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. 

What she would hopefully return to looking like. 21C11 at Bournemouth Photo credit John Neve
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 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.

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

Work has started in earnest 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.


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 cylinders and buffer beam were removed in may 1951 and the tender raves were cut down in August 1957.

Membership of the Society costs only £15 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.

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

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