ORION The Heritage Engine – Saved for the Nation
Darroch & Orion (Section updated 19 April 2016)
Our member, Mike Fell, has written an article about G.R.S. Darroch and our 9½in gauge 4-4-0 locomotive, Orion in the latest Journal of The London & North Western Railway Society - Volume 8, Number 4, March 2016 - entitled ‘Darroch and a Four-Cylinder Compound’. This is followed by a short article, ‘Orion and the Webb Compounds’, by another of our members, Allan C. Baker. The preamble to the article reads as follows:
"‘A Centenarian – a Webb Alfred the Great four-cylinder 4-4-0 compound, albeit one sixth scale and with a Precursor boiler, still steams on a regular basis. It was built mostly at Crewe by George Richard Sutton Darroch, a Webb premium apprentice/pupil, pioneer aviator, holder of the Croix de Guerre and whose book Deeds of a Great Railway published by John Murray in 1920, records the enterprise and achievements of the LNWR during the Great War. Members should be ever conscious of this wonderful miniature locomotive and the man who built it. The engine is now owned and maintained by the Stephenson Locomotive Society (SLS) which, like the locomotive, is also a centenarian. The compound bears the name Orion."
As always the author has managed to unearth new details about the man and the locomotive plus unseen photographs. Two very interesting articles and well worth obtaining a copy from the Sales Officer, David Bond, 58 Shire Road, Corby, Northants, NN17 2HN or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Price per copy, including postage, £3.50 or £2.60 if an LNWRS member by quoting membership number. A copy of this Journal has been placed in the Library.
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Photo above by Martin Green - Orion at Shildon May 2011.
The information regarding Orion is currently being revised in the light of recently received data about the locomotive's construction. The Centenary of the locomotive's first steaming was celebrated in 2011 with a special steaming of the engine at Locomotion Shildon on 21/22 May. Additionally a memorial service honouring the designer and main builder, G R S Darroch, was held on 11th June at St Bartholomew's Church, Wigginton (Nr tring) where he is interred.
NB Additional photographs of the steaming weekend are available for viewing by members only in our Yahoo Group.
ORION is the true ‘Heritage Engine’. The facts speak for themselves. The Stephenson Locomotive Society, generously aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the skills of John Ellis has been able to preserve this unique, working steam locomotive for the nation. Public appearances by Orion are also included in the events listings page.
In 2005 it was roughly a 100 years since construction of ORION began with completion, and inaugural steaming, in 1911. Orion therefore became a century old in 2011. It was originally designed and mostly built at Crewe, a world-class engineering centre in the golden years of the London & North Western Railway. Taken as a whole, ORION is a perfect, scaled-down replica of an LNWR express engine of the time. Steam enthusiasts may warm to the knowledge that ORION is the last Crewe-built Webb compound in operation, a great tribute to its original designer and owner, Richard Darroch, and to all those who have cherished it ever since.
The Stephenson Locomotive Society intends to ensure that ORION is put on public exhibition, and occasionally steamed so that it can be experienced and admired as a working part of the British engineering heritage.
ORION is a one-sixth scale version of a full-size engine of that name, built at Crewe in 1902, and lasting to 1928. The locomotive is a genuine Webb Compound, built just like the full size versions, with two outside high pressure cylinders and two low pressure ones between the frames. The valve gear, is of course, Joy Valve Gear driven from between the frames and with a simple lever at the front to drive the outside cylinder valves.
The original ORION once worked on crack West Coast Main Line expresses.
ORION was designed by Richard Darroch (1880-1960), a Crewe-trained engineer, later a senior figure at Crewe Works. Richard Darroch was helped in his building task by skilled workers of Crewe: fitters, foundry men, etc.
ORION steamed around Darroch’s garden, and was publicly exhibited from time to time, up to the 1930s.
The locomotive was exhibited at St. George's Hall, Liverpool at the centenary celebrations of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1930.
Richard Darroch bequeathed ORION to the Stephenson Locomotive Society, which stored it carefully and then began the long task of restoring it.
After a sojourn at Penrhyn Castle (National trust) where some useful repairs had been effected, it was entrusted to John Ellis of Brierley Hill, a noted model and miniature engineer, for complete restoration. The Stephenson Locomotive Society was greatly aided in this work by the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund. A grant of £6,700 was awarded for the restoration work. During the restoration programme the frames and tender were exhibited
- at the Crewe Works Open Weekend on 31 May and 1 June 2003. Following completion of the boiler overhaul Orion
- at Railfest at the National Railway Museum, York from 29 May to 6 June 2004.
- ORION was relaunched, in full steam, at the Downs School, Colwall, on 24 April 2005 – and is now steaming into a bright future following the necessary overhaul and renewal of the boiler certificate during 2012!
|Orion, Darroch and the 'Alfreds', by R.A.S. Hennessey -
The story of the 9½ inch gauge scale model of a Webb compound, built a century ago, the prototypes on which it was modelled, its maker and recent restoration with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
First edition (paper) 16 page A5 booklet with colour and black & white illustrations. Low resolution cover preview - withdrawn and out of print.
Second edition fact sheet - On-line pdf - now on line with additional information and photographs.
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Youtube videos of Orion's return to steam on 24th April 2005 - Back to page top
Video 1 (Edited shortened version) - to view in a new window click the Youtube logo
Video 2 (The full length version) - to view in a new window click the Youtube logo