The Bluebell Railway's Locomotives
Locos on Static Display
SECR Wainwright P-class, No.323 "Bluebell"
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.
An appeal to raise the funds for the overhaul was started towards the end of 2003. The locomotive was partially dismantled, but the overhaul was suspended whilst the workshops concentrated on larger locomotives. Then 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, painted in a more elaborate version of "Bluebell Blue" than formerly, as seen above.
Following its 2019 annual boiler inspection, it has been withdrawn from service, and awaits both major boiler work and a major mechanical overhaul, having run 78,000 miles in Bluebell service.
Dorking Greystone Lime Company, No.3 "Captain Baxter"
Lewis Nodes has provided a video clip of Baxter
working the Vintage Goods train in September 1997. The file is a 6MB
"Baxter" runs a very low mileage each year, so, having received a major mechanical overhaul in the early 1980s and a boiler overhaul ten years later, following the expiry of its boiler certificate in July 2000 it was not expected to take much effort to give it another ten-year certificate. However various items have needed rather more work than expected, and the opportunity is also being taken to fit steam heating and vacuum braking equipment for the first time. This work (reported here) has been undertaken by the volunteer team who undertook the overhaul of "Fenchurch", and "Captain Baxter" (as it had been named until 1947) returned to service at the 50th Anniversary Gala in August 2010.
SECR Wainwright goods, No.592
Preserved initially at Ashford Works by the Wainwright 'C' Preservation Society, it moved to the Bluebell in 1970, and finally entered service in 1975 after work on its boiler and a badly damaged axle journal. Its 1994 overhaul at the hands of volunteers saw it returned to service with a spare overhauled tender which we had been fortunate enough to obtain. In 2006-7 we overhauled the spare boiler which we have for this locomotive, since the firebox of the existing boiler was deemed beyond repair. Mechanically the locomotive was in reasonable order, although the condition of the cylinders was expected to determine how long it ran before its next overhaul. It returned to service on 8th October 2007, and it was known to require a new cylinder block at a subsequent overhaul, but advances in cylinder lining techniques led to the cylinder block being removed for a repair in late 2012, which, with further work on the valves, enabled a much stronger locomotive to re-enter service. A replacement cylinder block will however now be fitted as part of its forthcoming overhaul.
The locomotive was generously gifted to The Bluebell Railway Trust by the Wainwright 'C' Preservation Society on 20 September 2014.
LBSCR Billinton Radial Tank, No.B473
Web page and details of the last overhaul
"Birch Grove" itself was one of the first two Brighton locos to be repainted into Southern Railway livery, as B473, in February 1924. It was bought straight out of BR service in 1962 and served the Bluebell for a decade before being withdrawn for a protracted stop-go overhaul. It finally became operational again in 1998 thanks to a bequest which paid for the major boiler repairs required and a team of volunteers who undertook some of the easier boiler work and most of the remaining work, as is well recorded on the following web page.
Remarkably "Birch Grove" retains her original boiler, number 891, fitted new in July 1898. It had been passed to various other Brighton tanks of classes D3, E3 and E4 before being refitted to Birch Grove in 1960.
It was repainted from LBSCR umber livery (right) into BR lined black in February 2005, for a limited period. With a boiler still in good condition, its overhaul was started immediately following the expiry of its boiler certificate in May 2008, and after a major rebuild of its cylinders, which was the most significant item of work required, it re-entered service in January 2010, carrying 1920s Southern Railway olive green livery, running until May 2016. At its next overhaul it will require major replacement of copper plates forming the inner firebox.
SR U-class, No.1638
One of two U-class locomotives on the Bluebell Railway, both coming via Barry scrapyard, this one was privately purchased and donated to the Bluebell. It has been placed on long-term loan to the Maunsell Locomotive Society, who also own 1618, and was their main restoration project for over a decade. Having lost its tender while at Barry, a new one has been built, starting from the remains of a snowplough which in turn had been created using a Schools class locomotive tender as its base. The loco steamed for the first time in preservation in February 2006.
It was always expected that the locomotive would need major work after about seven years of use, and indeed over the winter of 2012/13 a partial boiler-lift and some re-staying was undertaken, followed by further copper welding on the firebox later in 2013. It was not expected to remain in service for the whole of the remaining period of its "ten-year" ticket, and after a very good nine-and-a-half years bearing the brunt of our front-line services, with several relatively minor faults and a hydraulic boiler test required if repairs were carried out, it was decided, rather than committing workshop time and money to gain a few months extra on its boiler certificate, that it was sensible to use those resources in expediting the overhaul of "Camelot".
