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Following the successful introduction of the two-cylinder Saint class 4-6-0 locomotives in 1902, the Great Western Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer, George Jackson Churchward, became interested in developing a more powerful four cylinder type for the longer non-stop express services, especially with the proposed increase in train weights and speed schedules that were part of the GWR’s plans for the end of the decade..
Churchward was impressed by the French compound 4-4-2 locomotives and persuaded the GWR Board to purchase three examples for comparative trials. These trials showed that whilst the Saints were as efficient as the French engines (in particular a De Glehn built by Société Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques), the four cylinder design resulted in a smoother ride at high speed.
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