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Remembering the golden age of steam in the Black Country

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 13, 2014

By Dan Shaw

A GWR 3300 Bulldog class near Stourbridge Junction

A GWR 3300 Bulldog class near Stourbridge Junction

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HERE'S another historic picture for the railway enthusiasts among our readers, a postcard from the Great Western Railway.

The scene shows a train powering along the line from Worcester to Birmingham, somewhere near Stourbridge Junction.

The locomotive pulling the rake of clerestory coaches is a Bulldog class, 4-4-0, number 3300. The engine was designed by William Dean (1840-1905), who was the son of the manager of a soap factory in New Cross, London. At the age of 15 Dean came to the Black Country when he became apprentice to Joseph Armstrong, superintendent of the GWR's Stafford Road works in Wolverhampton.

The apprenticeship lasted eight years and in that time young Dean attended evening classes at the Wolverhampton Working Men's College, where he excelled in engineering and mathematics. In 1863 he was appointed Armstrong's chief assistant.

In 1864 Armstrong was promoted to the GWR's chief locomotive engineer and transferred to their headquarters at Swindon. His brother, George Armstrong, took over at Stafford Road and Dean became the works manager. Then, in 1868, Dean too moved to Swindon, when he was appointed Joseph Armstrong's chief assistant. When he died suddenly in 1877, William Dean succeeded as chief locomotive engineer for the railway.

The engine is one of the earlier examples of the Bulldog class as the footplate is curved over the driving wheels, while on later engines it is raised in the straight line.

In all, 121 Bulldogs were built new between 1899 and 1910, 18 Duke class locomotives were converted to Bulldog class and another variant was the Bird class.

The GWR began withdrawing Bulldogs from service in the late 1920s but many examples continued on the rails into the British Rail era, the last being scrapped in 1951.

Have you any railway memorabilia to share with Bugle readers? contact dshaw@blackcountry bugle.co.uk or write to our usual address.

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