IN the early days, Great Western Railway engines had resounding names like Lucifer and Spitfire, Fire King and Pegasus, Rover and Lord of the Isles.

Some types of engine were given a class name, but there was no particular pattern to the naming – though clearly anyone who named an engine Terrible was quite lacking in a sense of humour.

For the most part, the later 19th century names followed a similar pattern, though there was an increasing number of engines named after aristocrats (Duke of Connaught, Sir Frances Drake), kings and queens (Empress of India, Royal Sovereign) and senior managers and directors of the railway (Grierson, John G Griffiths).

Some of the engines in the Duke and Bulldog series were named after towns in the south west of England.

People saw an engine named Fowey or Falmouth and assumed that that was where the train was going.

It took the Great Western a long time to do anything about it, but eventually in 1930 the names were taken off all these engines, including ones such as St Just, a village that never had a railway anywhere near it.

A sign of things to come was a series of themed names such as the Saint class and we will be launching our new Saint – Lady of Legend – in the spring.

You may be wondering why an engine described as a member of the Saint class should be named after a Lady.

The prototype of these engines was built in 1902, followed by the Scott series of engines in 1905; they were so named because several of them had names taken from the novels of Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish historical novelist whose books were popular with Victorians.

Ten engines named after ladies followed in 1906 – hence the new Lady name for the Society’s engine – and it wasn’t until the third batch of engines arrived in 1907 that the first Saint names were bestowed.

Another series of engines were named after country houses, such as Clevedon Court, and were known as the Court series.

So of the 77 engines in the class, only 20 were named after saints.

Similar confusion arose with the Star class: this time it was only the first 11 engines that were named after stars, others being given the names of knights, kings, queens, princes and princesses, and abbeys.

At least there was some variety in the names, which wasn’t the case with later classes of engine.

When the Castle class of engines began to be built in 1923, it was the start of a long list of about 170 engines, all originally called 'Something Castle'.

I’ll save that for another article.