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Lord Nelson locomotive 1926

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Lord Nelson locomotive 1926

By the mid-1920s, British steam locomotive development was approaching its pinnacle and a succession of very powerful 4-6-0s was being designed and built by several companies. The Southern Railway’s representative was the ‘Lord Nelson’ class. The prototype, No. 850 Lord Nelson, was designed by SR chief mechanical engineer Richard Maunsell and outshopped from Eastleigh Works in August 1926.

Lord Nelson locomotive 1926

Lord Nelson locomotive 1926
Introduced  1926
Builder  SR Eastleigh
Designer  Maunsell
Weight (loco) 83  tons
Boiler pressure  220psi
Cylinders (4)  16  x  26 in
Valve gear  Walschaerts
Driving wheel diameter  6 ft  7 in
Tractive effort  33,510lb

Power classification 7P
Other numbers E850, 30850
Withdrawn / Preserrwed  1962 / National Collection

Like the Great Western ‘Castles’, it had four cylinders, but was unusual in that its driving wheel cranks were set at 135 degrees instead of the more normal 90, thus giving eight exhaust beats per revolutions instead of four - and a more even draw on the fire. Its tractive effort rating of 33,510lb was slightly higher than that of the ‘Castles’ - which the SR publicity department wasted no time in exploiting, trumpeting the new engine as "Britain’s most powerful express locomotive".

However, although they looked impressive, were capable of fast running and were good enough for the LMS to want to copy, the ‘Nelsons’ weren’t quite all they were cracked up to be. The 16-strong class had been designed to haul 500-ton trains at an average 55mph, but in their first years suffered from a disconcerting inability to steam efficiently and nothing Maunsell tried in the way of modifications to rectify the situation seemed to work. His successor, Oliver Bulleid, immediately set to work on the problem after taking over in 1937 and cured it by streamlining the steam passages and fitting Lemaitre multiple jet blastpipes and extremely large diameter chimneys. Thus improved, the LNs became excellent engines and although the outbreak of World War Two and the introduction of Bulleid's Pacifics in the 1940s took away much of the work they had been built to handle, they gave sterling service to the SR and BR’s Southern Region. The pioneer of the class was withdrawn in August 1962 and saved for preservation as part of the National Collection, becoming a popular main line performer in the 1980s, working out of Carnforth depot. It has recently returned to main line action after a lengthy overhaul at its birthplace, Eastleigh, and in late-2008 could be found working on the Great Central Railway.

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