Although the final former London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) H2 Class 4-4-2 was withdrawn too soon to save, it is hoped that a replica of No 32424 Beachy Head will enter service during 2021 on the Bluebell Railway. The project, announced in October 2000 by the Bluebell Railway Atlantic Group, has continued apace ever since and was supported by Bachmann Europe in June 2019 when a cheque was presented for £10,617.50 in recognition of the assistance provided during development of the Branchline model.
The model itself (with tooling for both the H1 and H2 Class) was announced in 2013 at the Bachmann Collectors Club Members Day, held at the Bluebell Railway, and despite criticism for the length of time taken from announcement to release (2018), it has since proved popular.
Mr Richard Proudman from Bachmann Europe presents the cheque to Bluebell Railway Atlantic Group Chairman, Mr Terry Cole (left) and Secretary, Mr David Jones (right)
Introduced by LB&SCR’s locomotive superintendent Mr Douglas Earle Marsh, the H1 Class was of Great Northern Railway (GNR) design. Requiring a powerful express locomotive to cope with ever-growing traffic, Mr Marsh chose to use a proven design of which he was familiar, having initially been chief assistant to Mr Henry Alfred Ivatt at GNR’s Doncaster Works. There was a striking resemblance between locomotives with the LB&SCR making only minimal amendments to the cab, chimney and footplate undulations. Five unnamed locomotives were built between December 1905 and February 1906 with No 39 later christened La France in June 1913 which was used to haul a train carrying the then French President Mr Raymond Poincaré. La France was carried until January 2026 at which time she was renamed Hartland Point.
Following initial success acting chief mechanical engineer, Mr Lawson Billington, introduced the superheated H2 Class between June 1911 and January 1912 (six in total). The two classes of locomotives were easily distinguishable with the earlier version having the footplate swept up over the cylinders, whereas the H2 Class remained level until just ahead of the firebox.
Having been the motive power of choice for Brighton express duties, the introduction of the ex-London and South Western Railway (LSWR) N15 Class in 1925 led to the allocation of secondary routes and boat train duties. Members of both classes were named after geographical features of the south coast at this time.
With cessation of cross-channel ferries due to the outbreak of World War II, several locomotives were placed in storage or assigned a wider variety of duties throughout the south of England. The first H1 Class withdrawal was No 2040 St Catherine's Point in January 1944 with the two final members following in July 1951 (No 32037 Selsey Bill and No 32038 Portland Bill).
Whilst the H2 Class continued to work boat trains in peacetime, withdrawals steadily progressed. No 32424 Beachy Head became the last surviving locomotive of the 4-4-2 wheel arrangement to operate a normal revenue-earning service in the United Kingdom; she performed her swansong on 13 April 1958 when working the outward Railway Correspondence and Travel Society (RCTS) ‘Sussex Coast Limited’ rail tour. Upon conclusion she moved to Brighton and then Eastleigh Works for the final time.
Three variations of the Atlantics were initially available, with an RRP ranging from £189.95 to £199.95: -
- 31-910 (LB&SCR Umber) H1 Class No 39 La France
- 31-920 (SR Olive Green) H2 Class No 2421 South Foreland
- 31-921 (BR Lined Black-Early) H2 Class No 32424 Beachy Head
On looks alone, No 32424 Beachy Head (31-921) is worth the wait – it resembles the prototype superbly when compared to contemporary pictures with differing front lamp positions and revised coal rail guards immediately noticeable when compared to earlier iterations.
Moulded and separate fittings are well detailed throughout, specifically the open cab where subtle brass and copper paintwork is exquisite. The livery itself is to the high standard we come to expect with finely printed nameplates (though etched examples are also provided).
The accessory pack contains many standard extras such as screw link couplings, steam and vacuum pipes, etc as well as the option to have open or closed cab doors.
The die-cast metal running plate gives considerable weight and whilst the trailing truck frames are die-cast too, the fully flanged trailing axle mounted on a pivot offers plenty of movement. A three-pole motor is in the approximate area of the firebox, with a twenty-one pin DCC socket in the tender. Pick-ups are fitted to all driving wheels, as well front and rear wheels on the tender, which is connected by drawbar. Performance on a micro layout is near irrelevant, though significant haulage has been reported elsewhere.
Two years on from release, no further announcements have been forthcoming, though the livery variations available are tenfold. No matter, the Atlantics are another sublime addition, especially for the pre-Grouping modeller, and with No 32424 Beachy Head due to be introduced to the heritage scene next year interest will surely rejuvenate this fine model.