Thursday, 8 August 2013

South Eastern & Chatham Railway P Class Locomotive 178, 1910

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One of eight P Class 0-6-0T Locomotives built, designed by Harry Wainwright and designed for work on light passenger services in 1909, 178 was built in 1910 at Ashford Works, Kent and first allocated to Ash Shed, a sub-shed of Reading in Berkshire (although firmly in Great Western Railway territory, the SECR had a line running around London to Reading) and was used for push-pull services between Ash and Reading, where the locomotive was sandwiched between two (or sometimes up to four carriages) and the train driven from either end of the carriages, avoiding the need for the locomotive to run around the train of carriages at each end of the line, making it very efficient and enabling a more intensive service - this was very popular in the Edwardian era

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 It seems they were actually too popular on these services, and the increased passenger loads meant more powerful locomotives had to be used than the diminutive P Class locomotives, and 178 was transferred to local services in south London working shuttle passenger services. After being moved around other sheds including Margate and Hastings, 178 was moved onto shunting services in 1916, shunting carriages at Redhill, and then to working in aeronautical stores by the Charing Cross to Bexleyheath line. After the grouping of the SECR and other railway companies to become the Southern Railway in 1923, 178 was moved onto work as a docks shunter, and spent most of the rest of its service life doing this, until the 1950's when 178 (now known as 31178 in British Railways service) it was sold to the Bowater's Paper Mill, and then to the Bluebell Railway, the first preserved standard gauge railway, in 1969. It was bought as a source of spare parts for the two other P Class locomotives (27 and 323) the Bluebell owned, and after being stored for many years had restoration started in 1992, and returned to service for the first time since 1969 in February 2010. It is now in service on the Bluebell Railway alongside sister locomotive 323 - in all, four of the eight P Class locomotives have survived into preservation. As can be seen, 178 was restored into the beautiful original South Eastern & Chatham Railway livery it would have worn when new, and looks fantastic alongside H Class 263 or C Class 592, both also in SECR livery

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  Double-heading with H Class 263

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