35011 General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society

Work is continuing to not only to return Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific 35011 General Steam Navigation to steam but also back to her original ‘Air Smoothed’ condition complete with Bulleid’s oil bath encased valve gear incorporating chain drive elements. [Updated 07/08/2021]

What she would hopefully return to looking like at some stage.  21C11 (later 35011) at Bournemouth.  Photo credit John Neve

The heritage railway scene has, due to many ending up at the Barry Scrapyard,  never really been short of Bulleid’s Pacifics of either the Merchant Navy or West Country / Battle of Britain type, but there is still a key missing link. The lack of an original condition Merchant Navy class is a large gap in the story of Southern Railway express locomotive development. With all 30 members of the Merchant Navy class having been rebuilt at Eastleigh in the late 1950s, it was never possible to preserve one in the unmodified original condition. That gap will soon hopefully be filled as The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society intend to reverse the 1959 rebuilding of 35011 General Steam Navigation back to that original condition.

Railway Mania Podcast

The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society feature in the latest Railway Mania podcast, episode 17. The 90-minute podcast features myself and two fellow Society Trustees,  Andrew Collett and Steve Rapley (CME) with Corwin Bainbridge discussing our project to restore 21c11 / 35011 back to original condition complete with Bulleid’s chain driven valve gear and air smoothed casing.

The Podcast looks at our ambitious project in detail, we the Trustees answer questions and discuss: the history of 35011; the main issues arising from the project returning her to original condition including: the missing crank axle, replacement middle cylinder, the work being undertaken in cooperation with Loughborough University and the University of Birmingham students on drafting and smoke clearing arrangements; visibility from the cab; the potential liveries and dispels some of the myths associated with casing fires.

More information can be found about the project and how you support and can get involved in more detail on the GSNLRS own comprehensive website here. 


The unique in preservation Merchant Navy fabricated trailing truck

[Update 07/08/2021] Two major steps forward have been announced:
Firstly, following the removal of the trailing truck from the frames in October 2020 and months of preparatory work by their hard working volunteers, that the restoration contract for the trailing truck has been awarded after a tender process to North Norfolk Railway Engineering.
Secondly, After full research and recent detailed Finite Element Analysis conducted at the University of Birmingham, under the supervision of Professor Karl Dearn, The GSNLRS has demonstrated that A4T steel is of a suitable grade for the correct balanced crank axle design for 35011 in original design condition. This means the GSNLRS can proceed to final design of the central axle & balancing of the motion, and the order placement for the steel in the coming months and moving the project further forwards.
Read the full announcement here. 

The GSNLS has launched a new fund group that allows its members to be part of an exclusive club and aid the overall restoration of 21c11/35011 General Steam Navigation by becoming a Trailing Truck Transformer. A maximum of 30 members to purchase a ‘Lot’ for £500. Members are welcome to purchase as many ‘Lots’ as you wish up to the maximum target amount. Full details and how to apply to become a member can be found on the GSNLRS website here.

I reiterate again that membership of the Society costs only £15 per year and full details on how to become a member can be found here.

Full updates on progress can be found on the 35011 Society website here.

[Update 01/02/21] Trailing Truck Transformers – Fund Group.  The Trailing Truck currently with 21c11/35011 is unique in preservation as being one of the later fabricated type that replaced her original cast type in 1955. All other preserved Merchant Navy locomotives have the cast type.
The Trailing Truck was removed from the frames at the same time as the successful boiler lift on 2nd October. The estimate for the full refurbishment and overhaul of the Trailing Truck by specialist contractors is £15,000.


The boiler of 35011 is lifted from the frames for the first time since 1959

[Update 03/10/20] On Friday 2nd October 2020, the boiler of Ex-SR Bulleid Merchant Navy Class, 35011 “General Steam Navigation” was successfully lifted from its frames for the first time since 1959. The boiler was built by North British in Glasgow in January 1941 and has been attached for a total of 61 years since its last overhaul in July 1959.

The trailing truck was also removed from the frames, utilising the crane on site as this will soon be moving off site to be fully restored. The smokebox, that would have been unusable if we were restoring to as rebuilt condition, was also removed. A new smokebox to the original design will be fabricated in due course.
Full details of the boiler lift can be read here

[Update 03/06/20] Covid-19 has temporarily suspended all works from taking place on 35011 at Blunsdon. The “Sponsor and inch” campaign the to raise the necessary funds for the the boiler lift due to take place, hopefully later this year, as soon as conditions allow reached its initial target and any additional funds raised will be put towards the restoration of the rolling chassis and the online Just Giving fund raising page can be found here all further dontations would be moe than welcome!

Work has also continued behind the scenes with a new website launched with a new look and feel and far greater content than previously including the history of 21c11 /35011 and also technical information pages regarding many of Bulleid’s innovations and designs. Click here to visit the site and read more.

Also new CADs have been commissioned, taking the original Southern Railway drawings for the frames and all associated components and assemblies such as frames stretchers, brackets and drag boxes etc. that will be invaluable once the boiler the lifted to check the existing parts and in preparation of those that will be require to be fabricated from new.

