EXCLUSIVE: Robin Jones
FIFTY years after steam ended on the Southern Region, one of its classics is set to make a comeback to the main line.
Bulleid Merchant Navy Pacific No. 35018 British India Line – owned by West Coast Railways chairman David Smith – which steamed for the first time in the heritage era at the firm’s Carnforth base on November 29, has been outshopped in gleaming black livery. No rebuilt MN ever appeared in black livery; however, British India Line may be repainted once its tests, proving runs and certification are completed.
As we closed for press, No. 35018 was set to undergo further tests within the depot limits, before undergoing a main line proving run, probably on the usual West Coast ‘test’ circuit to Hellifield, in the next few months.
Although the completion of its 37-year journey back to steam since it was bought from Barry scrapyard is nearly over, ending months if not years of speculation, as we closed for press no bookings have yet been taken for it, in line with the West Coast policy of not making commitments until it has the means to fulfil them. However, as the latest locomotive to enter the main line registered pool, clearly it will be in demand by charter promoters and may steal some of the thunder of sister main line favourite, No.35028 Clan Line, which is also set for an imminent return to steam.
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