Post war – pre nationalisation, why do I model it?

When one looks at the majority of steam era model layouts of the big four railway companies, or the subsequent British Railways regions, the majority tend to be set in either the 1930s or the 1950/60s this also tends to be reflected by the choice of models and liveries from the major ready-to-run manufacturers. Leaving aside the arguments of the least modelled and supported of the big four or BR regions the period that seems to most get overlooked in model form is the immediate post war to nationalisation period of 1946 to 1948.

I thought I would outline some of the reasons and influences for me in choosing to model this less than popular period, and also the Southern Railway with my layout Fisherton Sarum, putting aside the fact that perhaps it is really because I just like to be different….

The politics of the railways in this immediate post war period were fascinating; the railway companies were just coming out of the heavy workloads and lack of investment caused by the war.  Many were in a pretty poor, almost dire in some cases, shape financially.
The Southern Railway however was not in quite such a bad shape financially as some of the others. In reality the Government through the Railway Executive still actually had a strong element of control over all the railway companies that it obtained during the war and of course formal nationalisation was looming.

Malachite Green livery reappears on top link engines such as Merchant Navy 21C6 here

Despite all the gloom services are starting to get back to pre-war levels and following a particularly harsh winter in 1947 the summer season appears on the outside to be returning to normal.

The Southern Railway’s top link engines are now starting to appear back in the favoured lined malachite green livery rather than the austere wartime black scheme although the use on the black of Bulleid’s yellow and green ‘Sunshine’ lettering helped to lift the livery slightly. However, many of the less glamorous classes were destined to remain in a black livery for the rest of their service. 
Drummond T14 sporting an early British Railways lettering and number in Southern 'sunshine' style

By 1948 nationalisation has occurred and subtle changes to liveries are starting to take place. Interim renumbering has appears on some locos by simply putting an ‘S’ prefix in front of the Southern Railway number and instances of British Railways appearing on the side of some locomotives in a variety of font styles including the Southern ‘sunshine’ style or no ownership branding at all on the loco sides. Subsequently the new 3xxxx series numbers start to appear and sometimes these have been applied to locomotives that still retain their Southern branding.  From the middle of 1948 a number of the top link locomotive classes and a small amount of rolling stock appeared new experimental colours, such as lined apple green on Light Pacific 34011 ‘Tavistock which can be seen on Fisherton Sarum at the head of the Devon Belle.

34011 "Tavistock" in the British Railways early experimental Apple Green livery

One of the railway engineers I revere is O.V.S. Bulleid. As the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway, he had an uncanny way of working around the previous wartime pressures and restrictions, and by 1946 he was really getting into his stride and an ever increasing number of light pacific’s and coaching stock were being introduced. Experiments to improve the smoke clearance and cab visibility of his pacific locomotives were in full swing and most versions can be seen amongst my rolling stock. Further engineering innovation (although others may call it something else) was to come with the unconventional Leader Class.
There is also a family connection with the Southern Railway at that time as my grandfather was a ganger for the Southern Railway, based at Salisbury for most of this period, before he gained promotion to Sub Inspector (permanent way) at Andover Junction during 1948. My father in his short trouser days used to spend many hours either stood by the railings at the London end of platform one of Salisbury watching the struggle to start the heavy London bound trains on the sharp curving and rising grade, or trying to sneak into the shed. 

With his Southern background my first engine given to me by dad in my younger days was of course a Triang Hornby M7 (which in a re-wheeled, detailed and repainted form still appears on Fisherton Sarum, along with the classic smell of its original X04 motor!)

I hope these ramblings give a further little insight into my reasoning’s for what I model.

Leave a Reply