Q+A: 32424 Beachy Head

Our latest Q+A gives the background and latest news on the Brighton Atlantic, 32424 Beachy Head.

When did the project start, and how? Was it simply that the opportunity was created by the availability of the boiler – and how did that come about? Was the boiler one of several?
The project started slowly in 2001 but then picked up in 2006 when our ‘Atlantic House’ was opened enabling work to be carried out under cover. It was solely driven by the discovery in 1986 of a GNR Atlantic boiler being used as a heating source at John Sadd & Co. in Maldon, Essex. This boiler was one of four at the joinery works.

The boiler and chassis side-by-side in Atlantic House, May 26th 2018.

What’s the estimated total cost of the locomotive? Is there a big cash saving from doing so much of the work ‘in-house’ compared to commissioning it from external suppliers?
The final cost is estimated to be £1.25 million, which has been achieved by doing most of the work in-house, but this has lengthened the time scale. We have been disappointed with some of the quality of the work that has been contracted out, so at least we know that what we do at the Bluebell is accurate.

When do you expect to have the locomotive in steam?
We have been asked to have the engine ready by 2020, but this is going to be a bit tight as there is much still to do.

What still needs doing? What will be the stages of moving the locomotive out of Atlantic House, uniting it with the boiler and getting it on the track?
The boiler is expected to be steam tested in the next month or two, but then there is still the cladding to make and fit, and the tender tank to be constructed, which will be an outside contract job. The boiler will be tested outside, then a crane brought in to place it onto the chassis which will also be hauled out the front of Atlantic House. The whole assembly will then be pushed back into the building for the cladding and cab fittings to be assembled. Finally the completed locomotive will be hauled out into the open for a crane lift to turn it approximately 90 degrees onto the track.

The boiler with all tubes fitted, January 2018

What’s your approach to fundraising? How much have you needed to raise, how have you gone about it, and what have the revenue streams be?
We have been fortunate in having a generous Bluebell Railway membership so have never been short of funding. They have supported the project with standing orders and sponsorships, the latter covering over £300,000 so far.

What operational future do you envisage for the locomotive – will it ever go on the main line?
Beachy Head is being built solely for use on the Bluebell Railway as an addition to the running fleet. There are no plans for it to be main line certified although it could be in the future.

The bogie being lifted, October 2013

How big are the active membership group? Who does the work on the locomotive?
We have the two main members of the team building the locomotive, Keith Sturt and Fred Bailey, but others do occasional tasks when required, such as precision machining and riveting.

What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome so far? 
Obstacles have been some poor quality work by outside contractors and restrictions on the availability of some engineering skills. There is also the ongoing problem that we are all getting older!

All photos by David Jones unless stated. The photo used on the front page shows work being undertaken on the driving wheels early in 2014. With thanks to David and the team for supplying the answers and images.

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