Bulleid "Leader" Class 0-6-6-0T

It is probably no exaggeration to say that Bulleid's "Leader" Class locomotive was probably the most controversial class ever built, here or abroad. One thing that is certain is that everyone has a view, be it favourable or unfavourable, on this class that, at best, can only be labelled as a brave experiment in pushing forward the case for steam during its dying years.
36001 A photograph of 36001, the only "Leader" to have been finished, with a test train near Lewes. No date is given for the photograph, but it was presumably taken during late 1949 as this appeared in the January 1950 issue of The Railway Magazine. Note the fireman making the most of an opportunity for some fresh air!

photograph reproduced by permission of The Railway Magazine.
No photographer's name given.

The origins of the "Leader" go back to a meeting in December 1944 to consider the Southern Railway's locomotive building programme. Whilst there was no disagreement on the proposal to build 25 more light pacific locomotives Bulleid suggested a further 25 of the Q1 Class (for which the materials were ordered and available) whereas the Traffic Manager wanted tank engines. He argued that the Q1s were not suitable for regular tender-first running as " the rear lookout on the driver's side does not give a sufficiently wide range of vision, and the absence of a lookout on the fireman's side is a serious drawback, having regard to the fact that it is necessary for the fireman to assist in looking for signals when not otherwise necessarily engaged". He also questioned whether they were suitable for maintaining the necessary speeds when running tender first and with a light load of coal and water. Bulleid agreed and, on 4th January 1945, their joint recommendation to the General Manager, Missenden, was for:
"25 Passenger Tank Engines (to be built from material ordered for the 25 Q1 Class)
10 Shunters
25 "West Country" Passenger Tender Engines (utilising for the tenders the material ordered for the 25 Q1 Class)"
Missenden's reply, however, was that they should build 25 Mixed Traffic, 25 Freight and 10 Shunting engines, which left the Q1 material to be used as originally intended.
One of the bogies for Leader 36002, photographed in Brighton works during April 1949.

photograph: Mike Morant collection.

Meanwhile exploratory work was going on in the CME's department for adapting the Q1 to a tank engine, first as an 0-6-2, then as an 0-6-4, which, being about twice as powerful as an M7 Class tank, would have found great favour. But Bulleid apparently found them "stodgy and boring" and was more interested in a compact locomotive on two power bogies, a proposal he had made previously and now returned to. He was, however, persuaded against the idea and instead proceeded with experiments with duplicating the driver's controls of the Q1 so that the driver could operate from the fireman's side when running in reverse gear. NºC36 was used, and coupled to a light pacific tender made a number of high speed runs between Ashford and Maidstone, which resulted in a proposed "double-fronted" version of the Q1. The Running Department turned it down flat! Next came proposals for a 2-6-2T and a 2-6-4T, followed by a 4-6-4T, all using the Q1 boiler. This, however, only led to the double bogie idea again with all twelve wheels driven (based on an idea Gresley had looked at in 1928 for a multi-cylinder, geared locomotive) as it would have far superior adhesion. A sleeve-valve engine was proposed as it should reduce weight whilst, at the same time, increase efficiency. These ideas were eventually put to one side again and attention reverted to a 4-6-4T design with a 350psi boiler.
36003 Partly-built "Leader" Nº3, 36003 being moved around outside Brighton.

This photograph of the "Leader" was posted to the newsgroup and is believed to be in the public domain. If anyone knows otherwise then please contact us.

The same loco, viewed from the other end.

This photograph of the "Leader" was posted to the newsgroup and is believed to be in the public domain. If anyone knows otherwise then please contact us.

Come 1946 a year had passed since the agreement to build more locomotives, but still nothing had been decided for the 25 tank engines. The Traffic Department was demanding a new tank engine of considerable more power than the M7 Class tanks whilst the Government could not make up its mind on the question of coal or oil! Whilst the main opponent to the double-bogie proposal was absent, Bulleid pressed ahead and produced a drawing for an 0-4-4-0 in February 1946, but the projected weight was found to be far too great at about 20 tons per axle. Bulleid felt that with a different boiler and six wheeled bogies the weight problem could be cured and he declared the project, called the Type CC locomotive, to be the next steam project. The first "feasible" design was produced in April 1946 looking very much like a rigid light pacific with the locomotive and tender all one piece. Bulleid wrote to Missenden in July 1946 advising him that the proposed new locomotive would meet the Traffic Manager and Civil Engineers' requirements, would have a top speed of 90mph, would work any train that a Q1 or light pacific could work, could work 80 miles before requiring water and 150 miles without taking coal and would run over all the Southern Railway routes with the exception of just eight lines. Expected cost for a batch of 25 engines was forecast to be £17,000 each, whereas to build a one-off prototype would be in the region of £25,000. A meeting was held on 4th September 1946 to discuss the "Leading Class. Shunting Locomotive C.C. Type", for which a new drawing was produced, but still of a design reminiscent of a light pacific incorporating a tender in the body of the locomotive. No decision was taken because, wisely, a case was made that to commit to more than five of the new engines at that stage would have been foolhardy in that "They contain so many novel features that they are certain to have some initial troubles". Wise foresight indeed! However, the following day Bulleid was given permission to proceed with the construction of five engines to the latest drawing. The order was placed with Brighton works on 11th September 1946. The Traffic Manager, Richards, justified the decision in a letter to Missenden the following day on the basis that the most powerful passenger tank engines on the Western Section were the M7s, that they were out of date, inefficient and prevented any improvment on the services they operated and, indeed, had already been condemned to be withdrawn as early as 1950. 60 new tank engines of either steam or diesel would be required in addition to the 25 already proposed, and that the building of the first five will be a guide as to the construction of the remaining twenty.

This diagram of the "Leader" was posted to the newsgroup and is believed to be in the public domain. If anyone knows otherwise then please contact us.

Apart from the first and second, which are copyright, the photographs on this page are understood to be in the public domain

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This page was amended 21 May 2007

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