Help Merchant Navy Pacific crank up the pressure!


The back conversion of Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific No. 35011 General Steam Navigation reached another milestone with the launch of a ‘cranking up the pressure’ appeal to convert its plain flawed central axle into a crank axle.

General Steam Navigation in original black livery, standing on the Up middle road at Bournemouth Central station circa 1946. JOHN NEVE

General Steam Navigation was placed in storage when it was withdrawn from service in February 1966, but in April 1966 its sister, No. 35026 Lamport & Holt Line, was discovered to have a flawed central axle and to keep it in traffic it was given the one from No. 35011.

General Steam Navigation was then transferred to Eastleigh works, where the task of fitting its crank axle into No. 35026 was undertaken.

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While there, No. 35011 was fitted with a new spare wheelset from a West Country class locomotive, so it could travel by rail to Dai Woodham’s scrapyard at Barry.

One of the biggest tasks always known to its restorers is that a new crank axle would need to be made if it was ever to return to steam.

When General Steam Navigation’s previous owner agreed to swap axles with No. 34046 Braunton, he simply exchanged a plain set for another plain set. The current axle is stored at Sellindge in Kent.

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