In the years following grouping in the 1920s, the Southern Railway languished as a poor relation to the Great Western. Their trains were frequently late and usually dirty - a group of passengers who registered a complaint were told that the state of the trains was due to the filthy habits of the passengers! Clearly "something had to be done" and Sir Herbert Walker, chairman of the railway, decided on a publicity drive in an attempt to wrest some of the media spotlight from the GWR.
Mindful of the Great Western's success with the rakish styling and inspired naming of the Star and Castle class 4-6-0s, the board decided on a new class of express locomotives named after Knights of the Round Table of Arthurian legend. Delighted with the idea, the company told their chief mechanical engineer, the dour Maunsell, of the plan, to which he replied "tell Sir Herbert that I have no objection, but I warn you it won't make any difference to the running of the engine". Ah, the endless antipathy between engineers and suits!
Maunsell produced a locomotive based on his predecessor Urie's N15 class. A twin cylinder locomotive, weighing a little over 80 tons, with 20 1/2 x 28 cylinders, it proved immensely successful turning in power and efficiency figures comparable to the Castles.
This locomotive is a model of one of the Eastleigh-built engines, No.799 "Sir Ironside"- the prototype was built in 1926 and withdrawn in 1961. Twin piston valve cylinders with Walschaerts gear, silver soldered copper boiler fed by injector, axle pump and auxiliary hand pump in the tender. Working pressure is 90 psi, with twin safety valves fitted to the roundtop boiler. There is a screw reverser in the cab, although a push-pull reverser lever is included for up-and-down running if required. There is a detachable regulator extension rod for those short in arm (or large round the middle) who can't reach over the tender for driving. Six wheel tender with compensated brakes.
The engine has been built to a high standard using Greenly drawings - is was fully overhauled in 1993 when a new boiler by Western Steam was fitted - and is in excellent mechanical order throughout. Nicely detailed with bolted up square flanges on glands and connections, dummy vacuum gear, lamps and castellated nuts in the motion work. It comes complete with set of firing irons and electric steam-raising blower. The tender has been fitted with quick-fit connections for the water feeds. Finished in Southern dark olive green with white lining, the paintwork is in good condition.
Locomotive 41 inches
Tender 25 inches
Approx 200 pounds