Southern Locomotives Ltd announce ‘Leader’ project

Renowned Bulleid locomotive restorers, Southern Locomotives Ltd, plans to enter the new-build fray as they have announced their intention to build a new ‘Leader’.

One of the new 'Leader's' cabs is already coming together inside Herston works at the Swanage Railway. It is pictured here on April 1. THOMAS BRIGHT

One of the new 'Leader's' cabs is already coming together inside Herston works at the Swanage Railway. It is pictured here on April 1. THOMAS BRIGHT

SLL Chairman Simon Troy revealed on April 1 the group’s plans to resurrect the CME’s innovative 0-6-6-0T design in a project codenamed ‘Donald’.

“Having restored six Bulleid ‘Pacifics’ we now aim to be the new ‘Leader’ in steam technology”, said Troy, “We are sure that ‘Donald’ will trump all the other new-build projects”.

Despite the fact that SLL is currently overhauling ‘West Country’ No. 34028 Eddystone and ‘Battle of Britain’ No. 34072 257 Squadron, and has begun the restoration of rebuilt ‘WC’ No. 34010 Sidmouth, construction has already started on the new ‘Leader’ (which is to be numbered No. 36000) with one of the locomotive’s cabs already built and lined out.

Visitors to the Swanage Railway’s ‘Strictly Bulleid’ gala on March 31-April 2 will be able to inspect the new cab unit at Herston Works on the Saturday and Sunday from 10:00-14:00.

Only one original ‘Leader’, No. 36001, was ever finished – in 1949 – and the class was intended to replace the Southern Region’s ageing fleet of ex-LSWR Drummond ‘M7’ 0-4-4Ts. The project was cancelled before a further four ‘Leaders’ (Nos. 36002-5) were completed, mainly due to the troublesome nature of the sleeve valves and untenable working conditions for the fireman.

History will repeat itself, as it is understood that SLL’s new ‘Leader’ is being built to replace the Swanage Railway’s resident ‘M7’ No. 30053, which will be withdrawn for overhaul on October 31.

After Saturday’s announcement, Mr Troy added that what he wanted next was a ‘Double Decker’, although this was apparently a reference to his favourite chocolate bar.

For further details, visit www.southern-locomotives.co.uk.