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Built to last

In the summer of 1961, my travels took me to Winchester, ostensibly to repaint my great uncle’s kitchen. Drying time between coats was essential for a good job, so these valuable periods were spent at the nearby Winchester City railway station. It was here that I encountered and photographed two fine working examples of “built to last” railway engineering.

The two station pilots and shunters that I saw had first seen the light of day at the London & South Western Railway (L&SWR) works at Nine Elms in 1893. In my day I knew Nine Elms as the main BR Southern Region engine shed serving Waterloo – the London home of some of the “Merchant Navy”, “West Country”, “Battle of Britain”, “Lord Nelson” and “King Arthur” classes. However, it had previously been the first London terminus of the L&SWR and, when Waterloo station opened, the Nine Elms site became part of the railway works where my two survivors were built. In 1878, William Adams became Locomotive Superintendent of the L&SWR. He had previously occupied Locomotive Superintendent posts at the North London and Great Eastern Railways. His early engineering background had been in marine engineering and at the age of 25 he had been Engineer for the Sardinian Navy.

Short-wheelbase dock shunting locomotives were needed for the L&SWR’s activities at Southampton Docks, and in 1891 Adams came up with his design of the B4 class. The two working members of this class, 30096 and 30102 that I saw at Winchester were both 68 years old when I photographed them.

Shunter Ron Bowles is at the point lever as 30096 shunts at Winchester City in August 1961. The sign reads “THE ONLY ENGINES PERMITTED TO PASS THIS BOARD ON Nos 1 and 2 ROADS ARE THE B4 CLASS AND 204HP DIESEL”. This area is now the station car park! Photo: Mike Peart

B4 class 30096 shunting the yard at Winchester City with shunter Ron taking a ride. This locomotive’s overnight accommodation is the ventilated shed behind the wagons in this shot. Photo: Mike Peart

Station pilot 30102 attaches a general utility vehicle to the rear of a down train at Winchester City station in August 1961. Photo: Mike Peart

Now at 128 years from their debut, for these two old ladies the story doesn’t end. On withdrawal from British Railways service in 1963 at a time when much of British Railways’ steam locomotive stock was being cut up and reincarnated as cars and domestic appliances, both miraculously survived. 30096 was first sold to a fuel company in Southampton and carried on working until 1972 until she was purchased by members of the Bulleid Society. She was then taken to the Bluebell Railway in Sussex, was overhauled, given her original name “Normandy”, steamed again in 1986 and worked until 2006 when the most recent boiler certificate expired. She is now stored and awaiting overhaul. On withdrawal, 30102 was sold to seaside resort company Butlin’s and was displayed at Skegness holiday camp. At one time Butlin’s sites had a total of eight locomotives on static display including the NRM’s “Duchess of Hamilton”. Then in 1971 30102 was bought by the Bressingham Steam Museum in Norfolk. She is now on static display there and bears her original name “Granville”. To misquote the Scottish phrase, “Lang may their lums reek”!

Mike Peart

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