Pre-Group­ing de­signs with BR-era liv­er­ies in clas­sic re-cre­ations

Steam Railway (UK) - - CONTENTS - SR

When it came to re­gions on British Rail­ways that em­ployed geri­atric lo­co­mo­tives and rolling stock, the South­ern was about as eclec­tic as it got. Nowhere was this bet­ter dis­played than on its spi­der’s web of branch lines that stretched from the Ken­tish coast to the tip of north Corn­wall.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, at least three of its ab­sorbed classes of engines held claim to be­ing the old­est to be at work in main line ser­vice at var­i­ous times dur­ing the 1960s: Wade­bridge shed’s trio of Beat­tie well tanks, the Stroud­ley ‘Ter­ri­ers’, and the Isle of Wight’s ‘O2’ tank engines.

This was the decade of the Viet­nam war, James Bond, ‘Beatle­ma­nia’, Star Trek and the moon land­ing. The Shinkansen ‘Bul­let Train’ rev­o­lu­tionised rail travel in Japan in 1964, while on the other side of the de­vel­oped world LSWR 0‑4‑4Ts, dat­ing from the 1880s, were still pro­vid­ing an in­ten­sive pas­sen­ger ser­vice us­ing Ed­war­dian wooden‑bod­ied car­riages.

This longevity meant that en­thu­si­asts could still en­joy a strong taste of an era that had been all but erad­i­cated from the rest of Bri­tain’s rail­way map.

It is, there­fore, quite re­mark­able that the Blue­bell Rail­way, es­tab­lished in 1960, was run­ning pre­served trains us­ing pre‑Group­ing classes of engines that were still in daily use on BR.

In­evitably for such lucky sur­vivors, preser­va­tion en­ti­ties such as the Blue­bell of­fered a life­line, en­abling scenes from the Lyme Regis branch to be recre­ated 150 miles away.

For Pe­ter Zabek, for whom the 1960s was a for­ma­tive decade, this was manna from heaven.

The sur­prise re­paint of Adams ‘Ra­dial’ 4‑4‑2T No. 488 from pea green into lined BR black in 1983 was one of the first ex­am­ples of re­viv­ing the era – if only briefly.

‘Ter­ri­ers’ on the Kent & East Sus­sex Rail­way fol­lowed suit; the Swan­age Rail­way re­turned the repa­tri­ated Drum­mond ‘M7’ to its five‑digit guise be­fore the Bod­min & Wen­ford Rail­way got in on the act with the Na­tional Rail­way Mu­seum and Buck­ing­hamshire Rail­way Cen­tre’s Beat­tie well tank duo.

Pe­ter ad­mits that he’s lucky to have seen this lively se­lec­tion of ex‑LSWR and LBSCR mo­tive power in preser­va­tion in the form that they ap­peared in most Ian Al­lan ‘Abcs’.

In­evitably, this leaves a gap in his al­bum: the SECR de­signs. Nowa­days, the only op­por­tu­nity to see a BR‑liv­ery Wain­wright ‘O1’ with a mixed train on the KESR, or an ‘H’ 0‑4‑4T on a rake of three Bulleid coaches, is by pe­rus­ing one of R.C. Ri­ley’s books, or the Colour Rail archive.


Horsted Keynes on the Blue­bell Rail­way is an­other sta­tion recog­nised for its de­pic­tion of a typ­i­cal South­ern coun­try by­way. LBSCR Billinton ‘E4’ No. 32473(Birch Grove to most) com­pletes the Brighton-style scene on April 28 2008.

Some­times the most faith­ful re-cre­ations come in the sim­plest form… Bress­ing­ham ‘Terrier’ No. 32662 (Martello ) climbs Ten­ter­den bank dur­ing its visit to the Kent & East Sus­sex Rail­way on June 14 2011. The LBSCR en­gine is paired with a crim­son liv­ery ‘bird­cage’ brake, cre­at­ing a pic­ture so redo­lent of the KESR in the 1950s. Martello has since re­verted to South­ern green; the car­riage has been re­painted in SECR colours and the track re­placed with flat-bot­tom rail and con­crete sleep­ers.The Isle of Wight Steam Rail­way is well known for its im­mac­u­late ren­di­tion of the South­ern Rail­way in the 1920s-1940s, but it has also shown off its ‘O2’ No. W24 Calbourne in BR black for the past eight years. For a brief pe­riod, it even turned out two pre-Group­ing bo­gie coaches in BR crim­son, which were used as a pair on just one oc­ca­sion – a photo-char­ter on Novem­ber 6 2012. The Bem­bridge branch-esqe en­sem­ble passes Wood­house cross­ing, near Woot­ton.

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