One item of my rolling stock that raises the most questions when I exhibit Fisherton Sarum, and is also one of the most common search terms that readers of this blog have used to get here, is in connection with the Bulleid Leader. I will not go in to the whys and wherefores of the prototype as there are enough books and online references, such as the Semg website here or dare I say it Wikipedia here although a few myths about it can be seen to be perpetuated such as that the initial intention “was to replace the aging fleet of M7 class tank engines” when in fact it was to have the same route availability, which is not quite the same thing! Bulleid in fact stated that they were “have the same route availability of the M7” rather than be a replacement for them which is a subtle difference. It had however been reported that some of the funding for the Leader may have been redirected for that perhaps earmarked for tank engine replacements, which may also have been origin of the M7 replacement myth.
For my own 4mm model of Bulleid’s unconventional ‘Leader’, I utilised a kit of parts from Golden Arrow Productions. A limited edition ready to run model of this unusual prototype is available but I obtained from them a kit of bits so I could do my own thing when it came to the chassis arrangement etc.
The body is one piece resin casting, with additional castings for the ashpan and steam reverser. Being resin the casting is quite thick which is slightly more evident around the windows and is one of the reasons why I did not try and model the roof vent shutters in the open position. Lamp irons and handrails etc were also added.
White metal parts make up the power bogies and I have used Markits wheels and axles. The power bogie is designed to use a LH19 double ended motor with 40:1 worm and gear drive to two of the axles on the bogie. Unlike the Golden Arrow RTR version that is supplied with one powered and one trailing, I chose to make two identical powered versions. Initially power is collected from opposite sides at each bogie with a single wire between the two, I added additional wire wiper pick ups to each bogie (allowing them to be independent units, useful when testing) and ran a pair of wires between each bogie.
The Leader never ran in public service and only on test trains from firstly from Brighton between July 1949 and February 1950 and then again from Eastleigh between April and November 1950 utilising the ex NER dynamometer car. It only generally ran with the Number two end leading as the number one end cab was considered too uncomfortable by drivers due to the heat of smokebox located at the back of the cab. The fireman’s compartment was also well known to have been overbearing in temperature as well but in reality was probably not that much hotter than a Bulleid pacific enclosed cab in the summer.
Although the Leader was painted in light grey throughout its short life (although it was reputedly seen in plain black in Brighton works for a day) there were slight changes to lining and insignia:-
21st June 1949 Introduced in silvery light grey, no lining or insignia. Cast number plate on front of each end.
28th June 1949 while at Eastleigh 36001 was repainted outdoors in matt light grey, British Railways lion on wheel insignia and number added to centre of each side.
Between 15th & 22nd July 1949 at Brighton British Railways insignias and numbers painted out leaving a rectangle of a slightly different colour light grey (I guess not so silvery and matt) Numbers applied to each end of both side just behind the door (note cast number plate on each end was also retained). Black and red lining applied in 3 panels to each end and 4 panels to each side.
March 1951 saw project abandoned and 36001 scrapped along with 36002 which was virtually complete and 36003/4 which were in progress.
It is also worth noting that from the limited photographs available it would appear that it was never cleaned!
I hope this post gives those searching more information and references to this intriguing prototype. for further reading I would recommend the following books on the leader:
Leader Steam’s last chance; Robertson, Kevin; Alan Sutton Publishing; 1988; 0862993768
Leader and Southern experimental steam; Robertson, Kevin; Alan Sutton Publishing; 1990; 0862997437
Leader the Full story (the above two books combined); Robertson, Kevin; Alan Sutton Publishing; 1995; 0750910038
The Leader Project: Fiasco or Triumph; Robertson, Kevin; OPC Railprint; 2007; 0860936066
Bullied Locomotives; Haresnape, Brian; Ian Allen; 1985; 0711015392