The 2857 Society
2857 seen on the River Usk bridge at Newport with the SVR goods train on 10th September 1985. Photo Simon Marshall.
The Society has made remarkable progress since 1971 when it was first founded as the 28xx Society. Today we are a highly motivated team with many different skills and occupational backgrounds. We are always aiming to build on our successes and welcome new members and ideas to our team to assist either financially or in the engineering work. Since the last overhaul of 2857 in 2011 our role is to keep a watching brief on the operation and well-being of the loco.
Shareholding in The 2857 Society is open to all. The requirements are that you purchase a minimum of 30, £1 shares in The Society. The shares are non-withdrawable and non-transferable except on the death or bankruptcy of a member. Shareholders receive a copy of “28 Lines” the Society newsletter twice a year. An application form can be found in the Membership section of this website.
Brief history of 2857
The prototype of this locomotive was built at Swindon Works in 1903. This was at a time when the Great Western Railway was producing a range of standard locomotives, designed by the railway's Chief Mechanical Engineer, George Jackson Churchward, which were unquestionably the most technically advanced in Britain for their time. Locomotives of this general design, the 28xx class, continued to be produced until 1942 and hauled most of the long distance heavy goods trains on the GWR and BR (W.R.) for sixty years.
No. 2857 was built in 1918 at a cost, including her tender, of £5,948 and travelled 1,276,713 miles before withdrawal in 1963 and subsequent sale for scrap to Woodham Brothers at Barry Dock in South Wales.
The 28xx Society was founded by four young enthusiasts who hoped to be able to preserve a GWR 2-8-0 tender locomotive in working order. Although 2818 was in the National Collection as a static exhibit there were no schemes to preserve an operational 28xx. During the inflationary 1970s the purchase price, originally quoted at about £3,000, increased much more quickly than the fund raising. There were two crisis AGMs of the Society one in January 1973 in Oxford and one in 1974 in Walsall which led to more intense fund-raising activities such as Sales Stands, advertising in the railway press, and retailing books and records to members and others. There was a final effort in 1974 when the Society, adopted a formal Constitution, was renamed the 2857 Society (on 1 May 1974) and became a membership society charging an annual subscription of 50p. Loans were sought from shareholders and a £4,000 bank overdraft facility, incurring interest at 15.5%, negotiated that was guaranteed by a courageous shareholder.
Once the overdraft was in place the Society was able to purchase the loco on 20 May 1974 for £5,250. Action was becoming imperative because copper inflation was continuing and Woodham Brothers had indicated that the price would rise to £8,000 at the end of May 1974 and be £12,000 by the end of 1974. In addition, 10% VAT would need to be financed although this would ultimately be recoverable. At the AGM on 1 June 1974 the Treasurer reported a cash shortfall funded by the overdraft of £2,300. In September 1974 the Kidderminster Branch of the Severn Valley Railway Association sponsored a raffle to “Help save 2857 and bring her to the Severn Valley Railway!”. The raffle raised some £2,000 which along with other fundraising activities meant that the Society was in a positive cash position by 31 March 1975.
Following her purchase in 1974, 2857 was moved by rail to the SVR in August 1975. An extensive overhaul followed, which included exchanging the badly cracked pair of cylinders dating from 1947 with a pair from a scrapped sister locomotive no 2847, discovered under a pile of coal during the demolition of Briton Ferry Steelworks in South Wales. As with most rebuilds from scrapyard condition all brass and copper components had to be replaced with new items specially manufactured. Much of the steelwork was either severely corroded or badly worn and needed replacement. The boiler was completely overhauled by the SVR Company.
After a triumphal main-line run to Newport, Gwent, with a train of Severn Valley Railway restored wagons as part of the GWR 150th anniversary celebrations in 1985, No. 2857 entered regular passenger service on the SVR. She went on to clock up a further 41,000 miles before expiry of her 10-year boiler certificate in March 1995.
Starting in 1995 the '2857 Society' worked on her overhaul. A new tender body was commissioned from Gloucester based D.G.Welding, a new smokebox door was specially manufactured to the original profile and a new cab has been made on site at Bewdley. New steelwork for the cab floor structure has been manufactured and galvanised, a new vacuum reservoir made in stainless steel and many other small repair jobs including the thin cladding components have been completed, ready for quick re-assembly. The front buffer beam and dragbox were badly corroded and bent, and replacements have been manufactured and fitted. A new chimney has been cast accurately to the original profile, while a new 'Petticoat Pipe', on the underside of the chimney, has been produced by a specialist firm of metal spinners, making a batch quantity of 27 for sale to other locomotive owners to help offset the high tooling cost of these items. New valve liners were cast in a tough grade of cast iron derived from discussions with South African steam engineer David Wardale.
From 2004 the Society volunteers started work on the overhaul of the boiler under the guidance of the SVR boilersmith at that time Graham Beddow. The work undertaken was quite phenomenal for a bunch of inexperienced volunteers and included cutting the side plates for wedling in of new patches, drilling out of all the boiler stays, manufacture of a new copper tubeplate, building and fitting a new smokebox, fitting a new front tubeplate, removal and subsequent refitting of the foundation ring, fitting over 1200 new stays – in short much of the complex work associated with a full boiler overhaul. The work culminated in a return to steam in 2011 and 2857 has been gaining an enviable reputation for reliability ever since!
In the three years 2013 to 2015 the loco had an annual mileage in excess of 10,000. In October 2015 the locomotive participated in a Gala on the West Somerset Railway. 2018 saw not only the centenary of 2857’s construction but also her passing the milestone of 100,000 miles in preservation. As part of the centenary celebrations the loco participated in Galas on both the North York Moors Railway and the East Lancashire Railway.
In 2020 the members of the Society approved a proposal from the Committee that the Society become a Charitable Community Benefit Society. On 21 July 2020 the Financial Conduct Authority registered The 2857 Society as a Charitable Community Benefit Society (number 8422). HMRC has subsequently recognised the Society’s charitable status (also with effect from 21 July 2020) so that, among other things, the Society can now claim “Gift Aid” on donations received.
In 2018 and 2019 2857’s mileage was 8,209 and 8,605 respectively placing her second in the SVR mileage charts in each year. This was a very creditable performance in the latter half of her boiler certificate. 2857 was used on the reopening train from Kidderminster on 1 August 2020 following the SVR’s enforced shutdown during the Covid 19 pandemic and has been used regularly since.
2021 was the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Society in 1971. In September 2021 2857 was taken out of service for a valve and piston examination and re-entered traffic in 2022. 2857 has been a regular performer on the SVR in 2022 and visited both the Mid Hants Railway and the West Somerset Railway to attend their respective Spring Galas.
2857’s boiler certificate was due to expire in July 2022. However, the SVR’s insurer extended that certificate and it gave a further 6 months of operation until January 2023. 2857’s last day in service under the current boiler certificate was Monday 2nd January 2023, when she hauled a 10 coach train for 2 round trips of the line formed of Great Western coaches. 100 members and friends of The Society travelled aboard the train, on 'The Severn Valley Limited' dining train.
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© 2857 Society 2007-2022