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A web-site by Rob Speare


Bulleid's Merchant Navy Class - The B.R. Rebuilds

Although initially prestigious for the Southern Railway, under British Railways the original 'air-smoothed' Merchant Navy class revealed more serious problems.  The design and construction of the locomotive was substantially sound, but the unusual features began to cause maintenance difficulties,  so from 1956,  B.R. undertook to rebuild the entire class.

Although retaining the frames, wheels and boiler - the oil bath and chain driven valve gear were removed along with the inside cylinder block.  A new inside cylinder and smokebox were fitted, and three new sets of valve gear, each mounted in-line with their respective cylinders, on new supporting brackets.  Cabs were modified to give better forward visibility, and the new boiler cladding was in the accessible style of the B.R. standard classes.

They were equally attractive in their new guise, and rather more reliable, although heavier.  They certainly became one of the finest Pacific designs in terms of performance and appearance, and ran until the end of B.R. steam.

Fortunately several Merchant Navy locos were saved from the cutting torch, albeit in varying states of repair.  However, complete, these are impressive locomotives in any scale, and the model certainly has it's own graceful presence, though the strict B.R. livery tends to limit the colour schemes available.

Here a number of owners have contributed articles on their own versions of these intriguing locomotives, a substantially different model from the 'original' class.

This is an ambitious build to undertake, and although a published design and castings are available for a 5" gauge version - 'Ariel' - several of the locomotives described were individually scaled from copies of Works drawings.

Each model locomotive featured is a credit to the builder, or as sometimes happens the person who takes over the build or ownership; and then keeps such a complex locomotive running.  Please hover your mouse over photos for their descriptions.