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A web-site by Rob Speare


O.V.S. Bulleid - His Legacy

The period when O.V.S. Bulleid was C.M.E. of the Southern Railway is relatively recent, and much of the infrastructure from the time is still in use.

Being late in the development of steam, many of his designs were not superceeded, and as these locomotives were relatively new, many of the Pacifics were working until the end of B.R. steam, when steam engines were withdrawn en masse.

Many of the Bulleid pacifics that survive came from Dai Woodham's scrapyard.  These escaped the cutting torch when individuals and groups began purchasing the locomotives; years later ALL these discarded engines had been saved.

There are no original air-smoothed 'Merchant Navy' class locos now, as many years after their construction and well into the British Railways era, the entire class was re-built, mainly due to problems associated with the enclosed motion oil baths.  Their appearance was much changed, stripped of their air-smoothed casing and receiving a new cylindrical smoke box, more resembling the large B.R. standard classes, and possibly the best looking pacific locomotives running in Britain, of their period.

A similar exercise was commenced on the 'West Country' and 'Battle of Britain' class locomotives, but with a change of National Policy now pointing towards diesels, the re-builds stopped with half the 110 members still in the original air-smoothed form.  Of the 20 survivors of the smaller Pacifics, 10 are of the as-built air-smoothed design.

35027 'Port Line' was the first ex-Barry 'Merchant Navy' to be restored to working order, having languishing in the open sea air and becoming a rusting hulk at Barry, from March 1967 until leaving for restoration in December 1982.

Having initially been restored to steam in 1974, a major overhaul costing £350,000 returned 35028 'Clan Line' to the main-line in November 2006.

The N.R.M. at York has 35029 'Ellerman Lines' sliced open on permanent display, with a motorised drive rotating the wheels and motion.  Battle of Britain class 'Winston Churchill' is also part of the York based national collection.

In preservation, ownership is often in the hands of a group of individuals, often formalised into a Company.  Southern Locomotives Ltd. which started as the group that originally restored 'Port Line', now owns five Bulleid pacifics in various states of repair.

Other groups have become closely associated with a particular railway; for example the Bulleid Society owns two Bulleid light pacifics which are based on the Bluebell Railway.

Similarly whilst 34007 'Wadebridge' was originally owned by many small shareholders, the 'MHRPS' now appears to be the major shareholder.

The quirky looking Q1 class worked into the 1960s, but were starting to suffer from rusting of their relatively lightweight construction.  C1 is preserved as part on the National collection, and for over 25 years it was kept on the Bluebell Railway.  Although not in continuous service there, it did have a major overhaul, and many enthusiasts were able to see it in action.  In 2005 it was recalled to the N.R.M at York and has been on display in the exhibition's great hall.

Nothing from Bulleid's final S.R. design, the unconventional Leader, nor the later Irish turf burning version was retained.

Although the three Bulleid 'booster' class locos were scrapped, one member of the later class which used the same 'booster' principle has been preserved.  The NRM owned Class 71, E5001 has been restored to green livery.

One of the Bulleid 350hp shunters was bought by the NCB when withdrawn in 1971.  It now runs on the Spa Valley line.

And as for the fruition of more recent projects :

34007 'Wadebridge' completed restoration in December 2006, and has run regularly since, although with a borrowed tender.

34070 'Manston', the last locomotive to be built by the Southern (Nov 1947), spent 18 years in Barry scrapyard.  After an estimated £350,000 rebuild 'Manston' entered service on the Swanage Railway in 2008.

34059 'Sir Archibald Sinclair', is restored and running on the Bluebell Railway (2009).

34053 'Sir Keith Park', has completed restoration, now running on the Severn Valley Railway (2012).

34081 '92 Squadron', is in an advanced state of restoration at Wandsworth by a dedicated group.

34010 'Sidmouth', has finally commenced restoration at Swanage, from ex Barry condition.

Sadly, it's not all good news.  Given the enormous cost of restoration, and on-going funding required to run these large locomotives, there are still a number that have been rescued, but remain rusty carcasses with no prospect of restoration.

But importantly, we do have access to a body of work from a visionary designer of fairly recent history represented in many examples; a number of these are running on preserved railways, allowing us to examine and enjoy.

These will continue to inspire model engineers to build interesting live steam models, as hopefully the associated series of articles can reveal.