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On Friday 2nd October 2020, the boiler of Ex-SR Bulleid Merchant Navy Class, 35011 “General Steam Navigation” was successfully lifted from its frames for the first time since 1959. The boiler was built by North British in Glasgow in January 1941 and has been attached for a total of 61 years since its last overhaul in July 1959.

The boiler of 35011 is lifted from the frames for the first time since 1959

The frames are lifted to allow the trailing truck to be removed

The old smokebox is removed

The aim of the General Steam Navigation locomotive Restoration Society is to restore the Merchant Navy locomotive 21c11 / 35011 to her original as built condition complete with air smooth casing and Bulleids unique chain driven valve gear.

The trailing truck was also removed from the frames, utilising the crane on site as this will soon be moving off site to be fully restored.

The smokebox, that would have been unusable if we were restoring to as rebuilt condition, was also removed. A new smokebox to the original design will be fabricated in due course.

As a trustee and Director of the project it is an exciting time for the project and it allows us to concentrate on the restoration of the chassis which on its own is a big project and will take several years to complete.

We are in the early stages in the process of the manufacture of a new centre crank axle (she had the crank axle swapped for a plain axle just after withdrawal) and also the middle cylinder will need to be replaced to return her back to Bulleid’s original condition.  

With work on 35011 now being directed to the restoration of the chassis and further fund-raising campaigns will be launched in due course. The first of which is the wheelset tyre profiling fund here

We have been made very welcome by our friends at the Swindon and Cricklade Railway  and I am very pleased to be able to advise that following the forced closure of the line due to COVID-19 it is re-opening to passenger services this Sunday 4th October. 

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A new Society, The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society, has been formed with the aim of not only restoring but more ambitiously returning Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific 35011 General Steam Navigation into original air smoothed condition.  35011 was introduced in December 1944, as one of the second series built (described and illustrated in more detail in model form here), and subsequently like eventually all of the 30 strong Merchant Navy class she was rebuilt in July 1959. The rebuilding entailed the removal of the air smoothed casing and more fundamental the replacement of the chain driven valve gear encased within an oil bath with a full set of standard Walschaerts valve gear.

Although the current preservation scheme is not all that short of Bulleid’s creations, such as number 35006 of which I am shareholder and whose restoration is nearly compete, however there is of course a missing link. The lack of an original air smoothed and chain valve gear driven Merchant Navy is an obvious gap in the preservation scene of Southern Railway locomotives.

This video below illustrates the aims of the Society more succinctly than I can put into words.

The new Society has the backing of the current owners of 35011 who will put the locomotive into the trust of the Society if in the first instance a new location for her can be found which is currently one of the first priorities of the Society.  This month has seen the Society get fully up an running with membership now available for only £10 per year, full details on how to join can be found on their website here.  You can also follow the Society on Twitter @35011GSN It would certainly be good to see this missing link in preservation filled so please join the Society of you can.

 

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