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|When the London Brighton and South Coast Railway needed
a new Locomotive Superintendent in 1904 they turned to Douglas Earle Marsh, the
then Chief Assistant to Harry Ivatt on the Great Northern Railway. Prior to
this Marsh had begun his career under no less a person than William Dean of the
Great Western Railway where he had risen to the position of Assistant Works
Manager at Swindon in only eight years. During his time at Doncaster Marsh had
been heavily involved with the design of the first of the large Great Northern
Atlantics so it was hardly surprising that immediately he assumed office at
Brighton and found he needed a new large express engine that he set about
designing a very similar machine, the 'H1' class Atlantic. The outward
similarity was very noteable with just the footplate undulations, the chimney
and the cab (standard RJ Billinton fittings) differing from the GNR
example. The undulations referred to were a rise over the driving wheels and
then again a similar rise over the cylinders.
The boiler, at 5' 6" inches in diameter with a 6' 6" long and 5' 11" wide firebox, was far larger than anything the Brighton company had built previously. It differed from the GNR '251' class in that the firebox was deeper but with the same grate area and with the working pressure at 200 lb sq in in place of 175. Cylinder sizes differed with 18½ in x 26 in fitted to 37, 38 and 40 whilst 39 and 41 had ones of 19 in diameter. These compared with the GNR locomotives' 18¾ x 24 in cylinders. The coupled wheels were 6' 7½" with wheelbase of 6' 10", exactly the same as on the Great Northern.
In 1911, the last year of Marsh's reign at Brighton, there was a need for further large express engines so five more Atlantics were built. These 'H2' class locomotives were very similar to the 'H1' class but were superheated and had larger cylinders with the boiler pressure reduced to 170 lb sq in. The footplates were less undulatory with the raised section covering the whole area from the cylinders to the driving wheels.
Marsh had plans for another locomotive to be built as a four cylinder engine, but in the event Lawson Billinton built it in 1912 as a sixth 'H2' class
The superheating of the subsequent 'H2' class was so successful that in later years the Southern Railway superheated the 'H1's, though it has been said that even when saturated these earlier engines performed better than the 'H2's. The Southern Railway also reduced the contours of the chimney, dome and cab, in a sympathetic manner, and gave all the locos in the two classes names, re-naming La France as Hartland Point in the process.
Electrification took away much of the work of these engines but they still managed to make themselves useful. The 'H2's were to be found on the secondary routes from London to Brighton via Shoreham (approx 2½ hours,) via Uckfield and via the Bluebell line (approx 3 hours, but with a "beer stop" at East Grinstead!). After WWII they and 'H1' 2038 found a new lease of life working the Newhaven boat trains, a duty they performed particularly well. From 15 May 1949 the principal boat train duties were handed over to the Bulleid-Raworth electric locos, but the Atlantics continued to haul the majority of relief boat trains.
Other workings synonymous with the H2s were the heavy rush hour trains from Victoria to East Grinstead, the Brighton to Plymouth service which they hauled as far as Portsmouth and the inter-regional, summer Saturday services which they collected at either Kensington Olympia or Mitre Bridge. That was always an odd sight because the stock was of the Stanier variety in blood & custard livery. They were heavy trains, too, like the Newhaven ones.
They were known to stray further afield on rare occasions, indeed there is a report of one seen on the Brighton-Plymouth train at Yeovil Junction, possibly the furthest west they worked.
The last of the Atlantics to survive was Nº32424 Beachy Head whose swansong was an enthusiasts' special over the route she had made her own - to Newhaven - on 13th April 1958, before going to Brighton loco shed for the very last time. Her final journey was to Eastleigh for withdrawal, not only under her own steam but also with a 12 coach ECS behind her.
It is noteworthy that not only was Beachy Head the last of the Brighton Atlantics, she was also the last surviving British Railways express locomotive of that wheel arrangement and it is a crime that none was preserved. However, with a new-build advancing at the Bluebell Railway (utilising a GNR Atlantic boiler) it should not be all that long before we can travel behind a Brighton Atlantic 4-4-2 locomotive once more.
6 ft 7½ ins
37/38/40 18½ in x 26 in
39/41 19 in x 26 in
200 lb sq in
37/38/40 19,028 lb
39/41 20,070 lb
6 ft 7½ ins
21 in x 26 in
170 lb sq in
|SR Nº #
La France*/Hartland Point
St Catherine's Point
St Albans Head
|# Between 1923 and 1928 SR numbers were the LBSC
numbers with the added prefix 'B'
* Named La France from Jun 1913 to Jan 1926 following its use on the train for a State visit of the French President.
Also Nº39 was the only H1 or H2 to carry a name in LBSC days.
This page was last updated 9 July 2020