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The Great Bear, number 111, was a locomotive of the Great Western Railway. It was the first 4-6-2 Pacificmarker locomotive used on a railway in the United Kingdom, and the only one of that type ever built by the GWR.

History and operation

The Great Bear was built in 1908 to satisfy demands from the directors for the largest locomotive in Britain, and much was made of the locomotive by the GWR's publicity department. She was considered the company's flagship locomotive until the building of 4073 Caerphilly Castle in 1923.

In service The Great Bear was not a significant improvement on existing classes and had a highly restrictive route availability; its 20t 9cwt axle load restricting it to operating on the Paddington to Bristol main line, although it was once recorded to have travelled as far west as Newton Abbot.

The GWR did not pursue the Pacific wheel arrangement, and subsequently stayed with the 4-6-0 arrangement which later became synonymous with the company. Churchward's successor Charles Collett is reputed not to have liked the loco, and is alleged to have prepared the report presented to the GWR's locomotive committee recommending its rebuilding. No.111 was rebuilt in 1924, as a 4-6-0 in the Castle Class, and given the name Viscount Churchill although it retained its number. No.111 was withdrawn in July 1953.

The regular engine driver was Thomas Blackall, originally from Aston Tirrold, Oxfordshire.

Churchward was disappointed to hear of The Great Bear's destruction, and upon hearing of Nigel Gresley's plans to construct a pacific for the Great Northern Railway, is said to have replied: "What did that young man want to build it for? We could have sold him ours!"

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