Latest News

July 2023

Q class 541 to undergo a ‘Priority’ overhaul at Leaky Finders

A leaflet pdf to give more appeal information is here.

Q class 541 left the Bluebell Railway on Thursday 6th July to undergo a ‘Priority’ overhaul at Leaky Finders in Devon. The overhaul is being funded by the Bluebell Railway Trust and the Maunsell Locomotive Society who own the locomotive; the locomotive being the subject of a long-term operating agreement with the Bluebell Railway.
The Q class was R.E.L Maunsell’s last loco design, and 20 were constructed at Eastleigh works in 1939. 541 was the 54th loco to depart Barry Scrapyard back in 1974 and some restoration work was undertaken at Ashchurch, Gloucestershire, prior to the then owning group merging with the Maunsell Locomotive Society in 1978 and the loco moving to the Bluebell Railway for conclusion of the restoration project. It first ran in service at the Bluebell between 1983 and 1992. After a major overhaul it re-entered traffic in 2015 but had to be withdrawn in December 2022, in need of boiler repairs, attention to the tyres and a new tender tank. In its two periods of service at the Bluebell Railway be it has covered over 70,000 miles in traffic and proved to be a strong, reliable and economic loco to operate. On a visit to the Great Central Railway it was described as being like ‘a Midland 4F on steroids’ by one of their loco crews.
The loco underwent a full piston and valve exam and repair in early 2022 and the bottom half of the loco is reported to be in good condition, other than the need for attention to the tyres. The tender will remain at the Bluebell Railway for overhaul. The tender tank will need to be replaced and the tyres will require attention.
'MLS volunteers will help with overhauling the components of the tender chassis.
541 has run in BR condition as 30541, with late BR crest, in its last period of service. When first restored in 1983 it was fitted with a BR standard class 4 design chimney and blast pipe, which reduced the risk of spark throwing that had been experienced with the Bulleid Lemaitre chimney and blastpipe which had been fitted in SR days. British Railways had fitted the Standard class 4 chimney to six members of the class as a means of improving their steaming.
The Bluebell Railway Trust and Maunsell Locomotive Society are keen to raise funds to help overhaul the locomotive. On-line payments to the appeal can be made by clicking the DONATE button on the Bluebell website and following the online payment instructions. Select Q Class 541 Overhaul in the drop-down box. Otherwise please send a cheque, made payable to the ‘Bluebell Railway Trust’ (and a Gift Aid Form – if appropriate - downloaded from the Bluebell Railway website) to the Bluebell Railway Trust, Sheffield Park Station, Near Uckfield TN22 3QL. Please add a note to say it is for the 541 overhaul appeal.

A leaflet pdf to give more appeal information is here.

July 2022

Stowe – A new way to speed up progress on the chassis

As with many restoration projects, the Covid 19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns halted all serious progress on Stowe. Then the deaths of Frank Glue in 2020, followed by our previous Chairman, Ray Bellingham in 2021, deprived of us of our two most experienced engineers and fitters. One bright spot in the last two years was the decision by Bluebell Railway to send Stowe’s boiler away to HBSS, up on Merseyside to progress the boiler overhaul, in late 2019, albeit progress has been delayed somewhat by Covid as well. We were very pleased when it was recently agreed that Bluebell will pay for Stowe’s chassis to go away to Quainton Road for boring of the cylinders and valve chests to take place followed by fitting of liners to the outer cylinders and installation of new piston heads and valve heads. Unfortunately there are just too many projects trying to use the limited workshop space at Sheffield Park so a new way had to be found.
Stowe’s chassis was made ready to move to Quainton Road and it departed on THursday 23rd July. Most of |Stowe’s motion parts have also gone away with the chassis, as the plan now is for the motion to be re-assembled as well, whilst the chassis is away.
New floor to the tenderFurthermore, Rodney Packham and Barry Smith have reconstructed the base for the timber floor At the beginning of the year the working party commenced cleaning up some of the smaller motion parts, which had not been touched since the loco was dismantled. This included cleaning up the return cranks. Whilst doing this Barry Smith and Jon Elphick noticed that the return cranks had the number 903 stamped into them. It appears that the return cranks must have been swapped during a visit to the works.
On the boiler front , HBSS have welded the new lower half of the tubeplate to the remaining re-usable top half of the tubeplate. They have also completed creating the shape for the new lower half of the doorplate and the specialist copper welder had re-turned and welded the two parts together. Following on from this, the welds have passed their inspection testing and both tubeplate and doorplate have been offered up into the crown and sides of the firebox, to enable the flanges to marked out to enable holes for rivets to be drilled in the flanges of the tubeplate and doorplate.
Images below are the LH rear cylinder cover released after much careful effort by Mel, and Barry and Jon cleaning up the motion

LH rear cylinder cover releasedbarry and Jon work on the  motion


847 has been stored under cover since being withdrawn from traffic in December 2021. Our regular working party has spent time on cleaning the motion and then applying ankor wax fluid (which is a form of protective wax oil) to prevent corrosion.


