Rebuilt Merchant Navy

Oliver Bulleid is generally considered to be the last giant of British steam locomotive design. A highly innovative engineer but often considered to be something of a ∑maverick∏, his Merchant Navy class of 30 locomotives were originally considered a disappointment but following rebuilding in the 1950∏s are now very highly regarded by railway enthusiasts.

Bulleid had been the personal assistant to Sir Nigel Gresley at the London & North Eastern Railway and had been a major contributor to Gresley∏s many successful locomotive designs. In 1937 Bulleid got his chance to develop his own ideas when he was appointed as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway. He almost immediately embarked upon a major new design for the heaviest express trains departing London∏s Waterloo and Victoria termini.

Today it seems incredible that during the darkest days of the Second World War that authorisation should be given to build a highly innovative express passenger locomotive design. But in 1941 the first Merchant Navy locomotive - 21C1 (later 35001) ∑Channel Packet∏ was built and subsequently a further 29 locomotives followed through until 1949.

The appearance of the Merchant Navy class as built strongly resembles the later West Country / Battle of Britain class. Aster enthusiasts will recall that a gauge one live steam model of the West Country / Battle of Britain class was manufactured by the Aster Hobby Co Inc in 2006. The difference between the two designs being that the Merchant Navy class was considerably bigger than the West Country / Battle of Britain class and could only be used on the major main lines due to heavy axle loading. The lighter and less powerful West Country / Battle of Britain class Pacifics could be used almost everywhere else within the Southern Railway system.

The 30 Merchant Navy class locomotive suffered many operational problems mostly due to Bulleid∏s untried and untested innovations. By 1955 British Railway∏s engineering management decided that the only way to proceed was to completely re-engineer the Merchant Navy class. Consequently the air-smoothed casing, chain driven valve gear and other novel Bulleid features were removed and replaced by less troublesome conventional components. These modifications described as ∪rebuilding∩ completely changed the look and reliability of the whole class of locomotives. The first locomotive to receive the treatment was 35018 ∑British India Line∏ in 1956. The final example was 35028 ∑Clan Line∏ in 1960.

The Rebuilt Merchant Navy class were used on the heaviest express trains, for example the Bournemouth Belle and Atlantic Coast Express. Also the heavy Pullman service operating in association with international passenger services through Southampton∏s Ocean Terminal.

The names of this class are taken from the World∏s great shipping lines and include – ∑Peninsula & Orient∏, ∑Canadian Pacific∏ and ∑United States Lines∏. Today no fewer than 11 members of the class still exist of which 10 are preserved or in the course of restoration. 35029 ∑Ellerman Lines∏, is sectioned to show the internal workings of a steam locomotive at the National Railway Museum, York.

The Aster Hobby Co Inc and Aster Hobbies (UK) LLP express their sincere thanks to the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society owners of 35028 ∑Clan Line∏ for their help in the preparation of the Aster Rebuilt Merchant Navy class model.

Andrew Pullen
Aster Hobbies (UK) LLP

Scale/Gauge 1/32 Gauge one (45 mm)  
Wheel Arrangement 4 - 6 - 2 Pacific (2C1/231)  
Driving Wheel Dia. 59.0mm  
Pilot and Trailer Truck Wheel Dia. 29.0mm 
Tender Truck Wheel Dia. 29.0mm  
Axle Driven Pump Bore 5mm X Stroke 6mm  
Cylinder 3 cylinders, Bore 12mm x stroke 20mm steamport 1.4mm lap 1mm cutoff 82.6% , slide valve travel 4.8mm  
Valve Gear walschaerts' valve gear  
Boiler Type C type with water tubes Water 255cc at 80% full Pressure 3-4 kg./ at normal working  
Water Capacity 190cc 
Boiler Fittings safety valves, pressure gauge,water gauge, blow-down valveregulator valve, blower valve and super heater  
Lubricator Roscoe displacement type  
Tender Hand operation pump ∈BORE 11 mm ∵ STROKE 12 mm∷  
Water Tank Capacity
Methylated alcohol  
Fuel Capacity 180cc  
Minimum Radius 3.0m