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My Favourite Class - N Class Locomotive

Craig Weatherley

CRAIG WEATHERLEY reveals his favourite class of locomotive.

N Class Locomotive

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

Which locomotive do I mean? Of course Iím 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 SECRís fleet of their standardisation programme.

N Class Locomotive

Initially painted in a dark grey (known as Manusell 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

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.

One thing that I need to mention is donít 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

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 Railways. 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31874 was finally brought back to life and ran on the railway for a number of years, but unfortunately in 1998 it was withdrawn from service due to severe boiler problems and cracked frames.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

The N Class has previously been produced by Bachmann, although the locomotive is not currently available in their range. Graham Farish produce the N Class in N Scale, in four different liveries, including the original SECR Grey.

Graham Farish N Class

GF372-930 N Class 2-6-0 868 SR Olive Green Slope-Sided Tender

Graham Farish N Class

GF372-931 N Class 2-6-0 31844 BR Black Early Emblem

Graham Farish N Class

GF372-932N Class 2-6-0 31811 BR Black Late Crest

Graham Farish N Class

GF372-933N Class 2-6-0 810 SECR Grey

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