The Q was back in service in April 2022, after several months in the works for planned repairs. For the record, the work included :-
  • New steam pipes, fabricated by Bluebell’s Boiler Smiths, Simon Blaker and Henry Mowforth.
  • The cylinders were bored out by Frank Boait. Alex, Chris and Harry bored out the valves. New piston heads and valve heads were procured. The piston heads were machined off site by Frank Boait, the valve heads by Harry.
  • The existing piston rods were worn beyond re-use and the new piston rods were machined by Statfold Barn. The crossheads required new little end pins, which were provided by Statfold Barn, who also bored the crossheads to accept the new small end pins. The big ends were re-metalled by Harry, Alex and Ben Harvey and then scraped in to fit. The slide bars were taken down, checked over and found to not require any attention.
541 motion stripped out for repair New steam pipes


31618 remains stored in the pump house siding at Sheffield Park. It remains the Society’s intention to engage with overhauling 31618, once the overhaul of Stowe is completed.


1638 remains stored up at Horsted Keynes.


Tony Clements and colleagues in Carriage and Wagon have progressed the construction of a new door for the PMV, which at the time of writing, is nearing completion.

November 2021

928 Stowe

Since the July 2021 update there has been further significant progress with the boiler repair at Heritage Boiler Steam Services. They have:- Obtained some appropriate specification new copper sheet to enable them to form a new bottom half for the firebox throatplate, using a ‘former’ that they had previously fabricated. The new section of copper plate has been ‘tack welded’ to the original top half of the tubeplate. The whole assembly has been refitted into the inner firebox ready for the two parts of the tubeplate to be welded together. HBSS will now proceed to fabricate the new bottom half for the inner firebox doorplate. The steel backhead is ready to be rivetted to the outer wrapper – however HBSS are awaiting some suitable specification steel rivets. The old, worn, safety valve and manifold pads have been removed and replacements are underway. Melvyn Frohnsdorff has got the overhauled exhaust steam injector up into place beneath the cab and is now working on reinstating various pipe runs under the running plate and under the cab floor. Melvyn has also completed work required to secure two new sections of running plate above the cylinders. Our working party have in recent months focussed on the boiler cladding sheets which were starting to go rusty in places. All four firebox sections have been cleaned up and painted on both sides – and at the time of writing the working party are progressing towards finishing cleaning up and painting the four larger boiler barrel sheets. Two of our volunteers have made a good start on re-constructing the wooden cab floor. At the time of writing they have close to concluding construction of the two wooden beams that support the metal fall plate between the cab and tender.


541 is currently in the works having its valve bores ‘re-bored’ – new valve heads and valve rings will be required.


847 has required some attention during the summer – otherwise it has been working regularly during the year. It has now covered more than 50,000 miles since returning to traffic in 2013 and is difficult to predict how much longer it will remain in traffic before being stopped for its next overhaul. go and see it running when you can.


During June/July 1618 was in an accessible position next to the running shed so some of our volunteers took the opportunity to undertake a limited amount of re-painting of worn areas – such as on the running plates etc.

30925 Cheltenham

Cheltenham and 847 at Horsted keynes

It was a pleasure to have 30925 Cheltenham visit the Bluebell Railway for the October Giants of Steam event. The loco proved popular with the crews and it gave the working party a chance to look over a working Schools class loco.

Earlier update - July 2021

Stowe After a very long pause, because of Covid 19 restrictions, MLS working parties re-started at Sheffield Park on Thursday 18th March, a year on from when the first ‘lockdown’ started. The first priority was to construct a more robust and waterproof cover over the cylinders. We are indebted to Ben Coughlan for donating a good quality tarpaulin which is keeping the weather at bay. Barry Smith and Andy Sparkes have done some good work on needle gunning above the middle cylinder. Barry also checked over the oil trays under the axleboxes for any water ingress.

Melvyn Frohnsdorff has machined the heads of the countersunk bolts that were purchased during lockdown, so the new footplate sheets can be bolted down. The new footplate sheets need to have their holes enlarged, and countersunk and then the bolts can be fitted and the plates secured.
Andy Sparkes and Steve Pilcher have reverted to cleaning and painting various sections of the boiler cladding, to ensure they remain in good order for as and when the boiler returns. Another job on the ‘to-do list’ is to start re-building the cab floor. New timbers to support the fall plate are in the van and hopefully members of the working party can start to re-build the floor this Summer.

