The Bulleid Merchant Navy class original and rebuilt

By Hector Maxwell

The ‘Merchant Navy’ class was everything a steam engine should be; big, powerful, majestic - especially when clean.  The decline of steam coincided with fewer engines to see. And those that were present, were ever more grimy and seemingly woebegone.  External grime and missing nameplates excluded, the knocks and wheezes that were prevalent, plus an even more off-beat sound (the 3-cylinder Bulleids were invariably more off-beat than on), made me realise things were not always quite what they should be.

We have not spoken of the designer as yet, Mr O V S Bulleid. Genius perhaps, but if I may say from one who trained as an engineer, a man who perhaps failed to appreciate the practicalities of living with his creation. Read the various technical books and history books on Mr Bulleid and this fact shines through. It was instead left to British Railways under Ron Jarvis to right the ills and whilst amongst enthusiasts the jury may still be out, to me the result was a thing of beauty.