Beachy Head- Launching Britain's Newest Locomotive

JOIN US ON THIS SPECIAL OCCASION OF THE INTRODUCTION OF 32424 ‘BEACHY HEAD’ AT THE BLUEBELL RAILWAY.


The Bluebell Railway is proud to announce that our new build LBSCR Marsh Atlantic No. 32424 ‘Beachy Head’ will be launched into traffic at The Bluebell Railway.

The project to recreate 32424 ‘Beachy Head’ began over two decades ago, driven by a dedicated team of volunteers and enthusiasts at our railway. This ambitious endeavour aimed not only to build an accurate replica but also to revive a part of railway history which many had thought had been lost forever. Now, this much missed emission from those locomotives to have survived to the modern day has now been righted.

The project, conducted by the dedicated Atlantic House team, involved painstaking research, sourcing original plans, and even utilising components which the team was lucky enough to find and incorporate into this stunning new build locomotive . With a mix of modern technology and traditional methods, this ambitious project grew and gathered momentum as the years went on. The construction spanned years of meticulous work, which in 2024, reached its ultimate goal and created this amazing new build locomotive that we see today.

Ready for traffic, this is a milestone moment in railway preservation that The Bluebell Railway is proud to celebrate with you all.


It is intended to introduce 32424 ‘Beachy Head’ into service at The Bluebell Railway between August 23rd and September 1st 2024*.

*(Subject to final testing at the railway)


Tickets For This Event Are Now Available To Purchase!

Dining Train Specials With Beachy Head

Golden Arrow & Wealden Rambler Services

We are delighted to run a series of extra special Golden Arrow Pullman Dining Trains & a Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea special to coincide with the introduction of ‘Beachy Head’ into service at The Bluebell Railway. Be the first to enjoy a 5 star service and travel in comfort and style behind Britain’s newest steam locomotive with our special dining and afternoon tea trains hauled by ‘Beachy Head’.


To find out more regarding our Golden Arrow Pullman Dining and what we offer, please click here

To find out more regarding our Wealden Rambler Afternoon Tea Service and what we offer, please click here


The dates are as follows: 

BEACHY HEAD GOLDEN ARROW EVENING SERVICE:

23RD & 24TH AUGUST

BEACHY HEAD WEALDEN RAMBLER AFTERNOON TEA SERVICE:

29TH AUGUST


Book now to avoid disappointment and be part of our special celebration at The Bluebell Railway!

(PRICES, T&C’s & FURTHER INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND ON THE TICKET PAGE LINKS)


32424- Origins Of The Original Locomotive

Built in Brighton to the designs of Douglas Earle Marsh, CME of the LBSCR between 1905 to 1911, six H2 Atlantics were built- numbered from 421 to 426. Lawson Billinton- who succeeded Marsh through ill health- was given the go-ahead to construct the six H2s between 1911-12. Marsh’s earlier experience from working under Henry Ivatt on the Great Northern Railway clearly showed with his design on his own ‘Atlantic’.

The H2 class of locomotive are an Atlantic formation (4-4-2 – four front bogie wheels, four driving wheels and two pony truck wheels), with 6ft 7 ½ driving wheels, 69 tons in weight (engine alone) a boiler capable of producing up to 170lb of pressure (later increased to 200lb) and a tractive effort of 20, 840lb.

The H2 Atlantic was put to use on the LBSCR and Southern Railway’s express passenger trains in the South-Central Division, especially the Pullman-based ‘Southern Belle’ (the forerunner to the ‘Brighton Belle’). The aim was to reduce the running time on the 52 miles between London & Brighton to 1 hour.

Running alongside the similar-looking H1 class of LBSCR Atlantics (which were un-superheated) all six of the H2 class survived through the Second World War. However, after the nationalisation of the railway network into British Railways in 1948, withdrawals of the H2 class began. 32424 ‘Beachy Head’ would be the last of the six to be withdrawn in April 1958, becoming the last example of an Atlantic class tender locomotive (as well as an LBSCR express passenger engine) to work on British Railway metals.

The names of the H2’s all came from known Southern coastal landmarks- appropriate to the LBSCR and Southern Railway. All 6 were named between 1925 and 1926.

Built in 1911, 424 was introduced into traffic in September 1911. The locomotive was named ‘Beachy Head’ in June 1926. The locomotive worked in the South-Central section of the Southern Region for the entirety of its working life. 32424 was based primarily between Newhaven & Brighton sheds throughout its career (albeit a brief stint based at Bognor up to 1938 whilst electrification took place on the Brighton Mainline and the Mid Sussex line and at Bricklayers Arms in London for 6 months in 1947).

After nationalisation, the classes’ days were numbered. 32424 became the final member of the H2 class to remain after 1956, in effect becoming a celebrity locomotive for rail tours after this point.

The locomotive would last up until April 1958- working the RCTS ‘Sussex Coast Limited’ railtour on April 13th 1958- from London Victoria to Newhaven Harbour and eventually onto its birthplace at Brighton Works. It produced a superb performance of 1 hour 20 mins between London & Newhaven Harbour. A fitting finale to this remarkable survivor. After a career of 46 years and 8 months and an estimated 1,090, 661 miles in active service, despite a last-minute attempt to save the locomotive- ‘Beachy Head’ was towed to Eastleigh Works and was scrapped in May 1958.

