No.263 is seen in Peter Edwards' photo at Three Arch Bridge while on its light engine move up to Horsted Keynes for its re-dedication on Saturday 28 July 2012.
Built as the standard loco for the SECR's suburban services, the H-class were a popular loco in later years for services on rural branch lines in Sussex, especially after the withdrawal of the LBSCR D3 tanks. This particular locomotive ended up on the line between East Grinstead and Three Bridges and worked there until the last push-pull services on that line were withdrawn in January 1964. It is estimated to have run 1,849,668 miles over its 59-year main-line career.
The photo on the right, by Keith Harwood, shows our locomotive, as British Railways No.31263, leaving East Grinstead high level station for Three Bridges. The coaches are a pair of SR Maunsell carriages formed into a push-pull set, which the loco is here pushing.
Purchased from BR by the H-Class Trust, it was initially located at Robertsbridge, but soon found a home at the South Eastern Steam Centre at Ashford, where the engine appeared at various open days. However, in 1975 the Trustees decided that the locomotive would have much more scope for running if based on the Bluebell. Since then it has had two periods in steam. In 2008 ownership was transferred to the Bluebell Railway Trust, which funded an overhaul which started in March 2009, with the loco returning to service on 28 July 2012.
Class Introduced: 1904
Designer: Harry S. Wainwright
Built: 1905 at Ashford Works, SECR
Purpose: Suburban and secondary passenger work
Total number built: 66
Numbers carried: 263, A263, 1263, 31263
Withdrawn from BR service: 5 January 1964
Preserved: 11 November 1964
Arrived on Bluebell Railway: 25 January 1976
Length: 33ft overall
Weight: 54 Tons 8 cwt
Water capacity: 1,200 Gallons
Coal capacity: 2 Tons 5 cwt
Boiler Pressure: 160 lb/sq.in
Driving Wheels: 5ft 6in diameter
Cylinders: (2, inside) 18" x 26"
Tractive Effort: 17,360 lbs
Engine brake: Vacuum BR power classification: 1P
Last major overhaul completed: July 2012 - Record of overhaul
Owner: Bluebell Railway Trust
Current status: Available for service
Above right: the H-class approaches Horsted Keynes, with SECR carriages in tow, August 1996. (Richard Salmon)
See also a picture of H-class shunting.
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