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Wainwright H class 0-4-4T

Upon formation of the Southern Railway, the locomotives of the class received the standard Southern passenger locomotive livery of a shade of olive green with lining, and had 1000 added to their numbers. With the spread of suburban electrification during the 1920s and 1930s, many of the usual duties for 'H' class tanks disappeared, but many were assigned to more rural routes on the South Eastern section of the SR and also drafted on to the former Brighton section. During WWII two of the class were drafted to the South Western section and even the LMS borrowed three for use in Scotland.

Two of the class were withdrawn during WWII as a result of badly cracked frames, when it was more useful to use the components as spares for the rest of the class, rather than repair them. However the remaining 64 of the class were taken into British Railway stock, once again renumbered with 30000 added to their numbers. All but four of them received the BR standard lined black livery, used for light passenger locomotives. With the electrification of Kent Coast lines in the 1959 and 1962, together with the loss of most of the branch lines both on the South Eastern and Central sections of BR(S) in the 1950s and 1960s, the need for these tank locomotives disappeared, especially as the area was well served by now with numbers of LMS designed and BR standard tank locomotives. A few withdrawals had taken place in 1951 and 1953 but mass withdrawals started in 1959 and within a few years all had gone.

But not quite. Nº31263, formerly Nº263, built in 1905, had been working the Three Bridges to East Grinstead line right up to its closure in January 1964. A group of preservationists formed the H Class Trust and purchased the locomotive from British Railways. The locomotive was located at Robertsbridge, initially, then moved to the SE Steam Centre at Ashford. But in 1975 it was relocated to the Bluebell Railway - click here for a picture - where it has continued in use over the years, although at the time of writing it is out of use awaiting overhaul.

January sunlight captures this scene at Sharnal Street on the Allhallows branch to perfection on 9th January 1960. Nº31517 is in push mode and red liveried pre-grouping coach S4758S is the one vehicle of the P-P set 733 visible.

photograph: C. J. Gammell/Mike Morant collection

31543 Nº31543 at Horsmonden with the 8:20 a.m. Hawkhurst to Paddock Wood service on 21st May 1961.

photograph: A. E. Durrant/Mike Morant collection

Nº31278 at Edenbridge on 9th September 1961, also with the 8:20 a.m. Hawkhurst to Paddock Wood service.

photograph:A. E. Durrant/Mike Morant collection

31263 Nº31263, the sole remaining member of the class, is seen here on 15th April 1963 - there being less than a year before the Three Bridges to East Grinstead line, on which it spent its last days, was closed.

photograph by Alan Robinson

Another view of Nº31263 at Three Bridges on 15th April 1963.

photograph by Alan Robinson

31263 Nº31263 arriving at Rowfant on a Three Bridges-bound service.

photograph by Keith Harwood

Nº31263 on shed at Tunbridge Wells West in August 1963.

photograph by John Bradbeer

31263 Another view of Nº31263 on shed at Tunbridge Wells West with Nº31551 behind.

photograph by John Bradbeer

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This page was last updated 24 April 2011

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