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