Evening Star was the last steam locomotive built in Britain and rolled out of Swindon works on 18 March, 1960. Its classification was 2-10-0, meaning it was a tender locomotive with a two-wheeled leading bogey followed by ten driving wheels. It was a class 9F, one of the last classes in production in Britain, and was the last of the 251 members of this class to be produced: the number is on a scale of one to nine - one being the lowest-powered engine and nine being the highest-powered - and the letter 'F' means it was designed for freight rather than passenger services. 92220 was the only member of the class to receive a name, and Evening Star was chosen following a competition amongst Western Region staff. It was given a specially-comissioned livery of passenger green, complete with copper-capped double chimney. All other members of the class were painted in unlined black.
A special commemorative plate was affixed below the nameplate on the smoke deflectors. It reads as follows:
No 92220 built at Swindon
The last steam locomotive for British Railways
Named at Swindon on March 18th 1960 by
KWC Grand, Esq.
Member of the British Transport Commission
Designed and built for express freight movement, the 9F class represented a significant advance in this field. The five coupled driving wheels on each side increased the surface area in contact with the track, and since these wheels were only five feet in diameter they made the locomotive very strong, allowing it to haul unusually large and heavy freight trains. Despite being designed as freight locomotives, the 9Fs were equally suitable for express passenger use and, after initially being stationed at Cardiff Canton depot, Evening Star was enlisted to haul the 'Red Dragon' express to London. It was on one of these runs that it was rumoured to have reached 90mph.
Sadly, the fun was short-lived and Evening Star and its classmates were transferred to less exciting duties in the Western Region on the Somerset and Dorset Railway line. Here it hauled both freight and passenger trains for the rest of its working life. It even hauled the last 'Pines Express', a very famous train service of the time, over S&DR rails on 8 September, 1962, shortly before the closure of the railway.
Evening Star was sadly only in service for a five-year period before being withdrawn in 1965, after sustaining damage in an accident. Its withdrawal was partly because of the escalating popularity of the more modern forms of traction, specifically diesel locomotives. This was something that had not been foreseen by the steam engineers, who had designed the 9Fs to last for up to 20 years in service. Sadly, many of the locomotives lasted less than half of that time. The fact that Evening Star was preserved, following an overhaul, came as little surprise considering the locomotive's historical significance.
Evening Star is now part of the National Collection and is one of nine surviving 9Fs, some going into preservation directly from service, like Evening Star itself, and others being saved from scrap by enthusiasts, like classmate number 92240. Evening Star is currently based at the National Railway Museum at York; it has returned, however, to the Swindon steam museum for the Great Western Railway's 175th Anniversary celebrations.
In late 2009 and early 2010, a new mystery sprang up around the locomotive. It had been suggested that after it suffered a mishap with a tank engine and was withdrawn from service, it swapped identities and boilers with a classmate. David Shepherd added fuel to the rumours when he announced that when work was carried out on his locomotive, 92203 Black Prince, they found that underneath the black paint was some of Evening Star’s Brunswick Green paint and that some parts were stamped 92220.