The first two ‘Star’ class engines came from Manchester, where they just happened to be looking for a home, after the American company that had ordered them, had gone bust!
At this time Mr Brunel was drawing up his specification for the first locomotives for the then new, and broad gauge, railway from Bristol to London.
This specification was bizarre, and the locomotive builders which attempted to stick to it, produced a bizarre group of engines, out of which only those who had slightly ‘bent’ their compliance with the specification were likely to have much success.
American engines of this early period were very heavily decorated, with bright colours, and much polished copper and brass, all of which may have been included in its original specification for the American railroad.
So may the repeat order from the Great Western Railway have included the extra decoration for the American export order, and thus ushered in over 100 years of polished brightwork on the Great Western?
When Mr Churchward came to designing his famous ‘Star’ class 4-6-0s, after much deliberation and experimentation, even to the extent of purchasing three of the French express 4-4-2s, which were the best express engines in Europe at that time, in the early years of the last century, he called them ‘Stars’.
And these really were worthy of the name.
The early engines of this class were built as 4-4-2s, to further equalise the comparison with the French engines, which were compounds.
This latter complication was not imposed upon the Great Western engines.