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Great Western, King Class 4-6-0s (Hardback)

From Construction to Withdrawal

Colour Books Photographic Books Transport > Trains & Railways

By David Maidment
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Series: Locomotive Portfolios
Pages: 272
Illustrations: 250 colour & black and white illustrations & weight diagrams
ISBN: 9781526739858
Published: 29th October 2020



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Built by Collett in 1927 after pressure to restore the GWR’s pre-eminence in motive power and cope with increasing traffic post-war to the Devon and Cornwall holiday resorts, the thirty Kings were the final development of the Churchward Stars and the 1923 Castles and remained on top-link main line duty until their final replacement by the ‘Western’ class 52 diesel hydraulics in 1962. The book includes an insight into the thinking of some of Collett’s senior staff at the end of the 1930s and the eventual transformation in the latter years with redraughting and double chimneys. As well as describing their design and construction, the book covers comprehensively their operation and performance backed up by many recorded logs on all main GW/WR routes over which they were permitted. The author had close experience of the class when working at Old Oak Common between 1957 and 1962 and includes a chapter of his experiences with them including many footplate trips (as a management trainee, he was greeted with glee by many firemen who would hand him the shovel). The book includes over 300 photographs of which 100 are in colour.

The series on GWR locomotives has reached its logical conclusion with the publication of David Maidments epic volume on the Great Western King Class 4-6-0s. Once again through his membership of the Great Western Society (GWS) at Didcot he has been able to access a veritable 'Aladdin's cave' of previously unseen King photographs not only those held by the Great Western Trust, but others from numerous collections, many of which have never been seen in print before. The volume takes a similar format as other books in the series (albeit some by different authors)

The book takes the reader through a brief introductory background of the Stars and Castles from whence the kings were spawned and C B Collett the CME charged by the GW board to come up with a yet more powerful locomotive. Chapters on design and construction are followed by those discussing the impact of their introduction with a brief trip to the USA with No 6000.

Numerous fresh photos illustrate the chapters on the class’s heyday in the 1930s and then their work during WW2. Nationalisation is covered as is the class’s ‘Swan song‘ during the late 1950’s with improved drafting, double chimneys and mechanical lubricators. These improvements saw out the class ‘On a high’ never to be relegated to menial or goods work.

Personal experiences with every member of the class in the 1950’s and early 60’s of the author make very interesting reading and graphically demonstrates what a King in fine fettle was capable of even right at the end of their lives.

The chapter on Preservation concentrates on the three preserved members of the class, the iconic No 6000 King George V, No 6024 King Edward I and with rather more coverage, (probably as a thank you to the GW Trust for making their photographic collection available for reproduction). No 6023 Kind Edward II. Appendices, a bibliography (which could have been larger) and a useful index completes the 272 pages of a superb record of this iconic class, which many Great Western enthusiasts consider the epitome of Swindon engineering.

I must at this stage declare an interest, in that I was honoured to be asked, as Chairman of the 6024 Preservation Society Ltd to write the books forward. 6024 has just passed its In frames steam test following its third and most thorough overhaul in preservation and will return to the Mainline in early 2023.

Richard Abbey - 6024 Preservation Society

"A definite plus are the 300 or so photos, 100 of them in colour, which are as evocative as they are useful."


Throughout the book, we are treated to a huge number of illustrations of locos at work throughout the life of the class, and culminating with the preserved examples which can still be enjoyed on preserved railways and the main line.

This is an excellent overview of one of Britain’s best-loved locomotive classes.

West Somerset Railway Association

Overall, this is a “must-have” book for Western enthusiasts. The subject is covered very comprehensively, and all chapters are copiously illustrated with excellent photos, many of which are full-page – a mixture of shed & station shots, and typical front-three-quarter views on expresses. As ever, Pen-and-Sword’s production quality is excellent, with heavy glossy paper, fine strong binding, heavy board covers and a well-designed dust-cover. The landscape format suits railway photos very well.

Bradford Railway Circle

Great documentary work.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

Featured in

The Society of Model and Experimental Engineers Journal, April 2021

Review by Philip Benham

As one has come to expect from David Maidment, this is a very professional, well-researched and important book that brings a fresh perspective to the life and work of these impressive locomotives. It will have wide appeal, not just to King aficionados, but also the many with a serious interest in steam traction.

The Journal of the Friends of the National Railway Museum, Winter 2020/2021

No GWR fan should be without this superb volume – well worth adding to the bookshelf.

Railways Illustrated, April 2021

Review by Roger Backhouse

Much to like in this account of a powerful locomotive class, much promoted by the Great Western Railway.

York Model Engineers newsletter

In true Maidment style, the stirring history of these locomotives is supported with detailed technical descriptions and performance tables...

... One aspect that really sets this book apart is the chapter on David Maidment's personal experiences of every member of the class; surely not even O S Nock could have matched that! Add a fabulous array of photos, many superb ones in colour from the likes of Derek Penney, and you have a first class book.

Great Western Society

As featured by

Railway and Canal Historical Society's journal

The history of the GWR King Class locomotives have been told in previous books. But these are now out of print and Maidment’s volume is a very welcome and authoritative work which will interest anyone with an interest in express mainline steam locomotives. Recommended.

Click here for the full review

Books on the Line

A good book to know these "real" locomotives.

Read the full Spanish review here

Unos Cuantos Trenes

Another great book in the series that is a must for those who want the full history of this class of locomotive. Highly recommended

James Simmonds
 David Maidment

About David Maidment

David Maidment was a senior manager with British Railways, with widespread experience of railway operating on the Western and London Midland Regions culminating in the role of Head of Safety Policy for the BRB after the Clapham Junction train accident. He retired in 1996, was a Principal Railway Safety Consultant with International Risk Management Services from 1996 to 2001 and founded the Railway Children charity (www.railwaychildren.org.uk) in 1995. He was awarded the OBE for services to the rail industry in 1996 and is now a frequent speaker on both the charity and his railway career and author of four novels, two non-fiction works on street children and over eighteen books for Pen & Sword’s locomotive portfolio series, the royalties from all being donated to the charity.

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