Rebuilt or Un-rebuilt that is the question


I have recently seen some discussion of the possibility of un-rebuilding, is there such a word, a Merchant Navy class Bulleid pacific. There were all the usual suspects, can’t be done, can be done but will cost loadsa wonga, wouldn’t it be great, and why bother. Discussion didn’t quite get as far as which form of streamlining, widows peak or not, long or short smoke deflectors and / or the highly contentions issue of livery – 21C1 in wartime black and with the widows peak, Malachite with yellow  and so on.

The discussion also mentioned the fact that at Riley’s loco-works in Bury were the wheel sets for No.35022 Holland-America Line, which, apparently, is one the way to becoming a working loco again. I have a rather special link with this engine from my days as a fireman at Nine Elms. In February 1965 No. 35022 Holland-America Line was selected to work the first RCTS East Devon Railtour from Waterloo to Exeter and back, with side trips down the Seaton Branch and to Exmouth.

I was the fireman for the trip which ran non-stop from Waterloo to Yeovil, a distance of 123 miles, and there are no troughs on the Southern. This required careful enginemanship and boiler management to achieve. The acid test was, did we have water in the tap at Worting Junction, needless to say we did and did run to Yeovil without stopping, apart from a signal check, near Woking.

Because the water was such a vital issue we, unusually for such a run, prepared our own engine and if you add the miles from Nine Elms up to Waterloo and to Exeter and back the it was  a prodigious distance for one fireman, approximately 350 miles. If No.35022 Holland-America Line does run again it will be wonderful to see her in action.

The photograph is Battle of Britain class ‘light’ pacific No.34070 Manston and the location is close to the summit of Eardington Bank on the Severn Valley Railway – not really Bulleid country, but a fine sight nonetheless.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:

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