The P-class tank locomotives were, in design terms, an updated copy of the LBSCR Terriers. There were eight built in 1909/1910 and they were used initially to supplement and replace a series of steam railmotors which had been bought only a few years before, and which were proving underpowered. The P-class locos were only marginally more successful than the railmotors, and were themselves quickly overtaken by increasing traffic and heavier loads. From 1912, they were increasingly relegated to shunting duties, as shed and station pilots, a role for which, with the unsurpassed SECR-designed steam reverser, they were ideal. No.27 was re-allocated to Reading shed in July 1914.
From 24 April 1915 until 30 October 1916, No.27 together with No.753 (now preserved on the KESR) was engaged in military work, being shipped across the Channel for war service at Boulogne. The SECR were contracted to construct exchange sidings at the docks in Boulogne for the transhipping of Munitions and other stores. Whilst there she was painted unvarnished olive green and numbered as ROD No.5027.
The members of the class were common at places such as Dover (27 appears to have spent much of its time there from 1945 onwards), and from 1938 onwards were the only locomotives allowed to shunt Kingston Wharf at Shoreham Harbour.
As BR No.31027 the loco came to the Bluebell in 1961, the Railway's third engine, and for two years carried the name "Primrose" (and number 27) as seen in Ken Chown's photo above right of it on the Newick Spur just south of Sheffield Park station. In 1963 it was repainted into full SECR passenger livery, and, with No.323, was a mainstay of the Bluebell's operational fleet for much of that decade, carrying the flag forward into the early 1970s. It has been said that it has only been in preservation days that the P-class have been able to demonstrate their true usefulness, with their greater water capacity compared to a Terrier proving quite an advantage. No.27 was withdrawn from traffic in November 1974 and stored prior to restoration.
The late Gerry Butler's photo (left) shows the loco outside the Bluebell's original, small, loco shed at Sheffield Park on 27 March 1971.
The restoration began when the loco was dismantled in 1978 for a "quick" overhaul, but, as was so often the case at the time, this was found to be beyond the skills of the basic workshop capability we had back then, so the restoration stalled.
A restart on the restoration of No.27 to working condition has recently begun following a delay of nearly 30 years. The work on the locomotive is being undertaken by the Villas Gang and other volunteers, supported by the fund raising efforts of the 'Fenchurch Fund'. Major work is required on the boiler and frames of the locomotive, as well as some significant mechanical renewal and replacement of plate work, including the tanks. Details of this work, and photos of work in progress will be found on the page for the loco's overhaul.
Fund raising is coordinated by Clive Emsley, Millfield, Manor Road, Upper Beeding, Steyning, West Sussex BN44 3TJ.
New fund raising forms are being launched at the forthcoming Modelworld Exhibition, where the Fenchurch Fund has a display and fundraising stand in conjunction with the appearance of Fenchurch outside the Brighton Centre. These will include Standing order forms and Gift Aid forms. These can also be supplied by post or Email if required.
See also other photos of this engine.
Built: 1910 at Ashford Works, SECR
Entered Traffic: 19 February 1910, Sheerness shed, for use on Isle of Sheppey Light Railway
Class Introduced: 1909
Designer: Harry S. Wainwright
Purpose: Light branch-lines and Push & Pull services
Total number built: 8
Arrived on Bluebell Railway: 18 June 1961
Current Number: 27
Other Numbers carried: ROD: 5027, SR: A27, 1027, BR: 31027
Current status: overhaul in progress
Last operational: November 1974
Owner: Bluebell Railway
Length: 24ft 1in
Weight: 28 Tons 10 cwt
Water capacity: 550 Gallons
Coal capacity: 18 cwt
Boiler Pressure: 160 lb/sq.in (180 lb/sq.in until 1919)
Driving Wheels: 3ft 91/8 in diameter
Cylinders: (2, inside) 12" x 18"
Tractive Effort: 7,810 lbs (8,790 lbs at 180psi)
Engine Brake: Vacuum
BR power classification: 0F
Above right: Terrier "Fenchurch" and P-class No.27 double headed on a freight train at Horsted Keynes, probably on Parade Day, Sunday 12 May 1974. (Bluebell Archives).
Your ideal Film/TV location?