Fantasy New Build – the result!

Readers of New Build Steam have voted the sole GWR Pacific, The Great Bear, as their choice of Fantasy New Build.
great_bearIn the run-off between The Great Bear and 5AT, the final results were:
The Great Bear – 51%
5AT – 49%.

It was therefore an extremely close contest – the aim of a run-off poll was to produce a clear-cut winner, which has only just been achieved. That said, The Great Bear was in the lead throughout the initial poll and for most of the second one.

In total, 387 votes were cast in the poll, slightly down from the 494 votes cast in the first round of voting – from comments, this was almost certainly down to some readers not feeling enthused by either option. Given that the variety of the first poll offered something for (nearly) everyone in a way that a two-option run-off couldn’t, this drop-off was probably inevitable.

None of this makes a new Great Bear any more likely to be built, of course – the exercise was just a bit of fun for the Christmas and new year period. We may revisit the idea of a Fantasy New Build, in a different form, in the future.



  1. I think the result is disappointing and a great pity as it sends out the wrong signals to anyone thinking of initiating a new project. The Great Western is already over-represented both with locomotives already in preservation and new build schemes.

    • I would agree with that comment as far as it goes, however, another Pacific design would have been interesting under current rail operating conditions. I must state that I did not vote for either locomotives. I felt the ‘poll’ had done it’s work.

    • I think that the problem all along with the 5AT was that its appearance was challenging, and unnecessarily so. If it had resembled an LMS class 5 in its general outline and been numbered 44657 it would have been built long ago. There would probably even be support for a GT Castle, despite the eight that already exist. Pity, it misjudged the psychology of the enthusiasts who were essential for the success of the project.

      If you want to make a steam locomotive look “modern” whilst retaining its appeal – and this to an age group of enthusiasts who are the children and grandchildren of those who remember steam in service, a bit of tinkering with the livery is all that is needed. A liberal use of stainless steel for boiler cladding, cab and tender tank would do, and save the trouble of painting. Roger Waller’s 52-8055 shows what facelifting can do.

  2. I have to say that I agree with the comments above. By saying The Great Bear was the outright winner of the poll is somewhat misleading. No-one actually posted any comments as to why it should be replicated either was also disappointing. However, leaving that aside, I enjoyed taking part in the poll and especially the discussions afterwards. I hope the exercise will indeed be repeated next year in a (promised) revised format. I shall hopefully still be around to contribute.

  3. Back in the 50’s when I was about 10 years old, my local model engineering society in those days was Deeside, North Wales. It acquired a 5″ gauge Great Bear from a gentleman who travelled from Oswestry to Liverpool regularly (and had seen our track alongside the Wrexham to New Brighton line) for the princely sum of £45. The engine went to the Wirral some time later after the Deeside club was disbanded and I think it is still running at Royden Park. I used to enjoy driving it, BUT a full size one would be nicer! Ah, well, one can but dream.

  4. Two odd choices, neither of which particularly interest me. The Great Bear was a one off which wasn’t very successful and seemed to be built simply so that the GWR would have the biggest engine. The 5AT is neither one thing nor the other. It has no history or heritage but as it is still steam, I cant see modern traction enthusiasts being interested in it either

  5. One could compromise and build a GWR type with some of the 5AT enhancements, though since Koopman’s work (The fire burns much better) came out, the 5AT might not be the last word on the subject.

    Perhaps a Castle with a slightly larger boiler, more comfortable cab with left hand drive, roller bearings if practicable, and some detail revisions to make them easier to prepare for service – no doubt those who work on them regularly could come up with suggestions.

    Given the cracking exhaust, I wonder how much energy goes up the chimney? Compare any GWR engine with, say, a Bulleid, where the exhaust only just clears the top of the boiler. There might be room for improvement there. So our Super Castle would probably need to be fitted with smoke deflectors.

  6. If I was making a list of 10 GWR locomotives to be new build The Great Bear would not be on the list. An Armstrong Metro Tank or a Dean Single would be nice, or what about some 4-4-0’s like a Bulldog, Atabra, or County. DeGlenn Compound, or a County Tank, maybe a 4-4-2 Saint, an 11xx Dock Tank, or a 3150 tank. All better candidates me thinks and all would be more useful on preserved lines. If you must have a Pacific build a new design styled as a GWR locomotive but designed for sustained 100mph running.

  7. One engine that didn’t even crack the top ten that I would like to see a replica of is the amazing Smith Compound Atlantic built for the NER just before he died. There were only two as Smith’s relatives demanded an extortionate royalty from the railway who subsequently dropped an order for more. The two engines ran until their boilers expired in the mid ’30s. They were apparently phenomenal performers and would also serve to improve our stock of Edwardian engines.

    On the subject of modern steam I agree that the 5AT was a bit of an odd ball. I think the problems were that it was designed as a competitor to modern, mainline traction and that it claimed to be ‘modern’ but then didn’t use either Caprotti gear or Compounding. I, for fun, design modern engines and have outlined a 4-6-0 tender engine and a similar 4-6-4 tank. I started out by saying that they were explicitly for the heritage railway scene to drive down the cost of steam traction, allowing preserved lines to run steam services at a fraction of the cost, saving money and engines for galas. They are essentially de Glehn compounds, traditionally styled but unashamedly updated to the most modern practices. I then would paint then BR train blue with yellow running boards and polished chromium barrel bands and numbers.

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