Update 03/10/19] Working parties have commenced at 35011’s new home at Blunsdon on Swindon and Cricklade Railway which enables a wider range of work to be carried on the locomotive was not practical at its previous temporary location.

Myself hands on finding out just how heavy a 17ft long Bulleid Boiler tube is as we remove them!

Work has started in ernest to remove items that either need restoration or due to her be being restored in the Bulleid original condition are no longer required for this locomotive. Removal of the boiler tubes has also started prior to the boiler being lifted in due course to allow full restoration work on the chassis to commence.

In addition to being a shareholder and also able to enjoy getting my hands dirty on the 1:1 scale locomotive going back to my engineering roots, I am delighted to be able to announce that I accepted a request by the The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society and the General Steam Navigation Community Interest Company (CIC) to become both a trustee of the Restoration Society and a Board Director of the CIC.

[Update 15/04/19] Further to the news update just 4 weeks ago, 35011 has now arrived at its new base of the Swindon and Cricklade Railway. Pictures courtesy and copyright The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society
The locomotive will now be undercover within a shelter for the first time since she was in service. This will allow her to be fully dismantled, which was not possible to commence at its previous location.
The boiler can then lifted allowing the rolling chassis to be moved into theSwindon and Cricklade Railway‘s main works.
There is already room allocated in the works enabling the main restoration work, and indeed uniquely returning to Bulleid’s original as designed and built condition, to commence at much greater pace and within vastly improved conditions.

The Just giving page that has been set up here is still open to help raise funds for the cost of this move, perhaps you might be able to make a small donation to assist, as said, “every little helps”!

[Update 15/03/19] Great News! The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society have been able to announce that locomotive will be soon moving to its new base of the Swindon and Cricklade Railway.  The locomotive will be based within a shelter and will be the first time since she was in service that she will  be undercover. She will then be fully dismantled, which was not possible to commence at its current location, and the boiler lifted allowing the rolling chassis to be moved into the railway’s main works where there is already room enabling the main restoration work to commence.

Another major tipping point in this project has also been reached and that is the fact that The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society  now has the necessary funds to cover the cost of the construction of the missing main crank axle that really demonstrates the progress and support that the project has achieved.
In addition many original parts have been recently sourced and or manufactured and machined  such as the spring beams for the front bogie and trailing axle truck and the Kilinger Valves.

Some of the dedicated team pose in front of No.11 with one of the lovely new nameplates (picture courtesy and copyright 35011 Society)

A set of injector valve handle castings that I am proud to have sponsored, prior to machining.

[Update 08/08/18] Progress has been steady over the last few months, within the limits of what can be done at her current location, with the boiler receiving a further coat of protective paint and work on the trailing truck (being the only surviving fabricated style trailing struck).

Also a variety of components have been sourced and machined, including impressive new nameplates and also injector valve handles (to which I contributed to the fund to sponsor these items. The Society have also acquired a brass lamp fitted with the bullseye lens, toggle switch to side and bulb holder inside. The lamp is reported to have come off Merchant Navy’ Class No. 35024 “East Asiatic Company”. Gaining the lamp is fantastic news for the project as the use of original components helps add character to the locomotive.

35011 as she stands after the first couple of working parties of the new Restoration Society

The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society was formed at the end of 2015 with the aim of taking over 35011 from her then owners and commence full restoration once a new location for this to take place can be found. The first major milestone of the new 35011 Locomotive Society of talking over ownership of 35011 took place in August 2016 and are now offering shares in the locomotive to fund the restoration.

A number of working parties have already taken place to catalogue and  properly preserve what remains of her currently; and a start has already been made on procuring new components.

35011 was built at Eastleigh and introduced as 21C11 in December 1944 as the first of the second series, 21c11 to 21c20, of Merchant Navy pacifcs she was paired to a 5100 gallon tender rather than the 500o gallon tenders for the first 10 locomotives (the final third series of 10 locomotives had even larger 6000 gallon tenders). Originally introduced in plain war time black livery she then gained malachite green in January 1947, followed by BR Brunswick Green in November 1951, being one of only 3 of the class not to gain the BR Express Passenger Blue livery. During this period she had the original style flat fronted cab (as per in the picture above) modified to the wedge shape in September 1950, and her boiler pressured from 280 to 250 psi in June 1954 although she retained the safety valve positioned towards the front of the boiler until rebuilding. The other visible external changes prior to the rebuilding and subsequent return to service in July 1959, were that the front fairings between the cyclinfers and buffer beam were removed in may 1951 and the tender raves were cut down in August 1957.

Membership of the Society costs only £12 per year and full details on how to become a member can be found here.

Following on the success of returning 35006 Peninsular & Oriental S. N. Co. back to steam during 2016 it will be great to see 35011 also return in the future and excitingly back in her original ‘Air Smoothed’ condition. Like my page on 35006 Peninsular & Oriental S. N. Co. I will try and keep this page updated with future developments.

The model railway world and mainly Southern Railway meanderings of Graham 'Muz' Muspratt

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