_ Southern Locomotives Ltd | Latest News

February 2024


On 14th December the overhauled boiler was lifted on to the frames of Sir Keith Park at Tyseley. Photo: Malcolm Garner

From the Chairman

We would like to thank all those who have supported us through 2023, without whose help we could not have possibly achieved so much. Over the years our shareholders have raised much of the money needed to restore eight locos, and when 80104 and Sir Keith Park are complete we will have overhauled five of them. If our support remains strong we will deliver on our remaining restorations and continue to do the 10-year overhauls as they become due.


34070 Manston arrived at on 30th November to take a share of the MHR Steam Illuminations trips. Photo: Andy Ford

We pick up the news from mid-November when the cranes arrived to lift Sir Fred's boiler, which went like a treat. However the same can't be said for all aspects of our operation, but with nine locomotives in the fleet there's always going to be one or more with problems. We're also at the mercy of the elements, and weather has played havoc with our Winter plans at Sellindge. We'll have to catch up when the days get longer.

34058 Sir Frederick Pile

The 130 ton crane arrived at Sellindge on the morning of 7th November. By midday it had lifted the boiler, balanced perfectly, at the first attempt and swung it across to place on the frame of sleepers in front of one of the electric units on site.


34058's boiler was lifted off the frames and lowered on to a bed of sleepers (excuse the pun). Photo: Simon Troy

Since then all the driving springs have been released and await collection for repair. With the springs weighing in at about three or four hundredweight and conducting the removal exercise sitting under the loco is no mean task. We are hopeful that Owen's Springs will deem them repairable although the cost of overhaul will be significant. To enable the lifting of the frames we will now have to drop the axleboxes - the middle two appeared to be jammed in the horn guides when unloading of the loco took place, but with experience from removing Brocklebank Line's, it shouldn't be too much of a drama.

We have removed the dragbox from Brocklebank Line which was actually built (by its previous owner) to Light Pacific dimensions, and all looks good for it to replace '58's which is so much scrap. It's been thoroughly stripped and with a coat of Rustoleum looks as good as new.


Removing the main springs is hard work. Allan has a hydraulic jack to lift the spring while it's disconnected from the frames. Photo: Simon Troy

The other major task to undertake before lifting the frames is to remove the pistons which are still in place. This requires the removal of the cotters which ensure that the piston rod remains in the crosshead. The outside ones were removed with much heat and hammering, but before the middle one succumbed the torrential rain on our last working party before Christmas stopped all activity.

34072 257 Squadron

One of our problem locos was the Squadron, which was scheduled to work Polar Express trains at Spa Valley. On the second day of PE operation a universal joint connecting the injector control handles to the injectors somehow dropped off the loco, and despite a search of the track in the darkness and rain it couldn't be found. This has never happened to any of our locos before, and it couldn't have happened at a worse time. However, thanks to some smart work we managed to get the complete set of injector controls from Sir Keith Park in case anything else went amiss. These went from Herston to Tunbridge Wells in a few hours and it was back in service by the Saturday, missing only one day of service.


34072 is hard at work on a Polar Express service on the Spa Valley Railway. Photo: Steve Lee

Just a few days later when the locomotive was at full pressure a mudhole door joint failed. It's not a long job to replace a joint but it can't be done when the boiler is hot, meaning a three delay before the job could start. As another joint looked suspect the Spa replaced all four. Then after one day's service a bogie spring fractured, another very rare event for us. Once again the jungle telegraph sprung into action and the parts were picked up from Swanage and transported to the Spa in a few hours, and duly fitted by their volunteers. Thanks all round. We were able to salvage the last four days but this trio of issues cost us substantial income.

257 Squadron will remain at the Spa Valley Railway until the middle or late May when it is planned to move to Swanage to participate in the proposed gala the first weekend of June. This is all in the planning stage at Swanage so we are awaiting confirmation that it will happen. However, providing that Sir Keith Park is completed in time this would be the best opportunity for us to have all four of our working Bulleids together at the same time.

34053 Sir Keith Park

After many months of frustrating delays Sidmouth's old boiler finally had its initial steam test on the 8th December. It had originally been planned for the NNR to then reinstate the superheater header and elements but we were advised somewhat late in the day that the header may have needed some repairs.


