Although FoFNL is not a railway enthusiasts' organisation it would be true to say that many of us are pretty enthusiastic about anything railway-related.
No surprise then that this writer was delighted to hear about the project to build, from scratch, a steam locomotive of a kind which missed out on being preserved and is eminently suitable to run on the Far North Line.
Add to that the fact that the said locomotive is to the last design of the L.N.E.R.'s famous Chief Mechanical Engineer, Edinburgh-born Sir Nigel Gresley. Sir Nigel was responsible, whilst employed by one of the L.N.E.R. constituent companies, the Great Northern Railway, for the design of the class (later A3) which included Flying Scotsman. He then went on to design another class of 'Pacific' locomotives, developed from the A3 design, which became the A4 and included Mallard, which still holds the world speed record for a steam locomotive - 126 mph, set an astonishing 82 years ago!
The V4 will be the third new-build steam locomotive to emerge from the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust (A1SLT) works in Darlington. The first, Tornado, an A1, has already travelled north as far as Brora, and the second (this writer's all-time favourite locomotive design), a P2 2-8-2, originally designed by Gresley for the difficult Edinburgh-Aberdeen route, is well under way.
An article in last summer's A1SLT magazine by Graeme Bunker-James, entitled, "Why a V4 opens up more options", gives this view of the prospects for the V4:
The V4 is a much smaller locomotive (than Tornado) with an axle weight of only 17 tonnes bringing a Route Availability of RA5.
Why does this matter? Well if we look at Scotland it's fair to say Tornado has been further than any LNER Pacific before. In 2015 when the locomotive ran to Brora it was a unique event, and probably not one to be repeated. The locomotive was easily the heaviest vehicle ever to run over the route and was limited to 35mph!
Whilst the P2 is slightly better than the A1, being an RA8 locomotive with a 20 tonne axle weight, both the large engines have limits on where they can go due to their overall weight approaching 170 tonnes. The V4 weighs 114 tonnes so represents a very different level of challenge for the civil engineer to be comfortable with.
The V4 therefore opens up Scotland for the Trust beyond the Central Belt routes and north to Inverness via Perth and either Aviemore or Aberdeen. It will be able to go on these routes, but also across the Tay Bridge, sadly no longer cleared for the large engines. It can go north to Wick and Thurso on the Far North Line and visit the stunningly scenic route to Kyle of Lochalsh.
The only two members of the class were built in 1941. The first was named Bantam Cock and the second was unnamed but affectionately known as Bantam Hen. Both V4s were scrapped in 1957 at 16 years of age.
We think it's no contest - the new V4, No. 3403, has to be named Bantam Chick!
Top: Colourised and renumbered to show what the new V4 will look like - originally No. 3401 Bantam Cock in ex-works condition in 1941 at an unrecorded location, but likely to be Doncaster works. [Railway Magazine Collection and A1SLT]
If reading this has inspired you to help by contributing, head to www.v4steam.com for the latest news.
Although there is currently no specific appeal open for No. 3403, any donations made towards it will be ring-fenced for the V4.
A1SLT's next step will be to launch The Founder's Club to fund the early stages of the work. More announcements will be made over the next few months as the project builds up steam.