During a visit to the National Railway Museum in November 1979, the Chinese Minister of Railways Guo Weicheng presented Dr Coiley with a certificate promising the donation of a Chinese Government Railway steam locomotive for display as a gesture of friendship between the two countries.
The selected locomotive was 4-8-4 Confederation Class No 7, one of the 24 designed by Col K Cantlie built at Vulcan Foundries, Newton-le-Willows in 1935 and constructed to haul 600 ton trains over the mountainous central section of the Canton to Hankow railway. The demanding requirements of the lightly built route needed high power but low axle loading and the overall working weight of the locomotive was 192 tons with the tender holding nearly 12 tons of coal and 6600 gallons of water. They were the largest non-articulated locomotives ever built in Britain and operated continuously on Chinese Railways from 1936 until 1981.
No 7 arrived by road to the Museum in early 1982 showing the ravages of a hard working life in harsh climate conditions and a lengthy sea journey. For the next fifteen months the workshop fitters and the team of Friends volunteers brought the huge machine up to museum display standards. On 30 March 1983 Mr Ying, Counsellor for Science and Technology at the Chinese Embassy, formally handed over No 7 to Dr Coiley signified by the illumination of the giant's headlamp.
Images: SMG collection
By Frank Paterson