Returning Ropley’s S15s to action


Gareth Evans talks to volunteers of the Mid-Hants Railway-based Urie Locomotive Society and learns about the group’s two S15s: Nos. 506, which is set to return to action in the coming months and 499, which is currently being restored to original condition.

As in the wider world of work, some people in the heritage railway sector appear to naturally achieve great things because of sheer determination and their ability to bounce off each other.

A friendly, welcoming team: Roger Burt, vice-chairman; Mark Pedley, chairman; John Fry, trustee and Barry Stratton, director and trustee. GARETH EVANS

When I met some of the members of the Urie Locomotive Society at Ropley shed, we talked over a welcome caffeine fix – laughter and friendly banter could be found aplenty. The chemistry between the volunteers was immediately apparent – a positive, welcoming environment, where the TEAM – Together Each Achieves More – culture thrives.

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Their passion was all-too clear, being quietly proud of their achievements to date. It therefore came as no surprise to learn that one of the group’s two locomotives – No. 499, once widely written off as a ‘no-hoper’ is on track for a return to steam.

The only two surviving Urie S15s, both No. 499 and its sister No. 506 were built in 1920. While the former is being restored to original condition, the latter is in the final throes of an overhaul, which should see it return to action at the Watercress Line in the coming months in Southern wartime black with sunshine lettering as No. 506.

The S15s were built as freight locomotives – transporting a variety of goods, including imported produce from Southampton Docks to London. RAILWAY MAGAZINE ARCHIVE

The ULS was formed in 1972 – the goal being to save a Urie S15. Mark Pedley, chairman, took up the story: “At the time, there weretwo survivors at Barry scrapyard – Nos. 506 and 499. Three had gone down there. The other was No. 512, which it is said was in the better condition but it was the one which was cut up.

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“No. 506 was bought in 1973. Additional funding had to be found by way of a loan due to the advent of VAT and steel price rise.

“No. 506 didn’t have a home at that point, so members were balloted. Various railways were suggested, including the Severn Valley, but the MHR won. It arrived here in 1976.

“No. 506 became known as ‘the red engine’ because if you see photos of it at Barry, it was in bright red oxide. It came here on a Wynns road trailer, which of course is now historic.”

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