Bulleid Q1 Class: An Ugly Steam Locomotive?

From one extreme to another… following the previous post showing the elegance, luxury and opulence of Pullman travel, I’ve now given my Q1 class a good run with a mixed freight service.

Despite it being a class of steam locomotive regarded by many as the ugliest ever built, I have always had a soft spot for Bulleid’s Q1 class.  Its distinctive look was as a result of the highly innovative OVS Bulleid’s innovative thinking during a time of wartime Austerity measures.  To reduce weight, the class had no running plate or splashers and a simple box-shape.  The innovation worked and it weighed 18 tons less than an equivalent locomotive.  It was only built to last until the end of the second world war, but it proved to be so efficient, reliable and powerful that it lasted to the end of steam.

For me, one of the appeal of this Bulleid locomotive was that it was so very different from anything else and it was a real attempt to take a more modern approach to steam engine design.  And, unlike some of his other creations, Bulleid’s Q1 class it was worth it and it was very successful.  The prototype had one failing – its brakes were poor when hauling unfitted goods trains, but then an “austerity” design was never going to be perfect.

The Hornby model is fantastic.  It captures the prototypes unconventional lines well and runs smoothly and with plenty of power.  It also responds well to DCC installation.

So, it leaves the big question – is it ugly?  It certainly isn’t elegant!  But when you consider that it was built to be cheap, efficient, powerful, reliable (and it did all these things better than could be hoped) and to last a few short years (but soldiered on until the late 1960’s), it becomes a machine to appreciate, which is arguably beautiful, in its own way!