Although every inch a Great Western Railway thoroughbred, No. 7903 Foremarke Hall was one of the 79XX series, the last batch the Modified Hall class and was built at Swindon in 1949 under BR auspices. The 79’s were known as ‘Greyhounds’ by footplate crew as they seemed to be somewhat fleeter of foot than their earlier classmates. 7903 distinguished itself in 1951 by deputising for the normal Castle on the Plymouth to Paddington boat-train and was the first locomotive to cover the distance in less than 4 hours.
It spent most of its working life at Old Oak Common shed, London and its final depot was Cardiff East Dock from October 1963 until withdrawal from service in June 1964. It was sold to Woodham Brothers scrap merchants, Barry South Wales where it languished until bought for restoration by a group of enthusiasts in June 1981, being the 129th loco to leave the yard.
It was then transported to the Blunsdon depot of the Swindon and Cricklade Railway in Wiltshire, stopping off on the way at Swindon Works to be displayed at their Public Open Day. The project has been funded by selling ownership shares in the loco within the Foremarke Hall Transport Group. Stripping down and the gradual rebuilding was mostly carried out in the open air by its members. Progress made rapid acceleration when the 7903 was safely housed within the walls of the superb new engine shed built at Hayes Knoll. Working to a very tight schedule Foremarke Hall made its public debut in steam on 20th September 2003 at the S & C R’s 25th Anniversary Celebrations.
A point of interest is that Foremarke Hall is named after the great house in Derbyshire that is now the preparatory school for Repton College. A wonderful co-incidence is that ‘Repton’ the Southern Railway Schools class 4-4-0 has also survived; what a day it would be to see the two together in steam.
The only other 79XX to survive is No 7927 Willington Hall which is being used to be the donor engine for the ‘new’ Grange and County locomotives under construction.
No 7903 Foremarke Hall will then be uniquely the only 79XX class in existence.