The new boiler for Sir Keith Park has been lifted from the lowloader, spun through 180 degrees, and is ready to be lowered on to the loco's frames. Photo: Malcolm Garner

So we immediately transferred the boiler to Tyseley, as with Sir Keith's arrival we had the opportunity of using its header which we knew was fine. The boiler was fitted into the frames immediately on arrival and we're pleased to report that there were no problems with the rear 'feet', which can be a problem unless they are set at precisely the correct angle to sit on a different set of frames. However, a delay occurred as the new ashpan locating pins were the wrong size. A new set had to be ordered in Birmingham which couldn't be manufactured until the new year. We're hoping for rapid progress culminating in a full steam test.


The superheater header will be refitted to SKP. It's a very heavy casting, and needs a hoist even to turn it over. Photo: Nick Thompson

The smokebox will soon be reunited with its new boiler following a hydraulic test of '53's original superheater header. This can be undertaken without a boiler inspector being present. As soon as this is done the header will be reinstated and the elements connected, making way for a full steam test. This will ensure that any steam leaks are made apparent before its return to Herston. All three expansion links have now been ground, a job we knew had to be done some time ago, so the motion should now be complete.


The smokebox of Sir Keith Park will be fitted to its new boiler. SLL volunteers descended on Tyseley to clean it and apply a coat of primer. Photo: Nick Thompson

Meanwhile our plans to rename the locomotive 303 Squadron for a year advance. On a visit to RAF Northholt, from which 303 flew in the Battle of Britain, we were kindly shown around the museum area in the Officers Mess by the son of one of 303's pilots who gave an interesting talk on the Squadron's exploits. Owing to other commitments by a delegation flying over from Poland, we will be holding the re-commissioning ceremony at Eridge on Sunday 1st September, a week earlier than anticipated. The nameplates are ordered and Richard Green is working on the crests.

34028 Eddystone

As usual Eddystone has behaved itself, and from photos all over Facebook appears to have hauled the majority of Polar Express services at Swanage. There is nothing else to report - not very exciting news for updates but excellent for the health of Southern Locomotives finances and workshop resources!


34028 was used on many of Swanage Railway's Polar Express trips. Photo: Debs Baker

34070 Manston

Since our last update, Manston has moved to the Mid Hants Railway where it will stay for several months. That railway was short of locos and Swanage Railway will recoup our hire fees, particularly welcome at a time when they are appealing for financial support.


We doubt whether Mr Bulleid had illuminated locomotives in mind when designing his Pacifics, but a Spam Can's profile is very suitable for such accessories. Photo: Andy Ford

This ever popular locomotive continues to impress and is a favourite for photographers in its weathered finish. Many have remarked on Manston's sharper beat than other three cylinder locos, and can be heard from published videos. Manston will be returned to Swanage by June but we hope there will be a few events on the Mid-Hants where Manston will be centre stage.


Work continues on the boiler at Tyseley, parts at Swanage, and cladding at Sellindge. Recent photographs show good progress though inevitably extra work has been found as the overhaul continues. The long job of building up the tube holes on the rear copper tubeplate is completed. The front tubeplate is now ready to be fitted, with tubing expected to start in February or March. Our volunteer working parties have helped the job along. A section has been cut out of the cab floor the damaged stretcher directly beneath it, which was temporarily repaired at Swanage. This can now be properly examined and appropriate action taken.


80104's new front tube plate which was fabricated at Tyseley is now ready to be fitted to the boiler. Photo: Nick Thompson

34010 Sidmouth

We will be visiting Tyseley to discuss various matters including Sir Keith's boiler overhaul which we will refer to as Sidmouth's from now on. The speed of work on this will de dependent on fund raising, but we're hopeful that with so many supporters of this particular locomotive wishing to see it back in steam, work will commence sooner rather than later.


Henceforward this boiler, which came off SKP will be referred to as Sidmouth's boiler. The next step is a preliminary inspection. It ran on SKP until the ticket expired and will need a new front tubesheet. Photo: Nick Thompson

Both the weather and our faulty compressor have meant a delay to the riveting work necessary on the frame extensions, along with the reinstatement of the new dragbox. With the compressor under repair now it will only be the weather which causes any further delays. There will be a small amount of touching up to do this Spring following its first coat of Rustoleum, but given the appalling conditions with tarpaulins literally disintegrating, the paintwork has stood up remarkably well, a testament to the care in the preparation of the surfaces. We don't intend to do a proper paint job on the frames until shortly before dispatch to Herston Works.

