Full Steam Ahead for Canadian Pacific and the MHR

Martin Curtis

(C) Martin Curtis

Today the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that the Mid Hants Railways “Canadian Pacific – engineering a future from the past” bid has been successful in its application for funding. The project to overhaul the railway’s flagship steam engine Merchant Navy class No. 35005 ‘Canadian Pacific’ and restore two wooden framed Bulleid carriages will provide employment for 11 new members of staff, including eight technical people; six of whom will be apprentices with a two-year period of training. The scheme also provides work experience opportunities for local unemployed youngsters and engineering students at Eastleigh, plus a range of other community outreach activities, education and information benefits for the Watercress Line’s thousands of visitors.

Following our recent high profile cosmetic restoration of the Winston Churchill steam engine for the National Railway Museum, we have been awarded a large Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to restore our own flagship engine, Canadian Pacific.

We bought the Southern Railway Merchant Navy Class No.35005 ‘Canadian Pacific’ locomotive in 2006 and it ran on the railway until 2008 when its statutory overhaul was due. All of these giants of British engineering require an overhaul every 10 years to keep them safely in steam. At 74 years old this 95 ton engine can now be completely stripped down and rebuilt by our growing team of skilled engineers and apprentices.

The three year restoration project has been awarded £895,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the total cost of £1.5m. The remainder of the project’s costs will be met through fundraising and donations to the Mid Hants Railway Preservation Society, the charity behind the Watercress Line. The project also involves the restoration of two wooden framed coaches designed by the same Southern Railways engineer, Oliver Bulleid.

Once restored to their former glory the locomotive and coaches will become the focal point of our activities. Managing Director Colin Chambers said: “We are extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting this project and the aims of the Mid Hants Railway. We look forward to sharing progress of the restoration process itself and it will be fantastic to have this beautiful southern locomotive back in steam and at the heart of the railway.”

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: “We’re really pleased to be supporting this project that provides an excellent opportunity to secure the long-term future of Hampshire’s railway heritage. The exciting plans to restore the ‘Canadian Pacific’ and Bulleid coaches to their former glory will help conserve this important heritage for generations to come, and through the enhanced visitor experience and extensive volunteering and training opportunities, more people will be able to learn about the social, political and economic significance of our historic railways.”

Canadian Pacific was originally built just a few miles away from the Watercress Line in the railway town of Eastleigh in 1941 and, in a neat turn of events, this is where the locomotive’s restoration will begin. Eastleigh Works have kindly rented out part of the building where the 30 Merchant Navy Class engines were originally built so that the project team has space to strip down and rebuild her. Component parts will be brought back to life at our own extensive engineering facilities at its Ropley site, which are on view to visitors.

The project has a huge community focus for the railway and the town of Eastleigh as we pull together the story of the builders, drivers and passengers of the 1940’s and 50’s steam era. Local memories of that time are actively being sought by us to bring the story to life. People will be able to closely follow the restoration process through our website and social media, with regular blogs and updates as it progresses.

You can follow the Canadian Pacfic Project – “Engineering a future from the past” here 

If you would like to get involved as a volunteer or you would like to share your memories with the Watercress Line, please email canpac@watercressline.co.uk


As a volunteer on this project you can understand that I am delighted with the result and wish to congratulate David Snow and his team for putting together a brilliant grant application. Its safe to say that I speak for the CanPac team at Eastleigh when I thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support and we can’t wait to see our railways flagship locomotive back in action hauling some lovely Bulleid coaches.

Thanks for reading


Don’t Forget to check out the Brookes Castle – Volunteer Diary to catch up on previous posts about my experiences working on Canadian Pacific.


2 thoughts on “Full Steam Ahead for Canadian Pacific and the MHR

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