1638

U Class 1638 (31638)
©Locoyard Images
Current Condition: Awaiting Overhaul. Requires boiler work, including work on the firebox and requires new driving wheel tyres.

Built: 1931
Wheel Arragement: 2-6-0

Numbers Carried: A638, 1638, 31638
Cylinders: 2
Length: 57ft 6in
Boiler Pressure: 200psi


One of two U-class locomotives on the Bluebell Railway, both coming via Barry scrapyard, this one was privately purchased and donated to the Bluebell, who have loaned it to the Maunsell Locomotive Society. Having lost its tender whilst at Barry, a new one has been built, starting from the remains of a snowplough which in turn had been created using a Schools class locomotive tender as its base. The loco steamed for the first time in preservation in February 2006.

‘The Society won three awards for the restoration of 1638, including the prestigious Heritage Railway Association John Coiley Award for Locomotive Projects.  The citation reads ‘ For restoring and maintaining their fleet of Maunsell Locomotives, as exemplified by the restoration of ‘U’ Class 2-6-0 No.1638 from scrapyard condition’. The loco ran on the Bluebell Railway for ten years and was withdrawn in 2016.  It will require another thorough overhaul, including replacement of its driving wheel tyres which are down to scrapping size.

Built in 1931 at Ashford, she initially worked from Redhill, but was reallocated in 1933 to Guildford, where she worked on the North Downs line to Redhill and Tonbridge. She then had a brief stay at Bournemouth shed following an overhaul in 1936, but was moved to Reading in 1937. Here she stayed for 6 years, before being moved to Exmouth Junction in 1943. However in 1946, 1638 was surplus to requirements so was put into storage at Eastleigh, not being re-steamed until 1947 and being returned to Exmouth Junction. In 1949 she was moved to Stewarts Lane. She then moved 8 times; Faversham, Hither Green, Redhill, Brighton, Eastleigh, Redhill (again) and finally settling in Fratton in 1953. Here she stayed until Fratton shed closed in 1959, when she move to Guildford. She stayed at Guildford until withdrawl in 1964.

The restoration of 1638 was the biggest challenge tackled by the Maunsell Locomotive Society (working in conjunction with the Bluebell Railway). It lacked many components (including a tender) and the loco was in a very run down condition.  Virtually all is motion (coupling rods and connecting rods etc) were missing, along with all its brass fittings.  One new crank pin was required and some spokes required welding up were they had been cut through with gas cutting gear.  The boiler required a new tubeplate and major repairs to the firebox steel outer wrapper, in addition to the usual replacement of boiler tubes, re metalling and machining of axle boxes and turning of tyres.