GWR 1900–1906 loco livery

Martin Finney 7mm 3232 Class

2-4-0 3232 class loco, expertly built and painted by Chris Wesson from a Martin Finney kit. This is the 7mm version, but they are also available in 4mm. The 3232s were introduced under Dean in 1892, working at first on the South Wales expresses. They were later used on the secondary lines, including the Reading and Newbury area. This class did not have conventional number plates, the brass numerals being attached individually in an arc matching the splasher shape. Image courtesy Martin Finney/Chris Wesson


Lee Marsh model of GWR Dean Goods 2487

Lee Marsh's 7mm scale model of a Dean Goods 0-6-0, built from a Martin Finney kit. Image courtesy of and copyright Lee Marsh. The old style of 'socket' for loco lamps was officially changed in 1903, but was still appearing on new build engines in 1904. Lee has painted the outer faces of the inside frames black.


GWR Armstrong Goods 788 in March 1902

Armstrong Goods 788 in March 1902, just after being fitted with a Belpaire B2 front ring boiler. The outer faces of the outside frames are in Indian Red, but the black springs and spring shackles on both the loco and tender are early divergences from the traditional livery scheme. The handrails are still burnished. The splasher fronts are probably still in Indian Red at this time. The tender side has two lined panels. There are no insignia.


GWR 98

98, the second prototype Saint, appeared in March 1903. The splasher fronts, wheel centres and cylinder covers are in Indian Red. The colour of the outer faces of the frames is probably Indian Red. The spring shackles on the tender are burnished. Monogram on 3-panel tender.


99 was the prototype large Prairie, and appeared in 1903. The outer face of the frames and the wheel centres look to be in black.

No insignia.
GWR prototype Prairie 99


The Scott Atlantics were some of the last locos to have Indian Red on the outer faces of their frames. This is 189, shortly after building in September 1905, but before it was named in September 1906. The springs are black, but the shackles are burnished.

(Click on picture for a more complete version.)
The rear of the frames of GWR Scott Atlantic 179


With the exception of some detail differences, the livery carried by locos from 1900–1906 followed closely the overall style introduced from around 1894, when the standard Middle Chrome Green was introduced for the body colour.

Throughout the 1900–1906 era, considerable change took place to the applied colour schemes, particularly in respect to frames, springs and wheels, and transitional changes were adopted prior to their formalisation in the 1906 scheme.

Wheel spokes and hubs, splasher fronts and the outer surface of outside frames (and hanging bars) were in Indian Red (or shades thereof, Great Western Way describing them as 'purple-brown'), with full lining throughout. Wheel tyres were black.

The colour of the outer face of inside frames is not mentioned in any GWR literature. Whilst black is assumed to have been used for goods locos and non-express passenger locos, the outer face of inside frames on the early Churchward inside-framed express passenger locos is a bit of a mystery. Of these locos, 100 (built February 1902), 98 (built March 1903), the Scott Atlantics 171–190 (built February to September 1905, although 171 appeared considerably earlier, in December 1903), and 40 (built May 1906) seem to have received Indian Red on their outer frame faces. The first batch of County 4-4-0s (of 1904), the first set of County Tanks (of 1905) and the first 'Lady' series 2901–10 of the Saints (built May 1906) seem to have received black on their outer frame faces. The Birdcage tanks (of 1902–3) and the first Prairies probably had black outer frame faces.

The brass dome, brass safety valve, brass whistles, brass splasher rims 1, brass vertical cabside beadings, cabfront brass window surrounds and the chimney's copper cap were fully polished, as was any beading at the junction of boiler and smokebox. Buffer beams, buffer stocks (except for their top steps, which were black) and the inner faces of inside frames were in China Red (vermilion). Footplate, splasher tops, smokebox and cab roof, and the outer faces of inside frames, were black. Insides of cabs were body-colour green. Buffer heads, handrails, smokebox door rims and their hinges and dart handles were polished steel, as were the spring shackle cups on carrying and tender wheels. Coal rails on tenders were black. The bodies of loco lamps were black until 1903/4, thereafter they were red (the red being assumed to be vermilion).

Tank locos followed the same painting and finishing style, with fully lined boiler, tanks and bunker, but they did not carry the monogram or any indication (other than a works plate fitted on the rear of the bunker) of GWR ownership. Tops of side tanks were black. Number plates were placed in the centre of the side tank, or on cabsides for saddle tanks. Number plates on the larger tank engines were sometimes moved to the bunker side when larger bunkers were fitted.

From 1902, changes to the above scheme began to appear on goods engines. Springs, both below and above the footplate, and their spring shackles, on both locos and tenders, began to be painted black rather than Indian Red, and from 1903/4, it would appear that splasher fronts above the footplate started to appear in green rather than Indian Red. On goods locos and tanks, it seems that brass splasher beading was painted over, probably in black (to match the splasher tops). The evidence for some of these transitional livery aspects is sketchy, and it is unlikely they were applied consistently to all newly painted or repainted locos, until their formal adoption in 1906.

In October 1903, an experimental livery of all-over black with red lining was applied to 102, the first of the de Glehn Atlantics, but the loco was repainted in standard express loco green livery in 1905. RCTS states that 97, the prototype 2-8-0, was also outshopped in black, but contemporary evidence indicates otherwise 2.

Steel dome casings were introduced in 1904, which were painted in bodywork green, and brass dome covers began to be painted over from 1904. (The Railway Magazine belatedly reported the painting over of domes in October 1906.)

