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SR Maunsell U class 2-6-0

photograph: Mike Morant collection

U Class N°1790 captured on shed. Location not certain but is thought to probably be Salisbury.

The U class of 1928 was produced in response to the operating department's needs for a two cylindered tender engine for semi-fast and cross country services. This need had latterly been met on the Southern Railway by the 2-6-4T K class "River" tanks, though they were somewhat limited by their water capacity, and parts were already on order for more of the class. This order was instead converted to produce the U class 2-6-0, and following a series of serious derailments with the K class, culminating in the Sevenoaks accident, the decision was taken to convert the entire class to Us. A total of fifty engines was completed inclusive of the twenty K class conversions.

Although originated from the K class the U class also had many parts in common with the earlier N class and their appearance was similar. The U class had six feet diameter drivers as befitting its passenger status, and a boiler pressure of 200lb psi providing a tractive effort of 23,866 lb at 85 percent of boiler pressure. The total weight of engine and tender in working condition was 102 tons 16 cwt.

Engines were built or rebuilt as follows:

A610-A619 1928 at Brighton
A790-A796 rebuilt 1928 at Eastleigh
A797-A802 and A805 rebuilt 1928 at Ashford
A803-A804 and A806-A809 rebuilt 1928 at Brighton
A620-A629 1929 at Ashford
A630-A639 1931 at Ashford

The K class conversions were identifiable by a lower running plate leading to larger splashers, double spectacles to the cab front and cab side cutaways which extended into the curved part of the roof. They also retained their original numbers although they lost their names.

A three cylindered version of the class - the U1 class - was also built between 1928 to 1931 with one, A890, being a conversion of the solitary three cylindered K1 class 2-6-4T.

Throughout the life of the class there were detail differences underlining the need for modellers to obtain a good photograph of a specific engine. As originally built the class had piston tail rods, tapered chimneys and smokebox snifting valves. As with the N class the tail rods and snifting valves were removed and new chimneys of the U1 pattern fitted. Later builds of the class had a flatter top to their dome covers. Short smoke deflectors were fitted, as with all Maunsell Moguls, from 1933. The class either hauled 3500 gallon capacity tenders with straight sides or larger 4000 gallon tenders with turned in tops to their sides. From 1955 twenty three of the class were fitted with varying combinations of new cylinders with outside steam pipes and a BR pattern chimney. A fewer number also received new frames with a gentler curve between the buffer beam and smokebox.

N°A629 was for two years fitted with an experimental pulverised fuel burner of German design. This was not a success and was abandoned after it was found there was no fuel saving and that powdered coal was potentially explosive. In 1948 two of the class, 1625 and 1797, were experimentally operated as oil burners. Further members of the class were designated for conversion before the experiment was abandoned.

Although perhaps an unsung and unglamorous class the Us performed well doing exactly what they were designed to do. The first withdrawal was in 1962 with the final withdrawals being in 1966.

Four Us have been preserved though all are not currently in working condition. 1618 and 1638 are owned by the Maunsell Locomotive Society and are based at the Bluebell Railway, with 31625 and 31806 based on the Mid-Hants Railway.

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  • 1794
    Photographed at Salisbury during the twilight years of the Southern Railway - N°1794 in June 1947.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • 1804
    N°1804 photographed working hard at Bickley.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • 1792
    Yeovil Jn
    N°1792 photographed at Yeovil Junction in 1947.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • U Class
    Clapham Cutting
    An unidentified U Class is obviously in what is popularly known as Clapham Cutting, although the location is, strictly speaking, Wandsworth. Nice rake of Maunsell stock behind her.
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • U Class
    Nr Balcombe
    Another unidentified U Class photographed in July 1952 near to Balcombe. She has an interesting collection of stock in tow!
    Photograph: Mike Morant collection.
  • 31632
    U Class N°31632 in the engine sidings near Bournemouth Central shed during the mid to late fifties.
    Photograph by Alan Morton.
  • 31633
    N°31633 is about to depart from Betchworth and tackle the gradient immediately beyond the level crossing, with a train from Reading to Redhill. The U and N class 2-6-0s worked the bulk of services on this cross-country route although Standard Class 4 2-6-4Ts and 2-6-0s were also seen regularly and Q and Q1 class freight locomotives also appeared occasionally on passenger turns.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 31628
    N°31628 photographed at Ashford during the early 1960s.
    Photograph by John Roffey.
  • 31799
    N°31799 with a rake of Maunsell coaches is seen here approaching Betchworth with a train from Reading to Redhill on 28th August 1964. N°31799 was one of 20 former River class 2-6-4Ts rebuilt as 2-6-0 tender locomotives in 1928, following the Sevenoaks accident.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 31639
    Nr Merton Park
    A portrait of frost, smoke and steam!
    N°31639 heading the "Maunsell Commemorative" rail tour of 3rd January 1965, with Q Class 30545 attached to the rear. Photographed from a footbridge at a point just after the train had left the main line en route for Merton Park and Tooting Goods, the washing on the lines in the background would have been as stiff as boards with frost - and pretty grubby too by the look of the exhaust!
    Photograph by Mike Morant
  • 31803
    N°31803 at Redhill shed prior to working The Wealdsman (LCGB) tour on 13th June 1965. The state of N°31803 is something to behold and indicates that the scheduled loco had failed at a late stage as Redhill was well known for its ability to turn out smart locos for special occasions. The loco behind, N°31411 which double headed with N°31803, is testimony to that.
    Photograph by Mike Morant.
  • 31616
    This location would confuse just about anybody but it's actually Sutton with the railing in the background marking the considerable drop into the cutting containing the line to Wimbledon. The train doesn't look to be anything special but it is as N°31616 is working what is almost certainly the very last steam hauled trip goods to work along that line and is seen heading back home to Norwood Junction.
    Photograph by Mike Morant
    (from his back garden!)
  • 31639
    N°31639, the last "U" to be built, at Deepdene.
    Photograph by Keith Harwood.
  • 31806
    Mid Hants Rly
    N°31806 at Alton on the Mid Hants Railway sometime in the mid 1980s.
    Photograph by Colin Duff.
  • 31625
    N°31625 at Waterloo awaiting departure of The Capital Explorer railtour during January 1999.
    Photograph by Jonathan Hall.
  • 31625
    N°31625 passing through Vauxhall with The Capital Explorer railtour during January 1999.
    Photograph by Jonathan Hall.
  • 31625
    N°31625 passing through Guildford with The Capital Explorer railtour during January 1999.
    Photograph by Jonathan Hall.
  • 31625
    Steam on the Met
    Later in 1999 31625 was used on Steam on the Met.
    Photograph by Jonathan Hall.
  • Valve
    N°1618's valve gear.
    Photograph by Graeme Pettit.