35025 Brocklebank Line

The weather has prevented any proper progress since the last update, with not a completely dry working day since then. However, one of the fabrication companies we've got to know are very keen on producing a new dragbox so we are awaiting a quote from them. We are also hoping to send the springs away for checking at the same time as Sir Fred's are dispatched. Given that the locomotive was being reassembled for operational use back in the early 2000s we assume that the springs were professionally overhauled then, so hopefully the 15 years of inactivity haven't caused too much damage. Visually they look absolutely fine but it will be good to get professional confirmation.


Roy, Hugh and Paul working on Brocklebank Line's frames. Photo: Simon Troy

The weather hasn't stopped Liam Treveil from the Spa with his grandfather Alan grinding 101 of the 190 rivets securing the front tubeplate as the first stage in removing it. It's a laborious job but will save a significant sum when it is eventually sent for overhaul. It would not be sensible to actually remove it completely prior to dispatch as it's an integral support for the barrel, rather let the boilersmiths take it out when we have the new one ready to go in.

75050 Norman

This locomotive has been conspicuous by its absence recently. The reason being that currently we have been unable to find anyone who can start the reassembly of the locomotive, and there's currently no room in Herston. Fortunately work has restarted on the boiler which we brought to Sellindge, but again the weather and compressor problems haven't helped matters. However, during November Lawrence Donaldson from the KESR restarted the overhaul and progress should be accelerated once the rain stops. All other components of the locomotive are kindly being stored on the East Lancs Railway.


When we first visited the Battle of Britain Museum at Hawkinge the airfield was still unspoilt and operational. Times have changed and there is now a housing estate with a large Lidl store on the site - the irony of the latter establishment being built where Hurricanes and Spitfires were based did not escape anyone!


The SLL Sellindge crew at the museum in November.

The Battle of Britain Museum has continued to expand, and as Owners of no less than four 'Battle of Britains' we thought it appropriate that we should have a presence within the Museum, to both advertise Southern Locomotives and to show our support. Dave Brocklehurst MBE, the Chairman, is very enthusiastic about the idea and to kick start our closer relationship we privately purchased from Procast a replica Hawkinge nameplate and presented it to Dave, and some of his volunteers, in November at the Museum.

Social Media, the Good, the Bad and the others

This website clocks up about 60 visits per day, mainly from the UK, with a fair sprinkling from further away mainly in anglophone countries. The Latest News page (this one!) is by far the most visited and the other pages are there for those who are looking for more details of our loco restoration projects and our organisation. We send an expanded version of the Latest News to our 800+ shareholders which goes into more detail of the work going on, the operation of the company and financial issues.

Our Facebook page acts like a gigantic fishing net, with a huge reach. Surprisingly the post which has attracted most views recently was not one with glamorous photos of locos in action, it was a simple photo of Sir Keith Park in Herston work, partly assembled. The accompanying text reprised our advertisement for a Fitter/Machinist position for Herston works. That reached the screens of 299,377 folk around the world. Several people commented that it was a marvellous job and they'd throw in their current employment if they lived in Dorset, we had interest from a chap in Tennesee and another from 'The Antipodes'. Fortunately sifting through the responses there were a handful of genuine interests which we are pursuing.

We're still inviting interest from anyone with skill and experience as a Fitter/Machinist to join the team at Herston working on our locos. If you're interested please drop an email to Bob Bevis at bob.bevis@southern-locomotives.co.uk

Photos and Videos

We've made two initiatives to improve the scope of photos and videos of our locos. Firstly to launch a Flickr group to which photographers can add their work, and secondly enhancements to our YouTube channel.


Flickr is a well established system to store and display, and also sell copies of photos. Our Flickr group can be found here.

Anyone can see the photos which you can find here.

If/when you're a member you can search for the "Southern Locomotives Ltd" from the home page, and you can join that group. There's no cost to open a basic Flickr account, which is all you need to posting and viewing photos. We hope many of you will join up and share your photos. Please pick some of your best photos, or those of special interest, and strictly related to SLL's fleet of locos.


We've had a YouTube video channel for some years, but it's not been added to very often, and we suspect most readers of our website did not know it exists.

The newly enhanced video channel can be found here.

You may also be interested in a documentary about 303 Squadron's creation and their role in the Battle of Britain here.

And finally


Have you ever wondered what Sellindge volunteers do when the rain won't stop? Well it got so bad before Christmas that they spent the day cleaning a GWR Prairie Tank. Whatever next?



