A new Society, The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society, has been formed with the aim of not only restoring but more ambitiously returning Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific 35011 General Steam Navigation into original air smoothed condition. 35011 was introduced in December 1944, as one of the second series built (described and illustrated in more detail in model form here), and subsequently like eventually all of the 30 strong Merchant Navy class she was rebuilt in July 1959. The rebuilding entailed the removal of the air smoothed casing and more fundamental the replacement of the chain driven valve gear encased within an oil bath with a full set of standard Walschaerts valve gear.
Although the current preservation scheme is not all that short of Bulleid’s creations, such as number 35006 of which I am shareholder and whose restoration is nearly compete, however there is of course a missing link. The lack of an original air smoothed and chain valve gear driven Merchant Navy is an obvious gap in the preservation scene of Southern Railway locomotives.
This video below illustrates the aims of the Society more succinctly than I can put into words.
The new Society has the backing of the current owners of 35011 who will put the locomotive into the trust of the Society if in the first instance a new location for her can be found which is currently one of the first priorities of the Society. This month has seen the Society get fully up an running with membership now available for only £10 per year, full details on how to join can be found on their website here. You can also follow the Society on Twitter @35011GSN It would certainly be good to see this missing link in preservation filled so please join the Society of you can.