This is the last blog post looking at the stars of the Watercress Line Spring Steam Gala 2014 and the third product of Richard Maunsell (the other two being 850 Lord Nelson and U class 31806). As with Lord Nelson, this locomotive is a member of the National Collection and preserved in the vibrant Malachite Green of the Southern Railway.
Officially designated class V; this class soon became known as the schools class as each locomotive were named after famous private schools. The first members of the class were built in 1930 and named after schools in the Southern region, however by the time 925 was completed in 1934 they had run out of names of public school’s in the Southern region – hence being named Cheltenham.
The schools class were effectively cut-down version’s of the powerful Lord Nelson class and were built to handle heavy passenger traffic on the heavily restricted Tonbridge to Hastings line. Unlike the Lord Nelson class it was a 4-4-0, had three cylinders and an N15 (King Arthur) class firebox (see picture below for comparison). Not having the Belpaire firebox of the Lord Nelson class helped it reduce the axle load for working the Hastings Line and also gave it more elegant lines.
Although a cut-down locomotive, the schools class are not short on power – they were the most powerful 4-4-0 design ever produced in Europe. Classified 5P by British Railways, they were known to be capable of hauling 400 ton express trains. The schools class are regarded as Richard Maunsell’s finest steam locomotive class and were mainly liked by their crews, although their high tractive effort and low weight meant they required very careful handling to avoid wheel slippage.
As with all members of the class, 925 was built in Eastleigh and was part of the second batch of 20 locomotives. The class started life without smoke deflectors, but all were fitted with them eventually. Originally painted olive green, 925 was repainted in Bulleid’s malachite green (as preserved). Some members of the class were fitted with Bulleid’s lemaitre multiple jet blastpipes and chimneys but this had little affect on the locomotive’s already good performance, so few were modified in this way.
At nationalisation, Cheltenham was based in Dover and was renumbered 30925. Withdrawn in 1962, fortunately Cheltenham was saved and became a member of the National Collection. In 2010, 925 was moved to Eastleigh for restoration to working order by the Watercress Line and was completed in 2012.
As mentioned earlier, the first members of the class were named after schools in the Southern region, but later ones such as Cheltenham were named after schools in other areas. For this reason, several members of the class never had “official” naming ceremonies in their namesake towns. However, Cheltenham is an exception to this rule, as in 2013, it visited the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway and at long last had it’s official ceremony!