30777 – Sir Lamiel


No.30777 belongs to the “King Arthur” class of express passenger locomotives introduced by the Southern Railway in 1918, the large driving wheels making it capable of high speed running at up to 90 mph. The locomotives were associated with the express services to the West Country running from Waterloo station to, for example, Salisbury and Exeter. Hence the locomotives of the class were to have names associated with the West Country and the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Sir Lamiel of Cardiff was such a knight and a “great lover”! The locomotive names were introduced as a marketing tool by the Southern Railway and went down well with the public.

The design of the locomotives originated in 1918 at the end of the First World War when Robert Urie, then Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway, introduced the N15 class - the official classification of the locomotives. Whilst first looked upon as a success the class suffered from poor steaming capabilities and in 1925, to cope with an acceleration of services required by the Operating Department, the new CME Richard Maunsell, introduced modifications to the class. These changes included a revised design for the cylinders increasing the area of the steam and exhaust ports, fitting a modified chimney and changes to the blast pipe. These changes significantly improved the performance of the class and the steaming raising rate of the boiler was very much improved.

The water and coal carrying capacity in the tender of the locomotive follows standard Southern Railway practice. As the Southern had shorter main lines than other railways in Britain, and also had no water troughs, the tender carries a relatively small amount of coal but a large amount of water.

In 1925, an order for 20 of the engines to Maunsell’s design was placed with the North British Locomotive Company of Glasgow. This was later increased to 30 engines. The locomotive crews often referred to them as “Scotchmen” or “Scotch Arthurs”. At the same time a batch of 10 engines were built at Eastleigh, the locomotive works of the Southern Railway. Building continued until January, 1927 when, along with the Urie engines, the class totalled 81 locomotives.

“Sir Lamiel”, numbered E777, was built in June 1925 at the North British Locomotive Works in Glasgow as one of the batch of 30 engines built there. These engines had a narrower cab to suit them for use on the Eastern section of the Southern Railway and had 5000 gallon bogie tenders. Smoke deflectors were fitted in December, 1927. The E prefix was abandoned in 1932.

E777 was first allocated to Nine Elms shed in London for work on the expresses from Waterloo station to the West Country and Bournemouth. Later allocations were Battersea, Bournemouth, Dover, Feltham and Basingstoke. After the Nationalisation of the Railways in 1948, “Sir Lamiel” was re-numbered 30777 by adding 30,000 to its original number. This was done to all the former Southern Railway locomotives. During its working life it carried a number of liveries in addition to its original olive green. During the war it was painted black but donned malachite green in January, 1947 and British Railway’s version of that colour in October, 1948. BR’s Brunswick Green was applied in December, 1951.

“Sir Lamiel” was withdrawn from service in October, 1961 after a relatively short working life of some 36 years. Normally a steam locomotive would have been expected to work for 50 years but the British Railways Modernisation Plan of 1955 led to the rapid introduction of diesel locomotives and the consequent early withdrawal of the steam engines.

After withdrawal “Sir Lamiel” was first stored at Fratton and then Stratford and Ashford. In June, 1978 it was adopted by the Humberside Locomotive Preservation Group and taken to their base at Diarycoates shed in Hull. Restoration to main line standards took place there and the first steaming in preservation took place on 21st February, 1982. On 27th March, 1982 she took her first main line trip over the famous Settle and Carlisle Railway. Following a first overhaul in preservation in 1989, there then followed a successful and varied main line career which included a trip to Birmingham in 1994 for an appearance in the film “The Cruel Train”.

“Sir Lamiel” is part of the National Collection of the National Railway Museum at York. It is in the custody of the 5305 Locomotive Association at Loughborough, the successor to the Humberside Locomotive Preservation Group. She arrived at the Great Central Railway on 5th October, 1995 and after some limited running was withdrawn for overhaul in 1996.

For restoration to running condition, aided by several MLST grants, the locomotive was stripped down to its component parts before these were repaired and re-painted and, where necessary,  replaced with new parts before re-assembly into a complete engine once again. Naturally such a process takes a great deal of time and effort but the outcome was worth waiting for!

A great deal of work has been completed on the locomotive including a complete re-tube of the boiler. The work has been done to the highest standards to equip the engine for a further round of main line running. The latest safety devices have been fitted.

In May, 2004 the locomotive was cosmetically restored to make an appearance at the National Railway Museum’s Railfest exhibition in York celebrating 200 years of steam locomotives. It had a full paint finish and oily rags were lit in the smokebox to give the appearance of a locomotive in steam. During the visit it drew many complementary remarks and comments.

A most critical stage was reached on 13th January, 2006 when the boiler passed its hydraulic test both for insurance and main line running purposes. The boiler was pumped up to a pressure of 270psi, 33% above its steam operating limit, and held that pressure for the required thirty minutes. The test had to be conducted at a minimum temperature of 7OC so testing in January can be frustrating. However, all was fine on the day so testing proceeded. The clock then started ticking for the seven year main line and the ten year preserved line approval. So all the rubber seals and temporary fittings had then to be removed and proper gaskets, seals and packing fitted for the steam test. As a rather unique experience the boiler was in steam over the Gala weekend of 28th/29th January, 2006 allowing visitors a rare view of a boiler under test.

On 31st January, 2006 the boiler passed its static steam test with the safety valves being set at the maximum boiler pressure of 200psi. Then, after fitting the ashpan and fitting some of the boiler cladding the boiler was lifted onto the frames by the steam crane on 14th February, 2006. The locomotive was then looking like a real engine again. The locomotive returned to traffic on 20th May, 2006.

Since then Sir Lamiel has been a regular performer on the main line.  Between the outings she returns to the GCR for regular maintenance and to run services from Loughborough Central to Leicester North and provide all our visitors with the experience of Southern Railway express motive power.  During the latter part of 2012 the locomotive had some heavy maintenance on the main driving wheels and bearings and has been repainted in Southern Railway Malachite Green livery, complete with her old Number 777.  She made her public debut wearing her new livery at the Great Central Railways Autumn Steam Gala over the 4th to 7th October, 2012 and looked simply magnificent in the beautiful Autumn sunshine.

Sir Lamiel left the GCR on 27th February, 2013 for a series of summer visits in 2013. She is expected to return at the end of the year.

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