I was happy on Sunday to catch the Bluebell Line’s S15 class 847 in action. It had been many years since I had seen it in action before and it was as impressive as I remembered it! The S15 class is a classic British two cylinder 4-6-0 design with its origins in pre-grouping times. The first twenty S15’s appeared in 1920 under Chief Mechanical Engineer Robert Urie. Built to haul heavy freight, more of the class were built to a modified specification under Richard Maunsell for the Southern Railway.
The S15 class were very similar to their Passenger Express cousins, the N15 class (later known as the Kind Arthur class.) They shared many common parts, including the boiler, something that has helped the class in preservation (click here to read more.) In some respects they can be regarded as even more successful than the more glamorous King Arthur class, as they lasted longer into British Railways days. The final withdrawal was in 1966, four years after the last King Arthur class.
The Bluebell Railway’s 847 (owned by the Maunsell Locomotive Society) was the last of its class to be built and was completed in December 1936. It therefore was not a LSWR machine and built under Maunsell in the final of the three batches built. It is one of seven survivors pf the class, a rather incredible number. However it is the only one that is currently operational as this post goes to press. The North York Moors Railway have two, one in storage (830) and the other (825) owned by the Essex Locomotive Society undergoing overhaul. The Watercress Line is home to three members of the class all undergoing restoration or overhaul. 828 is owned by the Eastleigh Preservation Society whereas 499 and 506 are both owned by the Urie Locomotive Society.
Hornby are currently developing a 00 scale model of this popular class that will find a home in many Southern region layouts. They may even find a home on Great Western Railway layouts and not just those with a Southern junction… In 1942 numbers 496-9 were loaned to the GWR, something that demonstrates that even the fiercest of railway rivalries were put to one side during the second world war! On that bombshell, I bid you goodnight!