Clan Line

Resource Type: Image | Posted on 28th November 2011 by Liam Physick

Here is Southern Railway No. 35028 Clan Line, part of the SR’s Merchant Navy Class, a class of 30 Pacific Class locomotives built by Oliver Bulleid between 1941 and 1949: Clan Line was built in 1948. The Class was named after the Merchant Navy, and each of its locomotives was named after a different Merchant Navy shipping line, many of which used Southampton Docks, then operated by the SR. They resulted from the need for the SR to modernise its ageing fleet, something the other members of the Big Four had already done. They were built primarily for express and semi-fast passenger work, but were also suited to hauling goods as Bulleid had them classified as mixed traffic in order to circumvent the wartime ban on the building of express passenger locomotives, due to the shortage of materials and the need for locomotives capable of hauling freight. They incorporated a number of design innovations, such as the use of welding (rather than riveting) in the construction process, allowing easier fabrication of the components in an age of austerity. Other innovations included thermic syphons; higher boiler pressure; air-smoothed casing, smokebox and blastpipe; and 5000-ton tender (6000 tons in the last 10 locomotives in the Class, including Clan Line) capable of carrying five tons of coal on a six-wheel chassis; electric lighting on the locomotive and footplate, supplied by a steam-powered generator fitted below the footplate; ultra-violet light for the gauges, allowing clearer night vision of the steam pressue gauge in the boiler and the vacuum pressure gauge in the brake pipe while eliminating dazzle and thus allowing the crew to see the track signals; the controls grouped according to the needs of both driver and fireman, making operation safer; helping the fireman by providing a steam-operated treadle that used steam pressure to open the firehole doors; an enclosed footplate, improving working conditions in winter; and Bulleid’s controversial chain-driven valve gear enclosed in an oil bath. Initially, the first 19 were numbered 21C1-21C19, following the Continental numbering system, which Bulleid had experienced when working in France before the First World War - “2” refers to the number of leading axles, “1” the number of trailing axles, and “C” to the fact that there are three driving axles (because C is the third letter of the alphabet). However, following nationalisation, the first 19 were renumbered 35001-35019, while the remaining 11 locomotives, including Clan Line (ordered before but built after nationalisation) were numbered from the outset 35020-35030. As can be seen from the photograph, the Merchant Navy locomotives used a different style of nameplate, a circular plate with a smaller circle at the centre. The inner circle bore the flag of the shipping company after which the locomotive was named, and the outer circle the locomotive name. Either side of the circle, there was a horizontal rectangular plate labelled “Merchant Navy Class”. The Class gained several nicknames: the obvious Bulleid Pacific; Spam Can, referring to the resemblance of their flat, air-smoothed casing to the cans in which Spam was sold; and Packets, after No. 35001 Channel Packet, the first locomotive in the Class. They pulled the famous Golden Arrow service from London Victoria to Dover to serve cross-Channel ferries; they were also responsible for expresses on the South Western Main Line to Southampton, and to Exeter, and the prestigious Bournemouth Belle train from London Waterloo to Bournemouth West. However, their heavy axle loading and length led them to be barred from many lines. Clan Line was initially allocated to Dover, and then to Stewarts shed in London. There, it worked heavy trains on the trunk routes to the South East Channel ports: it was frequently used to pull the Golden Arrow (it appears in those colours here) and the Night Ferry. Some of the design innovations on the Merchant Navy Class caused problems, for example the chain valve gear was expensive to maintain and rapidly wore, causing leaks from the oil bath onto the wheels, which in turn caused oil to splash onto the boiler lagging, attracting coal dust and ash and raising the risk of fires as a result of the heavy braking, which would cause sparks to ignite the lagging. Another problem was reduced driver visibility due to the air-smoothed casing. A major defect was highlighted by an incident at Crewkerne station in Somerset on 24th April 1953, when the crank axle on the central driving wheel of No. 35020 Bibby Line fractured: although no one was hurt, all 30 Merchant Navy locomotives were temporarily withdrawn from service to ascertain the cause: it was found that the fracture was a common fault, caused by metal fatigue, and the crank axle was redesigned and replaced. British Railways considered scrapping the Merchant Navy Class in favour of the Britannia Class, but as they had many good features, especially their boilers, it decided instead to rebuild them. They were rebuilt between 1956 and 1960 by R G Jarvis, losing their air-smoothed casings in favour of conventional boiler cladding, and replacing the chain valve gear with three separate sets of the Walschaerts valve gear. Another change involved the use of smoke deflectors, as had been used on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, which, together with the removal of the air-smoothed casings, solved the visibility problem. The rebuilds solved the old problems while retaining the good features. Clan Line was the last to be rebuilt and was then sent to Nine Elms shed near London, where it pulled the Bournemouth Belle and the Atlantic Coast Express: while hauling the latter in 1961, Clan Line was unofficially timed at 104 miles per hour when passing Axeminster. On 26th June 1967, No. 35003 Royal Mail ran at 105.38 miles per hour, the last confirmed case of a steam locomotive going over 100. But the rebuilt locomotives did not last long: they were withdrawn from service from 1964 to 1967: the last six, including Clan Line, remained in use until the final end on steam on the Southern Region in July 1967 (many had earlier been withdrawn after the Salisbury to Exeter line was transferred to the Western Region, which already used the diesel-hydraulic locomotives of BR Class 42). Clan Line pulled a special farewell train from Waterloo to Bournemouth and back again on 2nd July 1967. 11 of the 30 have been preserved, an unusually high proportion: this is in large part due to the high workload at Barry scrapyard, where the workers found it easier and more lucrative to scrap wagons, leaving locomotives until there was a fall in the workload. Clan Line never went into the scrapyard: it was bought directly from BR in August 1967 by the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society, and has since been regarded as the flagship of the Class - originally the Society had intended to buy No. 35022 Holland-America Line but that locomotive was sold to Barry scrapyard (although Holland-America Line was ultimately preserved so its boiler could be used by No. 35027 Port Line and is to be restored one day). Clan Line was one of the first steam locomotives to pull main-line specials, and the first Merchant Navy locomotive to do so. In 1974, Clan Line pulled its first commercial train since preservation, from Basingstoke to Westbury. Currently, it is based at Stewarts Lane Traction Maintenance Depot in Battersea. It returned to steam in October 2006 following a five-and-a-half-year overhaul. However, apart from Clan Line, only two Merchant Navy locomotives have been restored to working order - No. 35005 Canadian Pacific and Port Line - and many will probably never be steamed again, as they are too large and heavy for most heritage railways. There is some debate as to whether one should be restored to its pre-1956 condition. A number of nameplates and smokebox number plates belonging to Merchant Navy engines have also survived, and a number have been auctioned

Clan Line

Tagged under: steam locomotives, tender locomotives, rocket 150, railway workers, british rail, diesel locomotives, goods, passengers, freight, grand cavalcade

Categorised under: Landmarks, Landscapes & Locomotives

Share this page:


Remember my personal information?

Notify me of follow-up comments?