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London Brighton & South Coast Railway
Class E4 0-6-2T 473, "Birch Grove"

(SR B473, 2473, BR s2473, 32473) built in 1898.

Birch Grove in January 2010 - Dave Phillips

Dave Phillips' photo shows the newly outshopped loco in its 1920s guise as B473, in January 2010

The first of the Brighton's 0-6-2 "radial" tanks was designed by William Stroudley, and under his successor, Robert Billinton, they eventually became a family of designs covering a wide range of traffic requirements. The small-wheeled E3 and E6 were aimed at Goods traffic and the larger wheeled E5 were suited to passenger work, but it was the E4, with an intermediate diameter of driving wheels, which was the most flexible and most numerous member of the family.

The "Radial" tank takes its name from the radial axle beneath the driver's cab. Rather than the more conventional pivoted pony truck, the radial axle is set in curved hornguides in the main frames.

"Birch Grove", as was the practice with such Brighton engines, was named after towns and villiages in the LBSCR's area, and Birch Grove is a small hamlet just north of Horsted Keynes, and its residents, including one-time Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, would have used Horsted Keynes as their local station.

Initially painted in Stroudley's famous "Improved Engine Green", which was actually a golden ocre, in 1912 it was reboilered by Marsh with an I1-type boiler, and re-painted in his dark umber livery, as in the photo below.

After being re-numbered B473 and 2473 under the Southern Railway, in February 1948 it was one of the first Southern locos to receive "BRITISH RAILWAYS" sunshine lettering, and ran as s2473 until finally renumbered as 32473 in April 1951.

At Nine Elms shed, 1960 (Kenneth Nichols)

At Nine Elms shed, 1960 (Kenneth Nichols)

At Sheffield Park in 2000 (Lewis Nodes) Arriving on the Bluebell straight out of BR service in 1962, it was quickly repainted into the Marsh umber, and ran until 1971, by which time its boiler was in need of major repairs. Its overhaul took many years, finally being completed in 1998, and the story is told on the "Villa Team" pages.

The photo on the right shows the locomotive as overhauled and running, at Sheffield Park in 2000 (Lewis Nodes).

Birch Grove in Black - Tony Pearce - 16 February 2005

In early 2005 it was re-painted into BR Black livery (photo left by Tony Pearce, 16 February 2005). After being the star of our own Branch Line Weekend, it was off by low-loader to the Severn Valley Railway for their similar event. It has now been transformed into the SR olive green it carried in pre-war years as part of its latest overhaul, which, thanks to the good condition of its boiler after having had so much work a decade earlier, was started immediately on withdrawal in May 2008, being completed in January 2010. It was withdrawn from service due to cracks in its inner firebox in mid-2016, and now awaits a major boiler and mechanical overhaul.

Birch Grove at Horsted Class: LBSCR E4
Wheels: 0-6-2T
Class Introduced: 1897
Designer: R.J. Billinton
Built: 1898 at Brighton Works, BR
Purpose: Suburban passenger and mixed traffic
Total number built: 75
Original Number and name: 473 "Birch Grove"
Later Numbers: SR B473, 2473, BR s2474, 32473
Withdrawn from BR service: 1962
Arrived on Bluebell Railway: 16 October 1962

This photo shows it as lettered temporarily in its Umber livery with the correct LBSC lettering on completion of its 1998 restoration. In service on the Bluebell when in umber it has always however carried its name. (Photo by Lewis Nodes).

Length: 35ft 3in
Weight: 57 Tons 10 cwt
Water capacity: 1,408 Gallons
Coal capacity: 3 Tons
Boiler Pressure: 160 lb/
Driving Wheels: 5ft diameter
Cylinders: (2, inside) 17.5" x 26"
Tractive Effort: 18,045 lbs
BR power classification: 2P2F
Engine brake: Westinghouse Air

Last major overhauls: 1998, 2010
Periods in operation: 1962 to late-Summer 1971, 20 June 1998 to May 2008, 30 January 2010 to May/June 2016
Current Status: Static Display, in SteamWorks!

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