It is not often that I post pictures to my blog. However, I wanted to share these two photos which I took yesterday while visiting the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex. In all I took about 250 photos over the day!
As I have many times mentioned before I am something of a rail enthusiast and I prefer that term to 'trainspotter' which has all sorts of negative and derogatory meaning. A visit to a 'heritage' railway like the Bluebell is always a great day out and this weekend was their Giants of Steam celebration. What particularly drew my attention was the fact that the railway boasted no less than four Bullied Pacifics in service. This is the first time in more than forty years that four of these locos have been in steam together and perhaps the first time in preservation that three unrebuilt examples have steamed together. In this first photo are a pair of unrebuilt West Country Class Bullied Light Pacifics 34007 Wadebridge and 21C123 Blackmoor Vale, which was disguised on one side as O V S Bullied, designer of these beautiful and magnificent locos.
There were three near identical classes of loco designed by Bullied and built for the Southern Railway. The Merchant Navy class was the heaviest and largest of the three classes, the West Country and Battle of Britain classes were similar in design but less heavy, hence their designation as 'Light' Pacific. The term 'Pacific' refers to the wheel arrangement, which is expressed as 4-6-2; 4 leading wheels, 6 driving wheels and 2 trailing wheels. Oliver Bullied was the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway and these three classes were designed to be the main express locomotives for the company.
Following nationalisation in 1948, British Railways absorbed the locomotives and rolling stock of the Southern Railway along with the LMS, LNER and GWR (collectively known as the 'Big Four'). During the 1950s it was decided to standardise locomotive design and BR introduced its own Standard Classes. The Bullied Pacifics were an unusual design and difficult to maintain due to their streamline casing. All the Merchant Navy and 60 of the West Country and Battle of Britain classes were rebuilt and without their streamlined casing much more closely resembled the BR Standard designs. They are still attractive locos but in my view they look best in their original 'as built' condition.
This second picture shows the two Bullied Pacifics awaiting departure from Kingscote as a Maunsell-designed 'U' class loco, 1638 arrives at the station. The site of these three powerful locos of the Southern Railway is quite a sight. Later in the day the 'U' was double-heading with a Bullied Pacific owing to the earlier failure of another Pacific, 92 Squadron.
The one thing these photos cannot convey entirely is the atmosphere of the moment. One of the great things about steam locomotives is that they are so noisy! Impressively so and dirty, smelly and in some strange way, seeming to breathe with life. I am of course far too young to remember steam in its heyday and it is only on occasions such as this on preserved lines that I can at least begin to imagine what it must have been like back in the 1950s when these engines ruled the rails of the south of England. Wouldn't it be wonderful if trains were still hauled by steam locos?
Okay, one final pic then. So this is what they look like when rebuilt. This photo shows 34028 Eddystone (which I have also seen in action on the Swanage and Mid-Hants Railways), looking glorious in the late afternoon sun as she prepares for departure from Sheffield Park...