climb of Freshfield bank. Photo © Copyright Michael Taylor.
Class: Earl (later 90XX), but often known as "Dukedog"
Wheels: 4-4-0, double frames
Class Introduced: 1936
Rebuilt: Swindon, 1938 using frames from "Bulldog" No.3425 (built 1906) and boiler and cab from "Duke" class No.3282 (originally named "Chepstow Castle" and built in 1899)
Purpose: light passenger work
Total number rebuilt: 29
Numbers carried: GWR 3217, 9017 and BR 9017
Withdrawn: (Oswestry) October 1960
Arrived on Bluebell: 15 February 1962
Previous major overhaul: 1982
Latest overhaul completed: October 2003
Owner: Bluebell Railway
Length: 56ft 1.5in overall
Weight: Engine 49 Tons, Tender 40 Tons
Water capacity: 3,500 Gallons
Coal capacity: 6 Tons
Boiler Pressure: 180 lb/sq.in
Driving Wheels: 5ft 8in diameter
Cylinders: (2, inside) 18" x 26"
Tractive Effort: 18,955 lbs
Engine Brake: steam, via vacuum
BR power classification: 2P
The locomotive returned to traffic on the 1st November 2003 after its latest overhaul, when it was re-commissioned by Charles Hendry MP, a Bluebell Railway member. In the course of the overhaul, major boiler work was required, including the fitting of a new smokebox tube plate, manufactured in our own workshops, and complete new sections of front and back main frames. More details are to be found on the Loco Dept. Photo News pages.
The locomotive has been donated to the Bluebell Railway, with the requirement that the locomotive is to remain normally on the Bluebell Railway.
The engine was re-painted in BR black in April 2009, as seen in Derek Hayward's photo below. It came out of service in early June 2011 with a number of boiler and mechanical faults, and now awaits its next major overhaul. In 2014 its tender, which is of an appropriate design, was hired to The Dinmore Manor Group, while their own tender was being made ready. It can be seen behind "Dinmore Manor" on The Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway in Dave Bowles photo, linked here.
The second photo below shows the Cambrian Coast Express, at Towyn in 1957 with No.9017 piloting a 45xx tank loco. (© Ted Hamer)
See a Photo of the loco during its visit to GWS, Didcot.