Duck - GWR Pannier Tank Engine

Sir Topham Hatt profiles Duck – The Great Western Engine – his longest standing station pilot and pride of The Little Western Branch!

GWR No. 5741, Montague, or Duck  to give him his nickname, was built in 1929 at the North British Locomotive works in Glasgow. Yes, that's right, not Swindon! This is already where the difficulties begin. He was built in Glasgow, curiously enough by the same workshop that built Edward about thirty three years earlier. His statements of 'Ship shape and Swindon Fashion' are the sort uttered by most GWR engines no matter of their works. Duck himself is proof of this!


My Great Grandfather was apprenticed at Swindon Works, however, and it was for this reason Duck has remained a GWR engine through and through over his career - the only modification he's ever seen is the addition of sandboxes!


Duck arrived in 1955 to become station pilot at Tidmouth, having worked briefly at Paddington under the same duties. Percy, being only a small engine, was no longer suitable for the increasingly heavy traffic in the yard. Duck was far larger and had the strong reputation carried by all 5700s, and was easily capable of the job alone.


Percy was required for other work - Knapford Junction, where Thomas's branch line met the main, was being reworked to allow it greater use as a harbour - this would act as a gateway to a far larger scheme for the entire branch line, levelling a fair degree of it out to a flatter, and thus more amiable gradient.


Duck, on his first day, began note problems in Tidmouth's yard, but sorted them out quickly. As a start, he made sure the stock in the yard was well aware he was in control - trucks soon learnt that bothering Duck would do little in their favour!


The bigger engines, James, Henry and Gordon, did not think much of Duck's business around the yard. They took his work ethic as him being a touch simple, and began to tease. Duck would take none of it, and when it turned into ordering him about, he lost his temper and work ethic and decided to instead work on shutting them up. Quite literally.


Duck and Percy both sat on the points that were outside the Tidmouth Sheds, thus preventing Henry, Gordon and James entrance. When confronted, he calmly explained himself to both the engines and my great grandfather - and proved himself to be an engine that wouldn't take nonsense. The engines soon learnt that ordering 5741 around was of no benefit to them - particularly when the Controller of the railway agreed with him! - And he managed Tidmouth easily.


Duck continued to have a strong presence in Tidmouth Yard, constantly demanding his fellow engines work to the sort of standards the Western would demand. This meant an air of discontentment with the bigger engines, and in 1958, when a Class 08 - 'Diesel' arrived from the Other Railway, they were pleased to see a new face. Duck was unimpressed with the visitor, and a rivalry soon erupted.


Diesel, eager to take the place of Duck in the yard, began spreading rumours - and the big engines soon refused him entrance to their shed, much like he had done only three years before. My Great-Grandfather, in no mood for such foolishness, sent Duck to Wellsworth while he got to the bottom of the issue.  Duck enjoyed his time at Wellsworth, getting to bank on Gordon's Hill was a nice change and he made a good job of it - but steep hills and unfitted trains make for difficult circumstance...

One day, a goods train's tail broke away, and chased him down the hill. This always has dangerous consequence, and Duck, instead of running away from the incident, held his ground as firmly as he could, slowing down gradually until the trucks met him gently, and began slowing with him. This gave a signalman just enough time to divert him into a siding, leaving him smokebox first into a barber's shop instead of into a passenger train's brake coach! Duck's courage was worth every penny of praise he was given - and he was welcomed back to the yard after diesel was proven to be a liar and a scoundrel, sent back to the mainland in utter disgrace!


Other than this, Duck's escapades on the NWR were not of major interest, but in 1967, things were beginning to change - a line travelling to the old lead mines at Arlesburgh had been reopened, and so far, only Donald and Douglas had ever travelled up it - Duck one day ventured forth to find the new Arlesdale Railway, which had been built for transportation of ballast. Only the next year, Oliver, our GWR 1400 tank engine from the 'Other Railway', was saved from scrap, and passenger services were slated for reopening on what is now known as the Arlesburgh branch. For both tourist interest and sheer efficiency, both were allocated on the 'Little Western', carrying all the colours and architecture of the GWR.


Apart from a collision with the Flying Kipper while banking up Gordon's Hill in 1983, his life has, in a professional sense, been largely uneventful.


Duck is one of the strongest characters on my railway. The reasoning is clear - he is a stubborn, headstrong but very, very hard working engine, who can run a yard like clockwork. He is respected by big and small engines alike, and finds favour with many of the yard staff - Duck is very much like the GWR itself. He is efficient, well run, clean, prim and proper - and won't allow disorder or poor behaviour! He doesn't take anything sitting down, and for that reason, he is perhaps one of the finest purchases the North Western Railway has ever made.

Find out more about Duck and his origins on the internet's definitive Awdry Railway Series website - The Real Lives of Thomas The Tank Engine.

Find out all there is to know about Duck and his class-mates at Great Western Archive

Click the link above for relevant books and products about Duck and other 57xx Pannier Tanks!

Steam Locos In Profile looks at the Great Western Railway's 5700 Pannier tanks; one of the most numerous steam locomotive designs in the UK.


863 were built between 1929-1950. 16 are preserved.