The location is Castle Hill, on the West Somerset Railway near Williton, an aptly named backdrop for an engine, belonging to a class of locomotives, given the names of Knights of the Round Table by the Southern Railway’s Publicity Dept. Designated, originally, as class N15, but more generally known as ‘Arthurs’ No. 30777 Sir Lamiel is a part of the National Collection. Designed by Robert Urie, for the London & South Western Railway, during WWI, building didn’t commence until after hostilities ceased and the first engines entered traffic in 1919. Following the Grouping, REL Maunsell, modified the design and built more locomotives bringing the final total to 74.
A batch of the N15s were built by the North British Locomotive Company, in typical railway style, they were known as Scots, (Scotch) Arthurs, to distinguish them from the ‘Eastleigh’ Arthurs. These engines proved a little troublesome when they entered service; the North British Locomotive Co. had cut corners, after under-bidding to gain the contract, and many had to be rebuilt at Eastleigh. Some of the defects included; faulty riveting on the boilers, 6 had to be replaced, faulty tubes, and mis-aligned main frames – just a few of the problems encountered. In general, the Arthurs were well liked by the crew and during her spells out on the main line No.30777 Sir Lamiel has put in some sterling performances, on home territory between London and Weymouth or Exeter, as well as over the West Coast Main Line and the Settle Carlisle route.
The Arthurs were the first British locomotives to be fitted with smoke deflectors, in a series of trials, which commenced in 1926. Bulleid tinkered with a couple of them during WWII but the modifications were later reversed. Sadly, despite my time at Nine Elms in the 1960s, I never did get to fire the N15s, though I did fire on their cousins, the Class S15 4-6-0s, more than once, on the Salisbury – Feltham Yard leg of the Meldon Quarry – Feltham stone trains.
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