From mid-1905 the GWR monogram seen on the '3-panel' tender was replaced with the garter crest, located between the words 'GREAT WESTERN', with the lining on tender sides being simplified to a single panel rather than the three shown in the picture above. The style changeover date was probably between April and July 1905. It seems that some locos were however being shopped with '3-panel' tenders up to late 1905. The tender for the final de Glehn Atlantic, 104, appeared with the crest in the middle of a '3-panel' arrangement.

Lining on many goods locos began to cease from 1904/5 onward. Repainting of goods locos passing through the works was often confined to those parts of the loco that had been repaired or modified. This reduction of cosmetic treatment reflected the large number of locos that were being upgraded and modified during this period. The dedicated paint shop at Swindon was closed to make way for more erecting space, and all loco painting thereafter was carried out in the erecting shops.

1  The situation on the polishing of splasher rims before 1903 for goods and tank engines is not clear, and it is possible only some passenger engine classes were polished. Splasher rims on some 4-6-0 express passenger locos prior to 1906 were painted, and polishing seems to have begun at some stage after 1906. Dated pictures should be consulted on this matter.

2  97 appeared in June 1903, and is shown posing on the down platform crossover at Chipping Sodbury, in what is assumed to be a cylinder clearance test, shortly after the station's opening in May 1903. The photo clearly shows 97 in conventional green livery.


No 7 Armstrong at Bristol Temple Meads. The date in unknown, probably c 1905–6, and the loco still has its pre-1904 lamp sockets. Colourisation of this picture indicates the dome is unpainted, but it is not clear whether it is the original brass one left unpolished, or an unpolished replacement steel one. GWR Armstrong No 7 at Bristol Temple Meads, c 1905-6


Regarding the shade of the colour used on outside frames, the following pictures show a colour darker than a usual modern interpretation of 'Indian red', and much closer to a 'purple-brown':

7mm GWR River class 2-4-0 detail A detail of a 7mm River class 2-4-0 painted by Adrian Prescott. The shade was mixed by Adrian's customer from a combination of Precision Paints colours.


Awaiting its number plates and lining on the rear of the tender, below is Stefan Jönsson's Dean 2-2-2 converted from a Triang Lord of the Isles 4-2-2. GWR Dean 2-2-2


Malcolm Mitchell 517 Class

A 517 class built from a 7mm Malcolm Mitchell kit. The class was introduced under Armstrong in 1868, and were used widely on branchlines and suburban trains. The splasher rim is unpolished. Image courtesy Malcolm Mitchell


GWR 2-4-0 Barnum 3213 tender at Oxford GWR 4-4-0 County 3478 tender at Plymouth Laira

A short-lived experiment in 1904 used a shaded non-serif font for the insignia on tenders, shown here behind Barnum 3213 at Oxford and County 3478 at Plymouth Laira. The tender attached to 4-4-0 Bulldog 3457 and 4-4-0 County 3479 also featured the style shown on 3219's tender.


GWR Scott Atlantic 181

June 1905 – two sequential negatives (numbers 5404 and 5405) of the Loco Publishing Co Ltd capture the development of the final version of embellishment. Two new Scott Atlantics, 181 and 182, are the guinea pigs. The garter crest makes a debut and is flanked by GREAT and WESTERN spelt out in full, all within a single lining panel. The lettering used on 181's tender is the same non-serif font used in the 1904 experiments, whereas 182 shows what is possibly the first ever glimpse of the 'Egyptian' serif font, which would become such a familiar GWR characteristic over the subsequent decades. Both locos would soon gain names, and be rebuilt as 4-6-0s in 1912. The frame outer faces are probably Indian Red at this stage.

GWR Scott Atlantic 182


GWR 137 with partial lining

Partial lining. 2-4-0 137 at Oxford, showing fully lined boiler bands, partially lined splashers, and no lining on the frames. The boiler band lining is probably white, reflecting standard Wolverhampton practice at the time.


GWR 907

Partial painting – 907 (of the last batch of the 1854 class) has received a new three-segment tank, but it is the only part of the loco with a new coat of paint. The rest of the loco remains in the state it entered the works. Newport Dock Street, c 1900.


Bufferbeam lining

The vermilion buffer beams were edged with a ⅝" black border and a ⅛" orange chrome line.

The Indian Red frames had a ⅞" black border and a ⅛" orange chrome line.
GWR loco bufferbeam lining


1895 works grey portrait of 3252 'Duke of Cornwall' illustrating the lining of the bufferbeam and the bogie Lining on GWR 3252 in 1895


The Locomotive Volume 1, No. 3, March 1896 states: "The engines of the Great Western Railway are painted chrome green, the shades varying with the works at which the engine was constructed. Express and passenger engines built at Swindon are painted a lighter green than the goods and tank engines turned out of the same shops while engines from Wolverhampton assume quite a blue green. The striping of the engines also differ, Swindon engines having a black band of medium width a very fine yellow line on either side, but Wolverhampton engines a fine white line in place of the yellow. The framing and splashers of all engines are a dark red brown, edged round with, a narrow black border with a fine yellow line inside it. The domes and safety valve casings are bright brass, as also is the chimney top; this latter on Swindon-built engines in of a bell-top pattern whereas Wolverhampton engines have a moulded top. The buffer beams are vermillion edged round black and fine yellow line. The interior of the cabs is painted vermillion to about the height of the splashers, then green above, edged round with black and fine yellow line. Altogether the G.W. Railway engines are handsomely painted, and being kept very clean always boast of an imposing appearance. The splashers of the 3001 class of single bogie express engines are further decorated with the arms of the G.W. Railway surrounded by a garter cast in relief and maintained in true Heraldic fashion, and on either side of this the crests of London and Bristol respectively, also in relief. On other express engines the coat of arms is "transferred" on the driving splasher. Number plates are of brass, raised figures, with a background of black with fine yellow line round the inside."