Technical Details

Driving Wheel:
Pony Wheel:
Total Weight:
Water Capacity:
Cylinders (2):
Boiler Pressure:
Tractive Effort:
Coal Capacity:
Power Classification:
1928 (Rebuilt River class 2-6-4T)
6 ft 0 ins
3 ft 1 ins
57 ft 95/8 ins
110 tons 14 cwt
4,000 gals
19 in x 28 in
200 lb sq in
23,866 lb
5 ton 0 cwt


Converted from SECR K Class "River" 2-6-4Ts
SR N° when converted Later SR N° BR N° Converted by Date Withdrawn
A790 1790 31790 Eastleigh Jun 1928 May 1965
A791 1791 31791 Eastleigh Jul 1928 Jun 1966
A792 1792 31792 Eastleigh Jul 1928 Sep 1964
A793 1793 31793 Eastleigh Jun 1928 May 1964
A794 1794 31794 Eastleigh Jun 1928 Jun 1963
A795 1795 31795 Eastleigh Jun 1928 Jun 1963
A796 1796 31796 Eastleigh Jul 1928 Jan 1964
A797 1797 31797 Ashford Jun 1928 Jan 1964
A798 1798 31798 Ashford Aug 1928 Sep 1964
A799 1799 31799 Ashford Jul 1928 Feb 1965
A800 1800 31800 Ashford Dec 1928 Oct 1965
A801 1801 31801 Ashford Jul 1928 Jun 1964
A802 1802 31802 Ashford Jul 1928 Seo 1964
A803 1803 31803 Brighton Jun 1928 Mar 1966
A804 1804 31804 Brighton Jun 1928 Jun 1964
A805 1805 31805 Ashford Mar 1928 Jul 1963
A806 1806 31806 Brighton Jun 1928 Jan 1964 *
A807 1807 31807 Ashford Jun 1928 Jan 1964
A808 1808 31808 Ashford Jul 1928 Jan 1964
A809 1809 31809 Ashford Jul 1928 Jan 1966
New build U Class 2-6-0s
SR N° when built Later SR N° BR N° Built by Date Withdrawn
A610 1610 31610 Brighton Aug 1928 Dec 1962
A611 1611 31611 Brighton Aug 1928 Oct 1963
A612 1612 31612 Brighton Jul 1928 May 1963
A613 1613 31613 Brighton Jun 1928 Jan 1964
A614 1614 31614 Brighton Jul 1928 Nov 1963
A615 1615 31615 Brighton Aug 1928 Oct 1963
A616 1616 31616 Brighton Sep 1928 Jun 1964
A617 1617 31617 Brighton Oct 1928 Jan 1964
A618 1618 31618 Brighton Oct 1928 Jan 1964 *
A619 1619 31619 Brighton Dec 1928 Dec 1965
A620 1620 31620 Ashford Nov 1928 Apr 1965
A621 1621 31621 Ashford Dec 1928 Jun 1964
A622 1622 31622 Ashford Jan 1929 Jan 1964
A623 1623 31623 Ashford Jan 1929 Dec 1963
A624 1624 31624 Ashford Feb 1929 Jun 1964
A625 1625 31625 Ashford Mar 1929 Jan 1964 *
A626 1626 31626 Ashford Mar 1929 Jan 1964
A627 1627 31627 Ashford Apr 1929 Oct 1965
A628 1628 31628 Ashford Apr 1929 Jun 1964
A629 1629 31629 Ashford Dec 1929 Jan 1964
A630 1630 31630 Ashford Feb 1931 Nov 1962
A631 1631 31631 Ashford Mar 1931 Sep 1963
A632 1632 31632 Ashford Mar 1931 Sep 1964
A633 1633 31633 Ashford Mar 1931 Dec 1963
A634 1634 31634 Ashford Apr 1931 Dec 1963
A635 1635 31635 Ashford Apr 1931 Dec 1963
A636 1636 31636 Ashford Apr 1931 Jun 1963
A637 1637 31637 Ashford May 1931 Aug 1963
A638 1638 31638 Ashford May 1931 Jan 1964 *
A639 1639 31639 Ashford May 1931 Jun 1966
*  Preserved on the Bluebell Railway
*  Preserved on the Mid-Hants Railway

This page was last updated 25 March 2021

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