Since the boiler was sent to HBSS’s works on Merseyside last October, HBSS have:-

  1. Undertaken non-destructive testing of all the components.
  2. Undertaken welding repairs to the foundation ring, including filling oversize rivet holes in the foundation ring. A number of cracks in the foundation ring have also been welded up. It has been successfully trial fitted back into the steel outer firebox.
  3. I understand all the drilling work is complete on the new steel backhead and the next step is to rivet it into place inside the steel outer wrapper.
  4. It has been agreed that the lower sections of the inner firebox throatplate and doorplate will be replaced as their stay holes have been enlarged several times in previous BR overhauls. This will enable smaller size stays to be used and thus give a longer life to the new inner and outer firebox platework. New material is on order to enable this work to take place. However HBSS are encountering difficulties in getting suitable plate, as apparently the usual supplier has had to pause production to undertake repairs to the roof! Hopefully this will be resolved soon.
  5. Meanwhile HBSS have fabricated new formers for the additional copper plate that is required for the inner firebox doorplate and throat plate. The formers will be used to manipulate the new copper plate to the correct shape

The image here shows a repaired corner of the foundation ring. This required much and carefull welding and the next image of the damaged corner shows, with cracks plain to see.
What you can see here also is some of the smaller work that goes on. The label plates have been refurbished by our Chairman Ray Bellingham. Small but essential indicators of our engines identity.

30541 and 847

Both the 30541 and 847 were available for traffic last Autumn, until the Bluebell Railway had to close again in late December. 30541 was used on the steamlights trains and 847 starred in a photo charter organised by Jon Bowers on the 7th and 8th December. It was requested that it run without smoke deflectors for this event. Although 847 always ran with smoke deflectors from when first constructed – this unusual form of appearance certainly attracted coverage – with images appearing in several magazines etc.
30541 and 847 have been used in Spring 2021 on regular passenger services. In addition 30541 has been used twice for filming recently. First was in ‘The Larkins’ for ITV then later in the BBC Drama ‘Life after Life’.
By the end of 2021 – it will be eight years since 847 entered its second period of service at Bluebell. It has now ‘clocked up’ over 50,000 in this second period of running. This is a high mileage and it is quite likely that it will not be able to run for the full ten years of its boiler ticket. So do go and see it in action whilst you can!


When the working party returned to Sheffield Park in March we noted that the inside face of one of the van’s doors had suffered from wet rot in our absence and we are investigating whether friends in Carriage and Wagon might be able to assist with making a new door.

LATEST - April 2020

Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates since 2015 – hopefully Maunsell enthusiasts have been following the work on our Stowe Facebook page. 

Since the last up-date in 2015 – big strides had been made with the project:-

The chassis had been dismantled, driving wheel tyres re-profiled, axle boxes re-metalled and
machined, bogie checked over and chassis re-wheeled at the end of 2018.
A new cab roof skin had been assembled and fitted.
New cylinder claddings fabricated and fitted.
The brake gear overhauled and re-instated.
Numerous cab and boiler fittings have been refurbished. 
As at the middle of March 2020 a start had been made on checking over and replacing worn large diameter copper pipework, where required.

As regards the boiler:-
The bottom half of the steel outer firebox has had new steel plate welded in. 
Likewise the bottom half of the sides of the copper inner firebox has had new copper platework welded into place by a specialist contractor. 
The copper doorplate and tubeplate have been repaired and the whole copper inner firebox riveted back together. 
The work to the inner firebox has been undertaken by a private contractor and the re-assembled inner firebox is now back at the Bluebell Railway. Once repairs to the boiler of 34059 ‘Sir Archibald Sinclair’s are completed in Bluebell’s workshop at Sheffield Park – we understand Stowe’s boiler will be the next job to be tackled by the Bluebell boilersmiths.

As with all other Heritage Railways and tourist attractions, our host railway, the Bluebell Railway is closed for the duration of the Covid 19 Pandemic. Thus our workforce are not able to proceed with the major overhaul of Stowe at present.

Work was also done on 'Stowe'. The area surrounding her frames were tidied, allowing them be more easily accessed.  The new boiler backhead also recently arrived at Sheffield Park, from the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh (see photo).
framed up
Frames are lifted Mated with frames
Piston heads out and below, front bogie is prepared (pic D Jones) Second coat of paint goes on the driving wheels

the cab roof in position

Friday 23rd October 2015
Photo Right: S15 No.847 at Sheffield Park alongside BR Standard 5MT 73082 'Camelot', which is currently undergoing testing following overhaul.


Photo: David Jones Photo:Ben Coughlan