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Doesn’t it seem like a crime that the only UK steam locomotive to bear the word ‘steam’ in its name hasn’t made steam in over 50 years?  This is something the General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society plan to change. Launched in January 2016 the society has gone from strength to strength and purchased the Class 8P locomotive 35011 General Steam Navigation in July 2016.

The society aims to restore the Merchant Navy to her original as built condition complete with air smooth casing and Bulleids unique chain driven valve gear. Retro-converting a Merchant Navy has long been debated since the days of Barry Scrap Yard with 11 of the 30 members of the class surviving the cutters torch. General Steam Navigation went to Barry in June 1966 with most of her running gear missing and critically no crank axle. This has put GSN in a rather unique position compared to her sisters as the cost of restoring her to either rebuilt or original condition are fairly similar.

"Ever since the building of the 'Merchant Navy' Pacifics by the Southern Railway in 1941, controversy has raged around them in one form or another. In a number of ways they were the running shed fitter's nightmare, while the boilersmiths and boiler washers needed to acquire new skills and techniques related to steel boilers and fireboxes. Looking at them from a fireman's angle they were magnificent, with the Bulleid boiler being one of the most prolific steam raisers ever to grace British locomotive frames. As a fireman at Nine Elms during the 1940s, I never did have a moment's anxiety in producing steam. As a driver, the feeling of power behind the regulator had to be experienced to be believed, while the riding qualities were excellent, allied to extra ordinarily free running. Apart from the exhaust flopping down, and obscuring the view ahead, especially in winter when the wind was on the wrong quarter, the locomotives were an engineman's delight. Controversial machines they may have been, but they would pull a train in no uncertain manner, an I deem it a privilege to have been associated with them during the whole of their working life." 


Bert Hooker 

Member of the Heritage Railway Association and Bulleid Pacific Locomotive Association

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