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Bluebell Railway Atlantic Group
Background and early progress

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Some few years ago a GNR Atlantic boiler came up for sale, and it was purchased with the aim of using it to build a Brighton Atlantic class locomotive at the Bluebell Railway. These two photos show it as initially stored at the Bluebell Railway.

boiler boiler

Here is a report on our boiler from our Design Engineer, Fred Bailey.

The boiler was discovered in 1986 by Nick Pigott and Steve Dymond while researching the closed engine shed at Maldon Railway Station, Essex. It was one of four spotted at a nearby joinery business owned by Boulton & Paul Ltd., who had bought out the previous owners, John Sadd Ltd. in 1969. The boilers were in use up until 1975, when a new heating system was installed.

During the cleaning of the boiler using a pressure washer at Sheffield Park in 2005, numbers were revealed on the inner firebox copper plates and also when the external blower valve and shut-off valve for the mechanical lubricator atomisers were inspected. Three legible numbers 3287, 4440 and 3299 plus a further number that looked like 3363 were revealed, the latter being partly obliterated by the 3287 stamp.

These first three relate to GNR/LNER Class C1 Ivatt Atlantics and according to Yeadon's Register of LNER Locomotives No.3287 was fitted with boiler No.9359. The Doncaster order book showed that this boiler was ordered new in June 1941 under order No. 880 (a batch of five boilers) and was recorded as being fitted to the locomotive on 14 August 1943. That locomotive was withdrawn and scrapped on 6 October 1945. We believe that this boiler was then put into good order by Doncaster Works prior to being sold on to outside industry for stationary use, such as the heating plant at Maldon.

One of the other numbers, 3299, relates to a Class C1 fitted with boiler No.8408 from No.4402 on 8 August 1942, but we do not believe this to be our boiler as by now it would not be in such good condition. Our boiler has a few marks in the corners of the inner firebox tubeplate that will need a bit of caulking and we will probably take out and replace all the foundation ring rivets. It looks as though during its spell in industry it was not used with a fire in it.

Atlantic boiler after discovery at the factory and before the cladding and asbestos were removed © 'Bluebell Atlantic Project' Atlantic boiler being loaded ready for transportation to Sheffield Park © 'Bluebell Atlantic Project'

Photos: Atlantic boiler after discovery at the factory (before the cladding and asbestos were removed), and being loaded ready for transportation to Sheffield Park - © 'Bluebell Atlantic Project'

The LBSCR Atlantics were built to drawings modified from the GNR design, and so the boiler is entirely correct for the new locomotive.

An LBSCR C2X tender was based for some years at Guildford where it served as a water carrier No.DS 70183 until being purchased by Woodham Brothers in about 1981. It was felt that some of the locomotives in the scrap yard would have a better chance of being sold if tenders were available, but in the event the C2X type was sold on its own to Madame Tussauds for the Royalty and Empire Exhibition at Windsor station, where it was made to look Great Western behind a dummy locomotive "The Queen". The axlebox castings were machined off and new GWR-type covers were cast to make it look authentic behind the loco.

Tender wheelsets

This attraction closed some years ago and little had been heard until an article in Steam Railway indicated that the tender had been cut up as only the replica locomotive was needed in the new arrangement, believed to be a restaurant. Because it was not possible to extract the tender in one piece it had to be cut up, but at least the wheelsets were left intact and sold to scrap merchant in Uxbridge where they were traced by Roger Cruse of the Bulleid Society. We are grateful to Roger for his help in identifying where these items had gone. Following negotiations between the workshop staff at Sheffield Park and the scrap merchant, including a visit to Uxbridge by Ray Bellingham and Paul Thorp, our offer of £400 was accepted and the items are now on the railway.

Left: The tender wheelsets.

The three wheelsets together with springs and parts of the cast axleboxes from the C2X tender chassis arrived at Sheffield Park in two loads on 20 and 23 April 1999. These items were purchased by the Brighton Atlantic Project which means that the tender could be started, based on LBSCR B4 chassis No.DS 3202 bought from the Manston group in 1995. This had only two wheelsets as it lost its centre axle when converted to a van and used as a test unit at St Leonards depot.

The three C2X wheelsets are in good condition and will be used as a set on the rebuilt tender. All the axles and tyres and almost brand new, being stamped 1958 and 1959.

Tender axleboxes The axleboxes.

The main castings have been modified to look like GWR type, by machining off a portion of the front face, and the covers are made-up GWR style, but the spring sockets are original. The bronze bearings had been discarded when it was prepared for the replica locomotive.

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More recent news updates

  • September 2001: Repairs to tender chassis.
  • More photos of the project (1999-2002).
  • March 2002: Modification of front end of tender.
  • November 2004: Loco Frames ordered.
  • December 2004: Bogie frame components arrive - also Feb.2005 news report.
  • 2005 - Loco main frames arrive - tender frames nearly completed - start of construction of the shed.
  • 2006 - Loco driving wheel castings delivered - drilling of the main frames and hornguides - building of the shed completed.
  • 2007 - Main locomotive frames erected.
  • 2008 - Components for the cylinders and valve chest delivered - frames riveted - forged billets for connecting and coupling rods delivered.
  • 2009 - First motion parts water-jet cut from forged blanks - bogie frames assembled
  • 2010 - Cylinders and valve chests fabricated, air brake cylinders completed, bogie and trailing wheelsets completed.
  • 2011 - Coupling rods and axleboxes delivered, reverser mechanism completed, crossheads cast.
  • 2012 - Valve and cylinder liners fitted - lifting and reversing arms and axlebox crowns delivered - castings for mudhole doors, regulator and whistle valves, reversing shaft clutch, blast-pipe cap, crosshead slippers, 'J' pipe and eight eccentric halves received - Bogie and trailing axle now support the frames.
  • 2013 - Cylinders, valves, slidebars and crossheads completed - driving wheels completed - valve gear components delivered - lifting frames constructed.
  • 2014 - Weigh (reversing) shaft and air-clutch fitted, axleboxes metalled, machined and fitted, wheel rotators constructed, eccentric rods, valve and reversing gear, pipework for brakes and steam heat completed, locomotive wheeled, cylinders clad and crossheads fitted.
  • 2015 - Rolling Chassis completed with all motion erected. Running plates and splashers completed, along with cab sides and front.
  • 2016 - Connecting and coupling rods fitted, valves set. Superheater header delivered. Revision of boiler internal pipework completed. Cab roof riveted together and fitted. Mud-hole patches welded into boiler. Flue tubes (with screw ends welded on) delivered.
  • 2017 - Major progress on the boiler overhaul, and with the safety valves.
  • 2018 - Boiler tubes fitted, tender made mobile, complex parts of the boiler cladding made.
  • Most recent news.
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