LBSCR Stroudley Terrier, No.55 "Stepney"
Web page - Photos of 2010 overhaul.
Repainted into Stroudley's famous "Improved Engine Green" gamboge livery (as seen on the right), it has been a favourite of many children, and some of those children are now introducing their own children to "Stepney the Bluebell Engine". In spite of its fame, "Stepney" has spent considerable periods out of traffic in its 50 years on the Bluebell, but its popularity always causes it to bounce back to the top of the railway's priorities.
In the first few months of 2010 the minimum boiler work to get the loco back into steam for our
50th anniversary celebrations was done, and Stepney remained available for limited service until
its main steam pipe failed in early 2014. It was repainted into the black (lined with red) livery
it carried 55 years ago in the Bluebell Railway's first season, but on withdrawal from service it was
repainted again into its traditional Stroudley Golden Ochre. At its next major overhaul it will
require new cylinders (the castings for which are already to hand), significant work on the frames, and major boiler work.
GWR Earl/Dukedog No.9017, "Earl of Berkeley"
Nicknamed "Dukedogs" since they were an amalgamation a Bulldog and a Duke, the parts of this loco are thus actually older than the "building" date suggests. The 1938 rebuild of 3217 used the frames from "Bulldog" No.3425 (built 1906) and the boiler and cab from "Duke" class No.3282 (originally named "Chepstow Castle" and built in 1899).
A few of the class carried the names of earls, but 3217 did not receive its allocated name until preservation days. At the time the earls in question indicated to the GWR that, if their names were to be used, they would prefer their names on something a little more prestigious, and so they were transferred to new Castle class locomotives.
This class of locos was widely used on the Cambrian lines. At the time this loco was saved for preservation the Bluebell was the only line where it could run, and it has been in Sussex ever since, apart from a few years spent at the Great Western Society, Didcot.
The engine was re-painted in BR black in April 2009, as seen in Derek Hayward's photo on the right. It came out of service in early June 2011 with a number of boiler and mechanical faults.
SR Bulleid Light Pacific, "Blackmoor Vale"
Bulleid's Light Pacifics were revolutionary in many respects, and brought a great enhancement of available power to lightly laid West Country lines which hitherto had been unable to accept the more modern Southern Railway express locos. Many Bulleid Pacifics are preserved thanks to Barry scrapyard, but "Blackmoor Vale" came to the Bluebell via initial preservation at Longmoor, having been one of the last Bulleid Pacifics running on BR. Unlike many of its classmates, it was not rebuilt, retaining Bulleid's "air-smoothed" casing and oil-bath-enclosed valve gear. The changes to the loco's name are explained elsewhere.
Having operated for a decade following restoration in 1976, the locomotive returned to steam for a second time, following a comprehensive overhaul, being recommissioned on 19th August 2000.
BR Standard, No.75027
On its withdrawal from service it was one of the very last steam locos operating on British Railways. It was bought from BR by Charlie Pyne, one of our members, and donated by him to the railway. The locomotive appeared to be far larger than was necessary on the Bluebell of the late 1960s, but it soon proved its worth though as we entered the seventies. A relatively modern loco, capable of hauling heavier trains up our 1-in-75 gradients, it was very much appreciated. It remains to this day the ideal locomotive for many of our trains, powerful yet economical, attractive and easy to prepare and maintain.
LSWR Adams dock tank, No.96 "Normandy"
Remaining out of use for many years, only after it received an overhaul was it realised just how useful an engine it was. "Normandy" has been called "the reason we don't need a diesel", and has put in sterling service on our works trains for the construction of the northwards extension. When its ten-year boiler certificate expired in 1995 it was given a very rapid overhaul to put it straight back into service.
For years it was used most weeks for our Monday and Thursday shunts, the only regular steam shunting turn in the country. It is not suited to high speed, and was only rarely to be found on passenger trains.
With the end of its boiler certificate in July 2006, we must now wait and see whether the steam-shunt mantle passes to this loco or the North London Tank. To cover the interim until one of these locos is overhauled, 08 and 09 diesels have been used alongside other suitable steam locomotives.
North London Railway Goods Tank
This powerful goods locomotive was built for shunting in the docks served by the North London Railway, and for the goods traffic which emanated from the docks to be carried on the NLR's 14-mile main line –' probably frequently venturing out onto other companies' lines with exchange traffic. The NLR subsequently became part of the LNWR and, at the grouping in 1923, the LMS. Several locos from this class became celebrities thanks to their use on the LMS's very steeply graded Cromford and High Peak line in Derbyshire.
