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P-Class No.323 Bluebell
Mike Esau

The photo shows No.323 operating a push-pull train on the first section of the extension to be opened, which ran for about three-quarters of a mile from Horsted Keynes Station to Horsted House Farm.

Class: P
Wheels: 0-6-0T
Built: 1910
Numbers carried: 323, A323, 1323, 31323
Last major overhaul completed: March 2011 - Report of overhaul
Owned by the Bluebell Railway

The P-class tank locomotives were, in design terms, an updated copy of the LBSCR Terriers, but, with only eight of them built, made rather less of a name for themselves. However, with four of the eight surviving into preservation, they have blossomed, and are now much more favourably regarded as highly capable little locomotives. Their greater water capacity and larger cabs give them a slight advantage over the considerably older Terriers.

Long the flagship of the Bluebell's fleet, painted blue and named "Bluebell" between 1961 and 1998, this loco was repainted into SE&CR wartime plain green livery, for the 1999 centenary of the SE&CR - see photos of 323 in Green livery.

In 2009 it was decided as a priority to get the engine (as one of the two original locos which were used to re-open the line in 1960) running for the railway's 50th anniversary celebrations the following year. The Bluebell Railway Trust agreed to fund the work.

So in September 2009 the loco entered the works and was lifted from its wheels, signifying the re-starting of its overhaul, with the aim of completing to overhaul for the 50th anniversary celebrations in August 2010. This was thwarted by the discovery of the need for additional boiler repairs, and after this additional work, the loco returned to service just in time to put in an appearance at the Branch Line weekend in March 2011.


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