Today’s model of the week is another of Locoyard’s collection of LBSCR A1X terrier’s. This time, it is arguably the most famous terrier of them all…
55 Stepney was built in 1876, four years after the class were first introduced. Stepney would have worn the same livery as modeled here, but would have looked a little different in it’s A1 class configuration, with a smaller boiler and condensing pipes. Terrier’s were a very successful class and were given the nickname “Terrier”, due to their fast rate of acceleration and also from their terrier-sounding chuff. William Stroudley’s A1 terrier class were designed to haul London suburban services, which is how this locomotive earned it’s living for the first thirty years of it’s life. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway’s (LBSCR) track was lightly laid in the London area and needed a light but powerful locomotive to haul passenger services.
After the London lines were relaid, the terrier class became displaced as the new track allowed for heavier traffic. By the turn over the nineteenth century, some worn members of the class were withdrawn, a fate that Stepney avoided. In 1915, 655 (renumbered) Stepney was rebuilt to A1X configuration.
At the grouping of the railways in 1923, Stepney became Southern Railways 2655. Southern Railway continued to withdraw members of the class. Used on ex-SECR branches, Stepney was eventually withdrawn herself in the later 1920’s. However, light railways would (just) provide a long-term revenue-earning purpose for the terrier class; and as a result many, including Stepney survived beyond the age of most contemporary locomotive classes.
Some members of the class escaped to the Isle of Wight, but Stepney escaped to another island – Hayling Island. The Hayling Island branch had tight corners and a bridge that was not capable of tacking much weight. The lightweight (28 ton!) terrier class was ideal and it was here that 2655 lived on through nationalisation, becoming British Railways 32655. My good friend Simon wrote an excellent account on the Hayling Island branch for UK Heritage Hub that is reproduced on his blog (click here to read it). I strongly advise you to read this excellent account!
Stepney was purchased by the Bluebell Railway directly from British Railways in 1960 and was their first engine, which considering the size of the collection now, is quite incredible! So Stepney instantly became famous for being the first standard gauge steam locomotive to run on a preserved line in the UK. But it’s fame did not end there!
Arguably the biggest single reason for it’s fame is that it visited the Isle of Sodor. “Stepney The Bluebell Engine” was book 18 of the Rev W Awdry’s Railway Series and as such Stepney qualifies as one of Thomas the Tank Engine’s friends. Ever since then, Stepney has been a very popular locomotive at the Bluebell Railway. In fact the line has it’s own “Stepney Club” for children up to 8 years old! More recently in 2013, Stepney was one of the locomotive’s to haul the first Bluebell Railway train in preservation from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead.
Stepney is a favourite model of mine and a very regular runner here at locoyard. The Hornby model is not the best (click here for its’ review) but has plenty of character. At Locoyard, Stepney regularly get’s involved with special events, as can be seen from these pictures, although it’s elderly growling Dapol motor means that Stepney is occasionally told off by Mrs Locoyard for being a little noisy!
All in all, Stepney is a lovely locomotive and one of the stars of preservation. The real thing is in working order, wearing a lined black livery; although it is used sparingly so you’d be advised to check with the Bluebell Line if you hope to see it in steam. Thanks for reading folks 🙂