SEmG

Maunsell N class 2-6-0

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N Class Nº820, bearing the headboard "Race Special, 27" seen with an eight car train of SECR Crimson Lake liveried Pullmans near Kingswood in 1920.

photograph: Steve Roffey collection

 
The N class was designed by Richard Maunsell, CME of the SECR, to be a modern powerful mixed traffic locomotive to replace the regular double heading undertaken by smaller and older loco classes. Design work started in 1914 but was delayed by the Great War. The first prototype, number 810, did not emerge from Ashford until July 1917. Southern fans need to be uncomfortably aware that this design was heavily influenced by GWR thinking, due to the recruitment by the SECR of Harry Holcroft from Swindon.
 
816 NºA816 is seen fitted with a new funnel during early SR days.

a digitally restored photograph from the David Lord collection

 
In extended trials the design proved to be so successful that following abortive attempts by the Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers to produce standard loco classes for use by all British railway companies, the government adopted the standards idea and selected the type to be produced by the former munitions factory at the Woolwich Arsenal as an alternative to closing the factory once it's wartime function was no longer required.
 
Southern engine NºA862 is pictured on shed at Nine Elms.

a digitally restored photograph from the David Lord collection

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Ashford works themselves did not move quickly producing the class, with only 15 locos emerging (up to 825) until December 1923 - number 822, was built as the prototype three cylindered version to be known as the N1 class.

Meanwhile the Woolwich Arsenal produced kits of parts, however after the government abandoned its attempt to nationalise the railways there were few takers (the nationalised railway was due to receive 100 of the class). Those companies which did buy the "kits" were the G.S.& W.R. of Ireland (Maunsell's native railway) , the Metropolitan Railway, and the newly formed Southern Railway which seized the opportunity to pick up the parts for 50 engines at a bargain price. These 50 were assembled at Ashford, were numbered A826 to A875 in the Southern list, and this sub-class of the Ns was nicknamed by their footplatemen "Woolworths" (a contortion of Woolwich). NºA866 was put on display at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley from May to November 1925, as Southern Railway Nº866.

 
1402 A nice shot of olive green liveried Nº1402 on Bournemouth shed in 1933.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

 
This photograph of Nº1850 in Eastleigh paint shop was taken in February 1934 and shows the locomotive fitted with Marshall valve gear and indicator shelters. The experiment with the Marshall valve gear was quite short-lived as although successful at slow speeds it "knocked" when near 50-55 m.p.h and, ideed, disintegrated when at speed near Woking.
The Walschaerts valve gear was replaced at Brighton and the loco returned to traffic in "normal" guise on 11th April 1934.

photograph: Steve Roffey collection

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The first 65 of the class were built with the standard SECR right hand drive, however a further 15 engines numbered 1400 to 1414 were built between 1932 and 1934, with U1 Chimneys and domes (U1 domes were lower), 4000 gallon tenders with a step in their footplate, and some of this batch had the by-then Southern standard left hand drive (note that in written accounts the number of locos which received left hand drive differs between authors, so as always work from a good photograph if you want an accurate model).
31411 N class Nº31411 at Chichester, 6th July 1958, on a Portsmouth - Victoria van train, one of several which then ran along the coast en-route to London. In those days the stop at Chichester was mainly to load GPO parcels bags and flowers - the latter was a huge traffic then.

photograph by Trevor Tupper

   
Nº31841 pauses at Braunton on 6th August 1960.

photograph by John Bradbeer

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This page was last updated 13 July 2010

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