Historic Scottish steam engine returns home after mammoth journey

24 Aug 2007

A famous Scottish steam engine has reached the end of a remarkable 6,000 mile journey home to Glasgow from South Africa after more than 60 years.

Completing the final leg of its journey, the locomotive travelled by road on the evening of 23 August, from Immingham Docks, near Hull, to Glasgow. The engine and tender takes up almost the entire length of one side of George Square - the city's main civic square.

The steam engine is the largest ever acquisition by Glasgow Museums and destined to be the focal point within the new Riverside Museum - another iconic object, designed by internationally celebrated architect Zaha Hadid, and scheduled for completion in 2010.

The engine will be in position in George Square from the morning of 24 August where it will remain for the weekend, to mark the launch of the Riverside Museum Appeal, which aims to raise £5 million of the £74 million cost of the new Clydeside attraction.  The engine will then be fully restored before becoming the centrepiece of the Riverside Museum.  The transport and restoration is being partly funded by FirstGroup, the UK's largest rail and bus operator.

FirstGroup is the sole founder patron of the Riverside Museum Appeal and is partly funding the transportation and restoration of Locomotive 3007 providing a massive boost to the fund.

Carol Smillie, a Riverside Museum Appeal trustee, will be master of ceremonies at the launch in George Square.

The 15F class engine - designed and built in Glasgow in 1945 for South Africa's harsh terrain and vast distances - was used to pull passenger and freight trains until 1988 when it was mothballed.  The 15F class was the backbone of the South Africa Railways during the age of steam.  The engine and tender once pulled the renowned Blue Train from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

The locomotive is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of British engineering, underpinning Glasgow's then dominant role as a manufacturer of steam engines and representing the pinnacle of more than 100 years of railway technology.  It was built by the North British Locomotive Company at Polmadie, Glasgow between 1944-1945.

Locomotive 3007 is the best remaining engine of its type that could be found - and will be the only example of its kind in the UK.

Moir Lockhead, chief executive of FirstGroup, said: "It is fantastic to finally see Locomotive 3007 on display here in Glasgow - back here where it belongs.  Although, its journey is not quite complete, it has been a privilege for First to help return part of our proud engineering heritage to Scotland. Throughout our rail and bus operations we provide safe, innovative, reliable and sustainable services. Locomotive 3007 was all these things in its day and its return to Glasgow will give new generations the chance to marvel at this wonderful example of the rail revolution Scotland gave to the world."

He added: "Glasgow's transport collections are of international importance and it is fitting that Locomotive 3007 will be at the heart of the new museum. My early years in the transport industry were as an engineer and so personally I am thrilled that First is able to support this very worthwhile cause. I am sure it will attract interest from afar."

Councillor Steven Purcell, the Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: "We should be rightly proud of our industrial past and this locomotive is an example of a time when Glasgow was an engineering giant, supplying the world with ships and locomotives. I come from a Clydeside community and I know that the new Riverside Museum will pay testament to the hard labour of the working men and women who made this city great.

"Glasgow has enjoyed a radical transformation in recent years, with more jobs and opportunity than ever before. But we must never forget the efforts of previous generations, who built this city and its global reputation.

"I'm delighted that FirstGroup has agreed to become the sole founder patron of the Riverside Museum Appeal - and I'm sure their generosity will be matched by many others as we move toward creating an iconic symbol of our industrial heritage on banks of the Clyde."

Sir Robert Smith, the Chairman of the Riverside Museum Appeal, said: "It is so fitting that the return of this magnificent engine should mark the formal launch of The Riverside Museum Appeal. It is such a powerful symbol of Glasgow's proud transport and engineering heritage. This city gave ships and locomotives to the world.

"I am delighted to be chairing this appeal, and it is a privilege to be leading such a distinguished board of trustees, with international reputations in both the public and private sectors. Their experience, commitment and enthusiasm are matched only by the pride Glaswegians have in their heritage.

"When our work is done, we will open up the city's industrial and social past to future generations, and I hope it will inspire them to even greater achievements in years to come."

Additional information:

• The steam engine has sat in a railway siding at Bloemfontein, Free State since taken out of service in 1988

• Some 255 were built for the South African market - where the engine's size and strength were ideally suited for the terrain

• The locomotive was never named - but was numbered 3007

• It was built at Polmadie, Glasgow as part of a 60-strong order

• The steam engine with tender is some 74ft long and the height just half-an-inch short of 13ft. The tender could carry 14 tonnes of coal and 6050 gallons of water

• The locomotive - weighing 179 tonnes - was taken by rail to Durban for shipment to Immingham and will arrive in Glasgow by road for conservation work

• Although almost 20 years out of service, the locomotive remains in relatively good condition. The conservation plan ranges from scientific analysis of the paintwork to the replacement of removed or lost parts

FirstGroup plc is a UK based international transport company with revenues of over £3.7 billion a year. We employ over 74,000 staff throughout the UK and North America and move more than 2 billion passengers a year.

 The Group is Britain's largest bus operator running more than one in five of all local bus services. A fleet of nearly 9,000 buses carries some 2.9 million passengers a day in more than 40 major towns and cities.

 The Group is the UK's largest rail operator with four passenger franchises - First Great Western, First Capital Connect, First TransPennine Express and First ScotRail - and one open access operator, Hull Trains.

 The Group operates one quarter of the UK passenger rail network, with a balanced portfolio of intercity, commuter and regional services, carrying almost 260m passengers per annum.

 The Group operates rail freight services through First GBRf.

 The Group operates the Croydon Tramlink network which carries over 24 million passengers a year.

  • The steam engine in George Square