November 2023


The classic Corfe Castle and steam loco view that's hard to beat. 34070 Manston heads for Swanage on 6th September. Photo: ANDREW P M WRIGHT

From the Chairman

A lot has happened since our September news update, and much has been accomplished at all our locations. We have news on the locos in our fleet, but we'll start with news of an event next year which will stand alongside the recommissioning of 257 Squadron and Sir Keith Park, both very memorable events which took place in 1990 and 2013 respectively.

Back in the 1990's we were much involved in raising money for the Battle of Britain Fighter Association as thanks for their participation in 257 Squadron's recommissioning at Folkestone Central Station on the 8th September 1990. Battle of Britain air crew representing over 20 Squadrons joined us for the ceremony and reception after. Many of these Squadrons were remembered by the Southern Region when naming their Battle of Britain class locomotives, but many were ruled out as a decision had been made that only Squadrons which were active on what was officially the last day of the battle, 31st October 1940, would be included.


The loco, then numbered 21C153, was named by Sir Keith Park at Brighton station on 19th September 1947.

All non-British squadrons were also excluded, mainly to appease Joseph Stalin! This meant that the most successful of all, 303 Squadron which consisted mainly of Polish with some Czech aircrew, was excluded. This also excluded men of those squadrons participating in Remembrance Day parades at the Cenotaph until 2005, when the British government made a formal apology to the Polish people.

Several years ago our long term Herston volunteer Mike Frackiewicz, suggested that one of our BB's should be renamed 303 Squadron, but only recently did our Director Peter Spowage come up with a plan to rename one of them 303 Squadron for a year in gratitude for what they achieved, some 84 years after the formation of the Squadron. It will be 34053 Sir Keith Park, who was Air Vice Marshall in control of 11 Group Fighter Command which will be changing nameplates. 303 Squadron, which flew Hurricanes, was under the direct control of Sir Keith at the time, so it's fitting that the locomotive will display their name. As Lord Dowding said at the time: "Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle of Britain would have been the same."


Sir Keith Park was recommissioned on 31st August 2013, when the nameplate was revealed by the New Zealand High Commissioner. Photo: Bob Sweet

On the 85th anniversary in September 2025 the original plates will be returned and the name of Sir Keith Park will again adorn 34053. We believe our supporters will agree that this is a very appropriate way of remembering Churchill's famous words: "Never was so much owed by so many to so few". The event will be held at Eridge on the Spa Valley, a location which will allow lower level flying than at Tunbridge Wells (hopefully a Hurricane!) and will be an easy location to reach from London as many of our guests will be travelling there by train. More information will be available our plans evolve.

Our staff have helped Graham over the past few months with the T3 tender, and then the locomotive itself when it ran hot just before its inaugural runs. The loco was blocking Sir Keith in the Works preventing its departure to Tyseley, so our staff were happy to help with its removal. Thanks go to our staff Bailey England, Chris Hardy and Ron Neal for all the hard work they put in along with the many volunteers who are so much part of our success. Sadly we have to report that we have lost Andy Crooks from Herston. He has been battling cancer for well over a year and was an integral and talented member and a really nice guy. We offer him and his family our very best wishes.

34053 Sir Keith Park

Sir Keith Park left Herston bound for Tyseley and the tender left the Spa Valley on 16th October arriving Swanage on the same day. The latter needs some maintenance and checking over as well as a repaint to match the rest of the locomotive when it leaves the Works in May. Much of the work related to the releasing of the smokebox has been completed prior to SKPs departure from Swanage and we are hopeful that the locomotive will be dismantled in short time. The Tyseley team will fix the original smokebox to SKP's new boiler and after the attachment of the original ashpans, which may be in need of some surgery, place it on the frames to make it safe for transportation. Most of the reconstruction work will be undertaken back at Herston.


Sir Keith Park left Herston for Tyseley on 16th October. Photo: Pete Pickering

The boiler has successfully passed its hydraulic test and awaits its steam test before the end of November. After a successful steam test the boiler will be transported from Weybourne to Tyseley where the second steam test will take place after the superheater header and elements have been fitted. There was a very late indication that the superheater header needed some repairs so it will probably be quicker to utilise Sir Keith's original if this is the case, and we'll repair the current one for Sidmouth.


