This contractors' locomotive was used in the construction of the Lewes and East Grinstead Railway (hence its name) by the contractor Joseph Firbank, and so is of great historic interest to the Bluebell.
The photo on the right (by Richard Salmon) shows the loco as re-located for display at Horsted Keynes in 2003.
Built in 1877 for Charles Deacon of Kettering, and originally named 'Solomon', it was sold on just a year later to Joseph Firbank and probably delivered to the construction base at West Hoathly by a team of horses from Grange Road station in 1878. At this point it was given the name 'Sharpthorn' but note that this differs from the modern spelling used for Sharpthorne village. One of four locomotives employed in the construction work until the opening in 1882 it would have hauled materials along the line as the work proceded.
In 1888 it was purchased by Samuel Williams and Sons, becoming their No. 4, and for the next 70 years was employed hauling coal trains around Dagenham Dock, up to the nearby mainline sidings. After withdrawal from service in 1958 it was preserved on site in the company's blue livery for around a decade.
Moving to the Steam Museum at Bressingham it remained on static display there, repainted green, until recalled to Samuel Williams' Wiltshire depot at Braydon Hall in 1981. The owners kindly agreed to loan the locomotive to the Bluebell to participate in our centenary celebrations in 1982. It had been due to return to them that Ocotober, but the Bluebell instead made enquiries about the purchase of this locomotive, a unique and important part of our line's history. Samuel Williams however had entered liquidation, and we offered the receivers £1,000. After a short negotiation they were prepared to accept our increased offer of £1,500, and the locomotive thus came into Bluebell ownership in November 1983.
In June 1984 the locomotive took part in the WI's Life and Leisure Exhibition at Olympia in London, during which it was admired by none other than Her Majesty the Queen.
The photos below show 'Sharpthorn' when at Dagenham Dock (where it resided for 80 years). The first photo, by Eric Sawford and in the Bluebell Archive, shows the locomotive pausing during shome shunting on 24 May 1956. The second, from 1961, courtesy of Samuel Williams & Co. and thanks to the late George Jones, shows how it was displayed there after withdrawal.
Built: 26 Feb 1877, Manning Wardle & Co, Leeds. Works No.641
Purpose: General contractor work
Names and Numbers carried: 'Sharpthorn', No.4, 'Solomon'
Withdrawn from service (Samuel Williams & Co., Dagenham): 1958
Preserved: 1958, Dagenham,
then on loan to Bressingham for 12 years
Arrived on Bluebell Railway: 3 April 1982
Length: 19ft over buffer planks
Weight: 19 Tons
Water capacity: 450 Gallons
Boiler Pressure: 120 lb/sq.in
Driving Wheels: 3 ft 1.5 in diameter
Cylinders: (2, inside) 12" x 17"
Tractive Effort: 6,660 lbs
Owner: Bluebell Railway
Current status: Static display
Above right: 'Sharpthorn' on display between the car park and the Bessemer Arms, 1 April 2001. (Lewis Nodes)
In early 1994 it had left the Railway for a short while for asbestos removal by specialist outside contractors, and on return it was located on the other side of the upper car park, next to what was at that time the classroom, the locomotive forming part of the then new education complex.