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Great Western Railway Chief Mechanical Engineer Charles Collett produced the "Hall" class as a development of the earlier "Saint" class of his predecessor George Jackson Churchward.

The "Halls" were the standard mixed-traffic locomotive on the Great Western, equally at home with express passenger trains and lengthy, heavy goods workings. Indeed, at its last shed, Oxford, Wootton Hall was in a pool of engines that were expected to rush up to London Paddington with fast passenger workings, potter around on local passenger trips, plod to south Wales with heavy goods trains, and even sit around as station pilot, able to take over any duty if a passing locomotive failed.

The success of the design is evidenced by the number built (330), over such a long period of time (1928-1950).

Our particular engine entered traffic in February 1930, and gave almost 34 years of service before being withdrawn in December 1963. As mentioned above, it had its fair share of shed allocations, taking in Plymouth Laira, Penzance, Tyseley in Birmingham, Severn Tunnel Junction and Cardiff Canton in South Wales, and ended its days in the London Division of the Western Region of British Railways, based at Southall, Reading, Didcot and finally Oxford in July 1958.

It was withdrawn in December 1963, and, like 5643, was sold to the Woodham's scrapyard in Barry, South Wales. It escaped the cutter's torch, because of Woodham's policy of scrapping old railway wagons first, this being more profitable work. But unlike 5643, an quick release from Barry wasn't on the cards for Wootton Hall; it languished there until 1986, leaving to be moved to the Fleetwood Locomotive Centre in Lancashire.

Once at Fleetwood, little was done to the locomotive, and it was word went round it was up for sale in early 1994. Rumour quickly reached members of the Furness Railway Trust, who were able to raise the money for the purchase price.

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History of Great Western Railway 4-6-0 4979 Wootton Hall