Namespotting – Southern Names

Todays post is a reflection on the names given by Southern Railways to their top-link express locomotives.  As the names are so evocative and well-thought out, I wanted to discuss some of the reasons why they work so well.  I’ve illustrated the piece with locoyard fleet locomotives; both past and present.

King Arthur Class

Although the N15 class were an LSWR type, it was theSouthern Railway who named them.

What could be a better subject for a British locomotive class than the legends of King Arthur? Especially, for the London and South Western Railway, who’s routes ran through King Arthur country and what was once the kingdom of Wessex.

The names proved to be so popular that upon the withdrawal and replacement by standard class 5mt’s the names were transferred to them. These locomotives became known affectionately as standard Arthur’s.  To this day, the characters and legends of King Arthur remain a popular source for names – just look at The National Lottery!

Click here for the class list.

N15 King Arthur class 736 Excalibur, a current locoyard fleet member.

“Standard Arthur” BR standard 5MT 73082 Camelot by Bachmann, a current locoyard fleet member.

Lord Nelson

Southern Railway served the important Royal Navy ports of Portsmouth and Chatham. The Royal Navy was the pride of the British empire. It made patriotic and regional sense to name a class of loco after British Admirals. The fact that at the time the class was the most powerful 4-6-0 meant that the naming was a fantastic all-round PR exercise, the names reflecting the powerful four-cylinder beast very well.

Click here for the class list.

Pride of the current locoyard fleet, Bachmann’s 850 Lord Nelson.

Former fleet member 855 Robert Blake, sold to finance purchase of DCC fitted Lord Nelson (split-chassis DCC conversion is beyond me!)

Schools class

Maunsell’s successful schools class is at first glance the weakest subject here. This class was named after famous schools in the country. To a generation who are predominantly state educated, this may seem more than a little elitist!

However you need to consider  – who would be a 1930’s Southern Railway customer? The southern railway was the only one of the “big four” whose main income came from passengers rather than freight. And a big proportion of these passengers were wealthy middle class commuters, commuting to and from London.  Lawyers, bankers, civil servants… And where do you think they went to school?

You guessed it; a private school! So the class naming starts to make a lot of sense. Add to this that many of these schools shared their name with major towns/cities, (Winchester, Brighton, Dover, Cheltenham etc) another meaningful link is created. Clever marketing, don’t you agree?

Click here for the class list.

Current fleet member 925 Cheltenham, currently out of action due to a loose front bogey.

Former locoyard fleet member, Hornby tender drive 903 Charterhouse.

Former (brief) resident 30915 Brighton was test-run on the yard.  This was part of a collection bought and sold to raise funds.

Merchant Navy Class

Let’s not forget that in the pre-jet age, the Merchant Navies were the Airlines of their day. Massive shipping lines ruled the commercial waves.  Largely due to the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic, most of you have probably heard of the White Star Line, but many of the other names might not mean much to many people today.  However, at the time this was certainly not the case.  The Southern’s link to Southampton made this even more important to its customers, so yet again this proved to be a very successful naming exercise.

Click here for the class list.

A current locoyard fleet favourite, 35027 Port Line.

Former fleet member 35020 Bibby Line, sold to raise finances last year.

West Country Class

The southern railway served west country destinations. Again, the pre jet-age meant that things were very different in the 1940’s then they are now and the British Riviera was a very popular destination for tourists.

More importantly however, the West Country class was a direct assault on the GWR by the Southern Railway.  The class was designed to bring a new modern steam locomotive to the lightly laid lines that competed with the GWR.  With each naming ceremony at each west country location, Bulleid’s impressive machine found their way into the local media. Very clever marketing, when you think about it!

Click here for the West Country / Battle of Britain class list.

Another current locoyard favourite! 21C123 Blackmoor Vale

Current locoyard fleet member 34026 Yes Tor, has just failed (the motor keeps shorting out).

Battle of Britain Class

If ever there was a class created for marketing, this was it. It wasn’t even a new design, merely a re-branded west country class! The heroes – individuals, RAF bases and squadrons of the Battle of Britain were celebrated by this class. To this day, the names mean much, but in the 1940’s they meant even more.  A fantastic PR exercise, many of the battle of Britain class became national treasures.  So much so, that Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral train had to be hauled by his namesake.

Click here for the West Country / Battle of Britain class list.

Former fleet member 34076 41 Squadron, sold to help finance purchase of 21C123 Blackmoor Vale

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