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Class N Locomotive

Image of CRAIG WEATHERLEYCRAIG WEATHERLEY reveals his favourite class of locomotive.


My favourite class of locomotive is one that in my opinion was the workhorse for the SECR/SR throughout the steam era.

N Class Locomotive image 04.

Which locomotive do I mean? Of course I’m talking about the N class.

Designed by Richard Maunsell in 1914 this SECR/SR loco was a breakthrough for mixed traffic, carrying both passengers and freight. This powerful machine was the first step in SECR’s fleet of their standardisation programme.

N Class Locomotive image 01.

Initially painted in a dark grey (known as Maunsell Grey) with white lettering, this livery was introduced by the SECR as a wartime measure. In 1923 the Southern Railway replaced the liveries with a sage green colour and replacing the white lettering with primrose yellow lettering, 1925 saw the N class locos turn to a darker olive green.

N Class Locomotive image 02.

The wheel arrangement for this loco was actually suggested to Maunsell by former GWR engineer Harold Holcroft, who worked out that the 2-6-0 configuration was perfect for the poorer quality track in some parts; he also discovered that making the loco longer gives more weight distribution over the driving wheels so no double heading was needed.

In 1948 the N Class was absorbed by British Railways, still in SR livery but with British Railways painted on the tender. By 1949-1950 they had been repainted in BR black livery with the BR crest on the tender, and typical standard BR numbering.

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One thing that I need to mention is don’t get fooled by the U Class, pretty much identical to the N Class just with one difference! The wheel diameter on the U Class was 6 inches bigger than the N Class; this difference in size gave the two locos a different grip and pulling power.

N Class Locomotive image 03.

Withdrawal of these locos started in 1962 and continued until 1966. A number of N class locomotives ended up at Barry scrap yard but in March 1974 one was rescued by a team of steam enthusiasts and was taken to the Mid Hants Railway. In 1977 number 31874 was finally brought back to life and ran on the railway for a number of years, but unfortunately in 1998 it was withdrawn from service due to severe boiler problems and cracked frames. In 2014 31874 was moved to the Swanage Railway to have an overhaul to return it to an operational condition.

Models of the N Class

N Class Locomotive image B32-166.

CLICK HERE to view the currently available Class N locomotives

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