Merchant Navy Class
Conceived in 1937 when Bulleid became CME of the Southern Railway, his vision was for a 4-6-2 fast mixed traffic engine, with quick acceleration and equally capable of hauling services such as the Golden Arrow and Atlantic Coast Expresses, or freight workings, to a speed of around 75mph. Mainly designed from the Brighton Works, under C.S Cocks, Bulleid ensured that the best design practices of the time were applied, though this did not stop him making many alterations as the plans developed, sometimes within hours of agreeing a phase of the design and which led to each batch of engines incorporating modifications which were then applied to the previous batch.
Opting for a very high pressure boiler, Bulleid was able to make the 3 equally sized cylinders smaller, at 18” and better balanced, resulting in his newly designed Bulleid Firth Brown 6’ 2” driving wheels, which in turn reduced hammer blow to the rails. In 1934, Bulleid had opposed the use of streamlining, but for the Merchant Navy design it suited his purposes, being easy to clean mechanically and hiding the boiler’s external pipes, which in turn meant they could be run for function, rather than aesthetics.
Despite the onset of war in 1939, Bulleid’s design was accepted by the wartime Railway’s Executive Committee and production commenced through November 1940 at Eastleigh Works, the first loco, 21C1 Channel Packet, being named on March 10, 1941.
Officially, the Merchant Navy locomotives were constructed in three batches: 1068 which covered 21C1 to 21C10, 1189 which covered 21C11 to 21C20 and 3393 which covered 21C21 to 21C30, but 21C2 incorporated lessons learnt from 21C1, which in turn meant 21C3-10 incorporated lessons learnt from running the first two.
The Hornby ‘Merchant Navy’ will feature a fully detailed air-smoothed body shell matching the detail differences between the different build series, a new air-smoothed tender for the original series and an all-new 6,000 gallon tender for the third series locomotives. The model will also have an 8-pin DCC decoder socket in the tender and provision will be made for the addition of DCC sound, with a housing for a 28mm round speaker built into the tender chassis.