Southern Locomotives Ltd History

Southern Locomotives Ltd is a company that restores, maintains and operates steam locomotives. We do not aim to make a profit; any surplus is ploughed back into the locomotives that we own.

We are a successful organisation that has, with its predecessors over the past 20 years, restored seven locomotives, including a Merchant Navy Class locomotive, 35027 Port Line, which many experts considered to be unrestorable. Port Line was restored from scrapyard condition in five years, a record time for a Barry wreck. We followed that by restoring an unrebuilt Battle of Britain Class locomotive, 34072 257 Squadron, in two years.

Two standard tank locomotives followed; 80104 was completed in 1997 and 80078 was finished in 1999. 34028 Eddystone, a rebuilt West Country class locomotive, was completed in October 2003, followed by 34070 Manston in September 2008. Our most recent restoration was 34053 Sir Keith Park which entered service in August 2012.

34070 Manston   34070 Manston

34070 Manston undergoing restoration in Herston Works, Swanage

The newly restored 34070 Manston double heading with 34028 Eddystone

In 2005, with the prospect of still having to restore three further Bulleid Pacifics and overhauling 257 Squadron, it was decided to sell Port Line. It was impossible to envisage having the money, time or labour for its overhaul, and it was too big to operate on most private railways. We are happy that its new owner plans to operate it on the Main Line.

In 2012 we sold 80078 to a private owner with the resources to fund the major overhaul it needed. The funds raised let us face the prospect of overhauling 257 Squadron, Eddystone and 80104 in the next few years with a degree of confidence.

In 2015 we committed to the restoration of 34010 Sidmouth. This project will take 4 - 5 years, and costs a large six-figure sum, to which we would value your support.

Origins

The history of Southern Locomotives Ltd is inextricably linked with the history of the restorations of Port Line and 257 Squadron. Most of the restoration work on Port Line was carried out in the open air at Blunsdon but it became obvious that if we were to finish the locomotive in a reasonable time some covered accommodation would be needed. By a stroke of good fortune in 1987 we were offered a place in the redundant Swindon Works Weighbridge by the new owners, Tarmac Properties Ltd. By this time we had already purchased 257 Squadron from Barry, (for a rainy day once Port Line had been completed), and Autumn 1987 saw the nearly complete Port Line and the rusting hulk that was 257 Squadron moved to Swindon Works.

35027 Port Line   34072 257 Squadron

35027 Port Line 35027 Port Line at Eastleigh Works open day in September 1988
Photo: © P. Aldersey

34072 257 Squadron between Grosmont and Goathland on the North York Moors Railway in 1991

The following Easter a group of Tarmac directors who were visiting the site were shown the virtually complete Port Line. One of them inquired about the rusting hulk in the corner of the yard and was somewhat surprised to hear that Port Line had been in the same state when it was purchased. The outcome of this chance meeting was an offer by Tarmac of an interest free loan to enable us to restore 257 Squadron in 2 years in order for it to take part in the Battle of Britain celebrations in September 1990.

Mergers

In order to safeguard the loan we were required to form a limited company. In the event we formed three limited companies, one for each of our locomotives; we had purchased BR Standard Tank No. 80104 from the Swanage Railway by this time.

A number of other restoration projects have joined Southern Locomotives over the last few years. These include the Southern Pacific Rescue Group, owners of 34028 Eddystone, the Southern Steam Trust, owners of 80078 and the Manston Locomotive Project.

34028 Eddystone   34028 Eddystone

Eddystone on the scrap line at Eastleigh Works

Eddystone after restoration at Swanage

Once the loan had been repaid to Tarmac it was decided to ease the administrative burden and to merge the various companies to form a single company, Southern Locomotives Ltd.

The Company Expands

During 1994 and 1995 discussions were held with the Southern Pacific Rescue Group who were restoring West Country class, No 34028 Eddystone, at Sellindge in Kent. The SPRG agreed to become part of Southern Locomotives in 1995. The same year saw two other restoration projects also becoming part of Southern Locomotives, these being BR Standard Tank, No. 80078 and Merchant Navy Class, No. 35022 Holland America Line.

The Company, (sponsored by the owner of WD Austerity 75050 which had already come into SLL Ownership), provided the funds, with a colleague at the Midland Railway Centre, to purchase 34010 Sidmouth from the North York Moors Railway for long term restoration. At the same time the owners of 34070 Manston decided to join our organisation to quicken the restoration process.

34028 Eddystone   34028 Eddystone

34053 Sir Keith Park passing Vauxhall with a Waterloo to Basingstoke in May 1964
Photo: © Mike Esau

34010 Sidmouth passes Fleet with a Bournemouth train in July 1964
Photo: © David Idle

The most recent acquisition was another Bulleid Pacific, 34053 Sir Keith Park, originally intended as a source of spares but thanks to the generosity of a shareholder and the importance of the role of Sir Keith Park in the Battle of Britain, this locomotive became a restoration project in its own right.

Having sold 35027 Port Line along with sister locomotive 35022 Holland America Line to Jeremy Hosking, we now own seven locomotives, six of which have been restored. In 2015 we started the restoration of our final loco, 34010 Sidmouth. The focus of work is now at the works in Herston, near Swanage.

The Shareholder Scheme

The restorations have been financed primarily by share capital and Port Line was one of the first groups to finance the restoration of a locomotive by issuing shares. The scheme allowed for shares to be purchased by monthly payments as well as by a single payment.

The shareholder scheme also had the welcome bonus in that it produced a large number of willing volunteers who turned up on site regularly to provide the labour needed for locomotive restoration.

80104 Swanage   34072 257 Squadron

BR standard 4MT Tank 80104 at work on the Swanage Railway

34072 257 Squadron and 34070 Manston in Herston Works

There are around 700 shareholders. It is company policy to permit the buyer to nominate which locomotive the funds of each share is associated with. Over two million pounds has been raised in this way.

The shareholders are all part owners of the locomotives and we have ensured that whenever possible any shareholder is able ride on the footplate of their locomotive. We have found that all the preserved railways that we have been involved with have co-operated fully with this and footplate crews have always made their visitors welcome.