With the demise of the original 32424, a worthy quote is this “Perchance it is not dead but sleepeth’- something which has certainly grown in poignancy with the emergence of the new build Atlantic that we see today.

Beachy Head- A Phoenix From The Ashes

In October 2000, the Bluebell Railway revealed their grand scheme to rebuild a Brighton H2 Atlantic locomotive, specifically the ‘Beachy Head’ model that was popular during the SR/BR period. This particular locomotive was taken apart at Eastleigh just around the time the Bluebell Railway was coming into existence. Contrary to what some might think, this was not just a fanciful idea.

The Bluebell Railway was well-prepared, already possessing a boiler, the tender frame, wheels, and numerous smaller components. The project’s progress was marked by several significant milestones. In September 1987, they acquired a GN Atlantic boiler. Fast forward to 1995, they managed to get an LBSCR B4 tender chassis. By 1999, they had obtained the LBSCR C2X tender wheelsets and axle boxes. Between 2001 and 2005, they revamped and extended the tender chassis. By 2005-6, the project had found a permanent base at Atlantic House. In the same period, the driving and bogie wheels were cast. In 2006, they received the original regulator handle from ‘Beachy Head’, further adding authenticity to the project.

The project saw more advancements as the main frames of the locomotive were set up in October 2007. By April 2009, the first motion parts were cut from forged blanks using a water jet. The valve chest assembly was welded together in Spring 2010. This ambitious project continued well into the 2020s, with significant strides being made annually. By 5-6 March 2024, the Atlantic and its tender were successfully removed from Atlantic House and set up on the Bluebell Railway tracks.

The achievement of making this new build locomotive cannot be understated. The efforts by the Atlantic House have been monumental. Their hard work, vision, dedication, patience and belief in recreating this long-lost part of railway history has given The Bluebell Railway and the railway preservation movement a special locomotive for future generations to enjoy. Without the efforts of Keith Sturt, Terry Cole, Fred Bailey, David Jones and the whole Atlantic House Group, we would not have the gift of seeing a Brighton Atlantic in action once again. Everyone is eternally grateful for making this project a reality and for completing a remarkable project.


Marsh H2 Atlantic Technical Details

Class: LBSCR H2 Atlantic

Wheels: 4-4-2

Length: 59ft 9in

Weight: Engine 68 Tons 5cwt, Tender 39 Tons 5cwt

Water capacity: 3,500 Gallons

Coal capacity: 4 Tons

Boiler Pressure 170 lb/sq.in as built, and as reconstructed

Driving Wheels: 6ft 7.5in diameter

Cylinders: (2, outside) 21″ x 26″

Tractive Effort: 20,841 lbs

BR power classification: 4P

CUSTOMER INFORMATION

Discounts:

  • Proof of discount eligability will be required to be shown on the day of travel
  • National Rail staff /HRA discounts are available on the day only

Facilities:

  • There are toilets at each of our stations and on some of these services (dependant on carriages on the day)
  • Food and drink is available to purchase at all of our stations

Parking:

  • Sheffield Park Station – free parking at the station
  • Horsted Keynes Station – free parking at the station
  • Kingscote – NO parking is available at this station
  • East Grinstead – free blue badge parking (5 spaces). Public parking in East Grinstead

Tickets:

  • Children under 3yrs (and babies) travel for free and don’t need a ticket
  • Tickets are valid on any Branch Line service on the date(s) specified on the ticket only
  • Advance tickets are valid for 3rd class travel only – 1st class upgrades are available on the day from the station bopking office (subject to availability)

Seating: 

  • This service offers free seating
  • customers with 3rd class tickets are free to seat themselves on the trains in any 3rd class seat
  • customers who purchase a 1st class upgrade on the day may seat themselves in any 1st class seat

Accessibility:

  • We are pleased to offer a specially adapted area for wheelchair users on some departures of this service. Please call our Customer Service Team on 01825 720800 to check availability
  • If you or a member of your party have mobility issues and would like to travel on this service, please call our Customer Service Team on 01825 720800 who will be happy to discuss your requirements with you
  • Accessible toilets are available at each station, but we regret we have no “Changing Places” toilets, or accessible toilets on our trains

Dogs:

  • We are pleased to welcome dogs on this service – please keep them on a lead and don’t allow them on the seats

Prams/Pushchairs/Buggies:

  • Prams/pushchairs/buggies are welcome on this service
  • Foldable/collapsible prams/pushchairs/buggies can be taken into the carriages and stowed by your seat
  • Non folding/collapsible prams/pushchairs/buggies can be left on the platform, please speak to our station staff at the departure station for futher detail

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BEACHY HEAD’S LAUNCH AND OTHER BLUEBELL RAILWAY EVENTS, SIGN UP TO OUR BLUEBELL NEWSLETTER BELOW:

Photos kindly supplied by The Bluebell Railway & The Atlantic House Group