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Mon 6 July 2020

LBSCR Maunsell N15x class 4-6-0 Nº327 Charles C Macrae

Although the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (known as the LB&SCR or Brighton Line) was well supplied by modern motive power in the final years before the First World War, the new Locomotive Superintendent, Lawson Billington, decided to provide 5 new express locomotives to supplement the existing 11 Atlantics and 2 Pacific tank locomotives. As the Brighton was a comparatively short line, large tank locomotives were considered very suitable for the operating conditions, providing there was enough water capacity. He set about enlarging the design of the Pacific tank locomotives giving both more water and coal carrying capacity.

By the end of March 1914, Nº327 Charles C Macrae, named after the LB&SCR Chairman (1920-1922) and Director, was ready for trials. The test runs proved successful so work was started on a second locomotive, Nº328, to the same design.

LBSCR Nº327 Charles C MacraeHowever in the meantime, Nº327 had suffered several derailments due to instability caused by water surging and a high centre of gravity, and both Nº327 and Nº328 were stored from November 1914 until May 1915 while their fate was to be decided. One option was to convert them both to 4-6-0 tender locomotives and although this option was discarded at the time, interestingly, 20 years later it actually came about. However, in the meantime, the decision was made to retain them as 4-6-4 tank locomotives, albeit with several modifications.

So Nº327 Charles C Macrae left the main Brighton shops for a second time in August 1915. This time it was used for several weeks on empty stock services and van trains, to ensure that the previous troubles had been overcome. They had, and Nº327 went into front-line service on the Brighton expresses in September. By the following March, Nº328 had been similarly dealt with. Nº327 and Nº328 were considered by many to be the finest-looking Baltic tank locomotives to run in Britain.

Although originally it had been intended to build 5 Baltic tank locomotives, the prolonged teething troubles and the ongoing World War I caused the order for the remaining three to be cancelled at the end of 1915.

Upon the Armistice being signed in November 1918 an immediate order for 5 more was put in hand at Brighton Works. Nº328 had never carried a name, but the first of the new five tanks, Nº329 was named Stephenson. Very fittingly the last of the seven, Nº333 was named Remembrance to commemorate LB&SCR employees who died during the war.

In 1931, with the coming electrification of the Brighton mainline, other uses on the Brighton section of the new Southern Railway were considered for the seven locomotives, but generally they were too heavy for the secondary lines. Not only that, but by then the new Southern Chief Engineer, Richard Maunsell, had built his King Arthur class of 4-6-0s. Several of his King Arthurs had been drafted to front-line duty on the Brighton, including the prestigious 'Southern Belle'.

Generally, the Brighton Baltics were in fine order, with the frames, boilers and motion good for a number of years yet. So Maunsell took them into Eastleigh Works, starting in July 1934. Each one emerged transformed.

Gone were the long side tanks, the trailing bogie, the large bunker with its well tank and the Brighton cab. Maunsell added smoke deflectors and King Arthur chimney, and a Lord Nelson cab. Behind each locomotive was a used Urie-style 8-wheel tender, taken from a Urie S15, in one of the regular tender swaps that the Southern so loved. To add a nice touch, they became the 'Remembrance' class (officially N15x).

LBSCR Nº2327 TrevithickNº329 and Nº333 retained their names, but Nº327 received the name of historic locomotive engineer, Trevithick. The remaining four were named Hackworth, Cudworth, Beattie and Stroudley.

The Remembrance rebuilds were all sent to the ex- London & South Western Railway lines of the Southern. Although nominally of the same power as the King Arthurs, in reality, they were not a match for the heaviest of duties and remained on secondary duties.

During the Second World War, when Swindon was short of motive power all the ex-Brighton 4-6-0s were lent to the Great Western Railway and no. 2327 Trevithick was on regular turns working out of Old Oak Common from January to July 1943. After the war, the appearance of 140 Bulleid Pacifics pretty well doomed these 7 strange left-overs from WWI. The former Nº327 Charles C MacRae, now 32327 Trevithick, was withdrawn in January 1956 and none of these handsome ex-Baltic tank locomotives survived the scrapper's torch.

Acknowledgements: Mike Watts, Michael A Morant

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