All being well Sidmouth's boiler will be ready to leave Weybourne for Tyseley to be mated with Sir Keith Park. Photo: Stuart Clarke

Meanwhile at Herston work continues on putting the finishing touches to the cab and cladding by Dave Ensor and his team, with Ron Neal overhauling various valves, cleaning valve shafts, and regrinding and machining new glands and bearings. The cab is now ready bar the final lining out and numbering, the backhead cladding is complete as are the smoke deflectors and crinolines on to which the boiler cladding is fitted. All the lamps have been cleaned and painted and Geoff Reber is renewing the electrical conduits where necessary and checking the electrics in general. The turbo generator has been overhauled and fitted and work continues with the annealing of the copper pipes. Neville Crook completed all the brake gear prior to the locomotive leaving, removed the ashpan fittings, along with the myriad bolts securing the smokebox to the boiler to both speed up the boiler lift as well as saving revenue.


Sir Keith Park's cab has the windows fitted and gloss paint. It will be fitted when the loco arrives at Herston after the boiler has been lifted on at Tyseley. Photo: Dave Ensor

34070 Manston

Following a highly successful visit to the Bluebell Railway over the weekend of 14th October, Manston is now safely back at Swanage. There were three days of public services followed by a photographers special on the Monday. The majority thought Graham Froud's idea of letting it appear weathered was inspired.


34070 Manston makes a good start from Horsted Keynes. Photo: Ian Silvester

34028 Eddystone

Once again, there is absolutely nothing to report and Swanage's favourite Light Pacific continues to give sterling service.


No photos of Eddystone in action have come our way recently, and it was tucked away in the sidings on 5th September when the Webmaster was in town, ostensibly for the Gig Rowing regatta. However Manston seemed to be attracting lots of attention. Photo: Nick Thompson

34072 257 Squadron


Some people have waited a long time to see 34072 with a high-sided tender, if only for a few weeks. The loco ran with such a tender to the end of its BR service. Photo: Mark Battersby

Following the derailment of 257's tender on the East Lancs Railway, their CME has reported that the locomotive was blameless and that the derailment occurred for other reasons. Once this was established City of Well's was reunited with '92's tender, which was very freshly back in service, and the two as-built Bulleids ran together. Prior to leaving the ELR '72 has had a boiler washout and maintenance, so that on transfer back to the Spa in the first week of November, it will be ready for Polar Express duties. It is likely that apart from one or two visits to galas (hopefully including Swanage) 257 will remain at Tunbridge Wells in 2024.


34072 ran with 34092 City of Wells before leaving the East Lancs Railway. Here their train is entering Bury Bolton Street station. 92 is somewhere in the rain and steam. Photo: James Raw


Meanwhile at Sellindge the long job of cleaning and putting a coat of primer on the boiler cladding continues. However some pieces have been repaired many times already that we're arranging for replacements to be manufactured. At Tyseley the slow job of decreasing the size of the holes on the copper firebox tubeplate is nearly complete as is the installation of the inner firebox sheets. Bob Bevis and Graham Froud are visiting in early November to discuss other tasks to be completed before the engine returns to Herston. Some of these can be undertaken by our volunteers, some of whom live not too far from Brum. One of the stretchers under the cab definitely needs attention and a couple of the brake hangers are still attached to the locomotive and need to be removed. There are bound to be other jobs which can be undertaken by our team which will speed the overhaul process.

34058 34028

We've used our CNC lathe to make new pins for the brake linkage, adding grease nipples to reduce the wear that these pins suffer in use. Photo: Neville Crook

Most parts of 80104's cladding can be overhauled and returned to service. Some are beyond repair and need to be replaced. Photo: Simon Troy

34010 Sidmouth, 34058 Sir Frederick Pile and 35025 Brocklebank Line at Sellindge

With volunteer numbers exceeding 20 on some occasions we have been able to work on several projects at the same time. 34058's cab and its support frame have now been removed and the cab prepared for transportation to Herston for overhaul. The boiler had been jacked up whilst at Bitton 20 or 30 years ago when a lot of the securing bolts had been replaced but these have now all been removed, ready for lifting with the crane booked for the 7th November.


From Mike Price (L) to Martin Stables (R) the Sellindge Team form up in front of their latest loco. Photo: Simon Troy

On the down side the Mid Hants Railway workshops aren't in a position to accept the contract to overhaul the boiler, so we are making enquiries to find an alternative organisation to undertake the task. We appreciated that the management at Ropley were frank about this before we got too far down the road. However, there may be an opportunity of using Ropley's workshop skills for another project.



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