Born in the USA

2014 Kent and East Sussex Railway 40th Anniversary Gala Tenterden Town USA Class Southern Dock-Tank 65Moving home continues for this author, but here’s another blog post looking at a star of the Kent and East Sussex Railway’s gala (click here for more), a USA dock tank.

Charismatic and varied, the fleet of light steam engines working on the Kent and east Sussex railway gala had two locomotives that could be regarded as “southern” in origin and two built overseas.  USA tank no 65 ticked both of these boxes.

2014 Kent and East Sussex Railway 40th Anniversary Gala Tenterden Town USA Class Southern Dock-Tank 65

Built in Pennyslvannia 1943 to help serve the Allied invasion of occupied France in World War 2, they have a short 10 foot wheel base making them very manoeuvrable and their easily accessible outside cylinders simplified maintenance.  They were ideal powerful wartime shunting machines for the United States Army Transportation Corps in the UK and later Europe.

At the end of the war in 1945, many of the ex-LSWR B4 class tank engines working Southampton docks required brand new boilers, but the cost of these boilers to be built had almost doubled from pre-war prices.  The ex-LBSCR E1 tanks were also life-expired and in need of replacement.  The Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway therefore looked elsewhere for replacements.  Bulleid decided against the British Austerity tank engines (that became the LNER J94 class) due to their longer wheelbase, poor condition and internal cylinders.  The USA tank looked very different to British built steam engines, but this was no issue for Bulleid whose own steam engine designs were far from conventional looking!

2014 Kent and East Sussex Railway 40th Anniversary Gala Tenterden Town USA Class Southern Dock-Tank 65

The 13 locomotives (plus one for spares) purchased by the Southern Railway were introduced in 1947, after being modified for use in the UK.  The US type pull-out regulator was replaced by a British version, the cabs modified, vacuum injectors, sliding cab windows, lamp irons added and cylinder cocks replaced.  Other modifications included new roof-top ventilators and an extended coal bunker.

In service they were not especially popular with crews, but excellent performers.  Built for wartime, their steel fireboxes did not last long on some examples, leading to early retirements.  Early retired locomotives were superseded by E1 class locomotives (the very type the USA tank’s were supposed to replace!)  However, all steam engines in the docks were eventually replaced by class 07 diesel shunters.

2014 Kent and East Sussex Railway 40th Anniversary Gala Tenterden Town USA Class Southern Dock-Tank 65

Formally named Maunsell by the K&ESR, this is one of two survivors of the class based on the heritage line, the other (Southern no 70 named Wainwright) is under overhaul.  The Bluebell Railway and Keighley and Worth Valley Railway also have examples of the class purchased by the Southern Railway.  Other examples of the type can also be found, although these are not “British” USA tanks!

Model Rail magazine are exclusively producing a model of this class (click here for more), that will, like the real thing, add something a little different to a British locomotive fleet.

Thanks for reading folks 🙂

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