Built in 1928, 1618 was originally destined to be a K-Class tank. The Sevenoaks accident of 1927 resulted in the rebuilding of the K-Class locomotives, known as the Rivers, to U-class tender engines, in which form they were much more successful, being very useful mixed traffic locomotives. 1618 was part of a batch which were to have been built as Rivers but the order was changed, and they came out as U-Class locos.
She worked from Guildford shed, over the North Downs line to Reading and Redhill, before being reallocated to Salisbury in 1945. In 1951 she was moved again to Nine Elms. She then moved to Eastleigh 1954, Basingstoke in 1961 and then back to Guildford in 1963. On withdrawal from Guildford in 1964 it went to Barry Scrapyard in South Wales, and was the second of the many locomotives to leave the yard for preservation.
Restored to working order, it steamed initially at the Kent & East Sussex Railway. However it was too heavy to be used on that line and so its owners relocated it to the Bluebell in 1977, and it has subsequently had two spells of activity. The U-class is an ideal locomotive for the size of trains we run on the Bluebell, and its sister locomotive, No.1638, has been restored to working order, again by the Maunsell Locomotive Society, entering service for the first time in 42 years in 2006.
Because this locomotive's tender was loaned to the Mid Hants Railway for a year, for use with another U-class which was painted in BR lined black livery, No.1618 was repainted in the same scheme, since its existing paint was getting rather tired, and so this is how it is currently displayed.
U Class 31618 (1618)