Eastleigh’s ‘Merchant Navy’ set to launch

Saturday December 3 will see the launch into service of the Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway’s latest new-build locomotive – rather appropriately a ‘Merchant Navy’.

With its nameplate covered up ahead of its naming ceremony on December 3, No. 35004 Cunard White Star sits inside the workshops at the Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway. LIONEL KAY

With its nameplate covered up ahead of its naming ceremony on December 3, No. 35004 Cunard White Star sits inside the workshops at the Eastleigh Lakeside Steam Railway. LIONEL KAY

Well-known railway author and antiques expert Paul Atterbury will be on hand to officially name the 10¼in gauge locomotive, a replica of No. 35004 Cunard White Star in its final rebuilt form.

The locomotive, built in Jesse Moody’s workshop with the assistance of Barry Eden, is not the first ‘Merchant Navy’ to steam at the ELSR, as the line already has a miniature version of one of Bulleid’s ‘Spam Cans’ – a replica of the doyen of the class No. 21C1 Channel Packet, also built by Jesse Moody.

During construction of Channel Packet, a second boiler and set of frames were commissioned in preparation for the new ‘MN’, the building of which started in 2014, culminating in a successful steam test on October 13 this year.

The new locomotive, says ELSR spokesman Lionel Kay, “reflects the tradition of locomotive construction in the area.” The original ‘Packets’ were built at the Southern Railway’s workshops at Eastleigh between 1941 and 1949.

Cunard White Star was one of the Southern Railway-built examples, emerging from Eastleigh in October 1941. It was rebuilt in January 1958 and withdrawn in October 1965 before being cut up at its birthplace by Cohen’s.