P Class 0-6-0T

1556 Nº1556 off Southern metals circa 1938 and working on the Kent & East Sussex line. The coach is 45' brake composite KESR Nº3, ex-SR Nº6413 (formerly LSWR) acquired by the KESR in 1932.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

The eight member P class of small six-coupled tanks were built by Ashford Works between February 1909 and July 1910 and were designed for working light branch and push-pull services, replacing the underpowered steam railmotors that had been purchased in 1905 & 1906 for lightly loaded branch lines. They proved only slightly more successful than the railmotors but did become useful engines on other duties as shed pilots and carriage shunters.

Harry Wainwright had been impressed by the LBSCR A1x class Terriers, then being transferred from London suburban service to branchline use. Unfortunately in an effort to keep building costs down, several dimensions were scaled down (e.g. cylinder stroke and bore both reduced by 2 inches) and these economies resulted in a locomotive with only 73% of a Terrier's tractive effort. All of the class were re-allocated to light shunting or shed pilots by 1913. Nº27 and Nº753 were shipped to France during World War I and spent a year and a half shunting at Boulogne from April 1915.

Nº31555 seen here looking repslendent in early British Railways livery.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

31325 Nº31325 looking decidedly grubby in the second incarnation of the BR livery. The B4 behind the 'P' is hiding its number from us, which begins 3008.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Nº31323 on Dover shed with some interesting stock, 8 August 1958. The shed and stock have long since passed on but the P is still with us as the Bluebell Railway's Nº323 "Bluebell". The Dover foreman told the photographer it was a load of old rubbish. But then, the Ps were never popular on their native railway - it seems only others appreciated them!

photograph by Trevor Tupper

Maunsell had the original working pressure of 180 psi reduced to 160 as he considered it needlessly high for a shunter. The class carried SR passenger green but by 1936 any repaints were in black. All eight engines passed to BR in 1948 where they were unclassified in power rating and painted black eventually with Nº1558 being the last SR locomotive to be renumbered in July 1953.

Towards the end Southern Railway days two of the class, Nº178 and Nº555, were located at Brighton, though were still considered to be Eastern Section stock.

Three of the class passed into preservation and are located on the Bluebell, engines Nº27, Nº178 & Nº323, though Nº31178 was first sold to Bowaters at Sittingbourne as their Pioneer II, whilst one other, Nº1556, was sold to the "Pride of Sussex" flour mill at Robertsbridge but is now on the KESR. All these locos, 50% of the class total, have given useful service on service trains in the past and continue to provide special services such as footplate experience courses.

Just imagine the steam scene if some other classes had 50% of their class preserved!


Technical Details

Driving Wheel:
Water Capacity:
Cylinders (2):
Boiler Pressure:
Tractive Effort:
Coal Capacity:
BR Power Classification:


Feb 1909
3 ft 9 1/8 ins
24 ft 1 3/8 ins
28 tons 10 cwt
550 gals
(2) 12 in x 18 in
160 lb sq in
7,810 lbs
18 cwt
The SECR was prone to allocate their numbers in any old fashion! The following table is set out in order of build:
SECR Nº Renumbered
Mar 1927
SR Nº # BR Nº Built Withdrawn
753 A 556 1556 31556 Feb 1909 Jun 1961 *
754 A 557 1557 31557 Feb 1909 Sep 1957
27 - 1027 31027 Feb 1910 Mar 1961
178 - 1178 31178 Feb 1910 Jun 1958 §
555 - 1555 31555 Jun 1910 Feb 1955
558 - 1558 31558 Jun 1910 Feb 1960
323 - 1323 31323 Jul 1910 Jul 1960
325 - 1325 31325 Jul 1910 Mar 1960
Between 1923 and 1928 SR numbers were the SECR numbers with the added prefix 'A',
although the new number may not have been applied until some time later
Sold to "Pride of Sussex" flour mill
§  Sold to Bowaters

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This page was last updated 13 March 2012

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