When this, the last one of the class, was withdrawn from traffic in 1960 it was kept at Derby until coming to the Bluebell in 1962. Used by contractors for the demolition of the line from East Grinstead to Ardingly, it has since been used in the rebuilding of the same line, on the Bluebell's northwards extension. Requiring very major boiler work before it can again be steamed, in the interim it was placed on loan to other locations, and so both relieve space at Sheffield Park and act as an ambassador for the Bluebell in foreign parts; it has now returned. It is hoped to be able to commence its overhaul in the near future.
A few years after its initial return to traffic a number of boiler stays were found to need replacement, and the opportunity was taken to re-certificate the boiler for a new ten-year period at that time. In spite of its size and power, it is an economical locomotive to run, and is much better suited to our 25mph speed limit than an express locomotive. It was withdrawn from service before the end of its boiler certificate due to the deteriorating condition of its tubes, with work also likely to be required on the firebox and front tubeplate.
LSWR Adams Radial Tank No.30583
No.488 was chosen by the Bluebell since, out of the three, it was closest to original condition at the time of withdrawal, having an original Adams boiler. Following several spells in traffic over the next 30 years on the Bluebell it is the boiler which is now preventing this fine Victorian engine from steaming. It will probably require a complete new boiler barrel before it can work again.
In 2019 it was repainted into the last livery it carried when running on the Lyme Regis Branch, as No.30583 to match the two visiting ex-LSWR locomotives which were visiting for our Branch Line Weekend that year.
SR Maunsell U-class, No.1618
Restored to working order, it steamed initially at the Kent & East Sussex Railway. However it was too heavy to be used on that line and so its owners relocated it to the Bluebell in 1977, and it has subsequently had two spells of activity. The U-class is an ideal locomotive for the size of trains we run on the Bluebell, and its sister locomotive, No.1638, has been restored to working order, again by the Maunsell Locomotive Society, entering service for the first time in 42 years in 2006.
Because this locomotive's tender was loaned to the Mid Hants Railway for a year, for use with another U-class which was painted in BR lined black livery, No.1618 was repainted in the same scheme, since its existing paint was getting rather tired, and so this is how it is currently displayed.
SR "USA" class Dock Tank No.WD 1959 (BR 30064)
30064 ended its days as Eastleigh Works shunter, and on withdrawal in 1967 it was sold to the Southern Loco Preservation Co. Ltd. After several years in Hampshire it came to the Bluebell along with the other SLP Co. stock, which is now owned by the Bluebell. Following a number of years in use on the Bluebell, it now awaits major boiler work. In 2003 it was repainted into wartime livery as WD 1959.
BR Standard Tank No.80100
It is retained because it is the only one of the three to belong to the railway, and the strong links between the class and the line. However it is relegated to a long-term restoration objective, thanks to the presence on the line of restored 80064 and 80151.
Owner: Bluebell Railway
The above photograph by Mike Esau shows it during this event. Since then it has remained at the Bluebell, having been purchased by the Bluebell from the receivers after Samuel Williams went out of business. Being considerably smaller than "Baxter", it is not a large enough locomotive to haul passengers (although the Selsey Tramway used one of this class for their trains of three 4-wheelers, albeit without the steep gradients of the Bluebell line). As such it can be given no priority in our works schedule for overhaul. However a volunteer group on the railway have it in mind as a project for the future, several other locomotives having higher priority for their efforts as well! In the meantime it remains on static display, now at Horsted Keynes.
Note: Boiler Certificates. Steam locomotive boilers are certificated by the Insurance Company's inspector for up to a ten-year term. At the end of this period the locos must usually be taken out of service for a boiler overhaul including a complete re-tube, and it is also usual at this time to undertake a full mechanical overhaul. Therefore at any one time we are only able to maintain a proportion of our fleet in working order, and the others must wait their turn in the queue for workshop attention. Even if we had the facilities to maintain a greater number of engines in working order, the costs of this could not be afforded by our income, and so we maintain sufficient engines in working order at any one time for our requirements, given also that some of our working fleet may require workshop attention in addition to their routine boiler washouts and regular mechanical and boiler checks.
The locomotives listed on this page are generally accessible to the visitor in our loco shed at Sheffield Park, although a few may, at times, be stored away from areas with public access.
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Last updated 9 May 2017 by Jon Elphick and 13 December 2019 by Richard Salmon.
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