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The North star

The continuing theme of railway pub signs in the Friends’ “Review” magazine reminded me about one example – “North Star”. This picture was taken many years ago of the sign at “The North Star” pub at Steventon which was in Berkshire at the time and is now in Oxfordshire thanks to boundary changes. Steventon was on the Great Western Railway (GWR) main line to Bristol and had a station until closure in 1964. The sign shows the Great Western Railway (GWR) loco “North Star” which was delivered to the GWR from the Robert Stephenson & Company works on 28th November 1837. It is likely that the locomotive parts came by barge on the Grand Union Canal and was unloaded at West Drayton, Middlesex. The proximity of the canal to the railway there can be seen in my picture from 1962. You can also appreciate the width of the trackbed thanks to it once having been Brunel’s broad gauge of 7ft 0¼ inches.

The “North Star” locomotive started work in May 1838 when it was used to haul a GWR Director’s train from Paddington to the first station at Maidenhead. The locomotive worked until 1871. On the pub sign the driver is correctly portrayed wearing his white fustian uniform – hardly a practical colour for an open air life on the footplate. There is now a replica of “North Star” in “Steam” museum, Swindon. The replica used to sit in the works at Swindon where I was able to photograph it in 1962. On the same visit I took a photo of the replica tender which was built for the GWR Centenary celebrations and film in 1935. The plywood replica was built on a wagon base and languished in the yard at Swindon for many years thereafter. Swindon was used by Director Walter Creighton of Merton Park Studios as a film location in April 1935 for part of the GWR Centenary film "Romance of a Railway". The film recreated the arrival of a train at Maidenhead on the first day of operation of the GWR. Replica locomotive "North Star" with the replica tender was propelled into a station set by a locomotive out of shot with a train consisting of an open carriage and two closed carriages. The crowds in the film were mainly GWR employees and they included over 200 members of the GWR Operatic Society wearing period dress. Actor Carl Harbord played the part of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Donald Wolfit played the part of GWR Locomotive Superintendent Daniel Gooch riding on the buffer beam of "North Star". The whole film ran for 58 minutes.

Pictures courtesy of Mike Peart

Mike Peart

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