The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway H2 class was a class of 4-4-2 steam locomotives for express passenger work. They were designed when D. E. Marsh was officially Locomotive Superintendent, and were built at Brighton Works in 1911 and 1912. These engines appeared just before Marsh's retirement due to ill health. Apart from incorporating the Schmidt superheater other differences from the Class H1 were larger cylinders, working pressure reduced to 170lb/sq.in (although subsequently increased to 200) and straight running plate.
When the London Brighton and South Coast Railway needed a new Locomotive Superintendent in 1904 they turned to Douglas Earle Marsh, the then Chief Assistant to Harry Ivatt on the Great Northern Railway. Prior to this Marsh had begun his career under no less a person than William Dean of the Great Western Railway where he had risen to the position of Assistant Works Manager at Swindon in only eight years. During his time at Doncaster Marsh had been heavily involved with the design of the first of the large Great Northern Atlantics so it was hardly surprising that immediately he assumed office at Brighton and found he needed a new large express engine that he set about designing a very similar machine, the 'H1' class Atlantic. The outward similarity was very noteable with just the footplate undulations, the chimney and the cab (standard RJ Billinton fittings) differing from the GNR example. The undulations referred to were a rise over the driving wheels and then again a similar rise over the cylinders.
The boiler, at 5' 6" inches in diameter with a 6' 6" long and 5' 11" wide firebox, was far larger than anything the Brighton company had built previously. It differed from the GNR '251' class in that the firebox was deeper but with the same grate area and with the working pressure at 200 lb sq in in place of 175. Cylinder sizes differed with 18½ in x 26 in fitted to 37, 38 and 40 whilst 39 and 41 had ones of 19 in diameter. These compared with the GNR locomotives' 18¾ x 24 in cylinders. The coupled wheels were 6' 7½" with wheelbase of 6' 10", exactly the same as on the Great Northern.
Marsh abandoned the Brighton practice of naming locomotives and as a result only one of the H1s bore a name during LBSC days, Nº39, which was named La France in 1913 prior to working the train for the visit of the French President, as seen above. The name was carried until January 1926 at which time the Southern Railway renamed the locomotive Hartland Point.
In 1911, the last year of Marsh's reign at Brighton, there was a need for further large express engines so five more Atlantics were built. These 'H2' class locomotives were very similar to the 'H1' class but were superheated and had larger cylinders with the boiler pressure reduced to 170 lb sq in. The footplates were less undulatory with the raised section covering the whole area from the cylinders to the driving wheels.
The superheating of the subsequent 'H2' class was so successful that in later years the Southern Railway superheated the 'H1's, though it has been said that even when saturated these earlier engines performed better than the 'H2's. The Southern Railway also reduced the contours of the chimney, dome and cab, in a sympathetic manner, and gave all the locos in the two classes names, re-naming La France as Hartland Point in the process.
As with the non-superheated class they were gradually replaced on the London-Brighton express trains in 1925/6 by the "King Arthur" and "River" classes, but there was still plenty of work for them on other express services, including boat trains connecting with the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry service. At the same time they were all named after geographical features of the south coast.
Electrification took away much of the work of these engines but they still managed to make themselves useful. The 'H2's were to be found on the secondary routes from London to Brighton via Shoreham (approx 2½ hours,) via Uckfield and via the Bluebell line (approx 3 hours, but with a "beer stop" at East Grinstead!). After WWII they and 'H1' 2038 found a new lease of life working the Newhaven boat trains, a duty they performed particularly well. From 15 May 1949 the principal boat train duties were handed over to the Bulleid-Raworth electric locos, but the Atlantics continued to haul the majority of relief boat trains.
Other workings synonymous with the H2s were the heavy rush hour trains from Victoria to East Grinstead, the Brighton to Plymouth service which they hauled as far as Portsmouth and the inter-regional, summer Saturday services which they collected at either Kensington Olympia or Mitre Bridge. That was always an odd sight because the stock was of the Stanier variety in blood & custard livery. They were heavy trains, too, like the Newhaven ones.
Following the cessation of the cross-channel ferries after 1940, as a result of the Second World War, the class were left with little work to do and several were put into store or else moved to miscellaneous duties in southern England. The H2 class however returned to the boat trains after the end of the war and continued until the mid-1950s.
They were known to stray further afield on rare occasions, indeed there is a report of one seen on the Brighton-Plymouth train at Yeovil Junction, possibly the furthest west they worked.
The last of the Atlantics to survive was Nº32424 Beachy Head whose swansong was an enthusiasts' special over the route she had made her own - to Newhaven - on 13th April 1958, before going to Brighton loco shed for the very last time. Her final journey was to Eastleigh for withdrawal, not only under her own steam but also with a 12 coach ECS behind her.
It is noteworthy that not only was Beachy Head the last of the Brighton Atlantics, she was also the last surviving British Railways express locomotive of that wheel arrangement and it is a crime that none was preserved. However, with plans advancing at the Bluebell Railway to build a new Brighton Atlantic (utilising a GNR Atlantic boiler) it may not be all that long before we can travel behind a 4-4-2 locomotive once more.
During 1911 D. E. Marsh was on leave of absence due to sickness, and his assistant Lawson Billinton was granted authority to construct a further six 4-4-2 'Atlantic' locomotives similar to the Marsh H1 class but incorporating the Schmidt superheater.
Construction and use
The new H2 class locomotives built by Brighton railway works and introduced between June 1911 and January 1912. They were an immediate success and shared with the H1 class the London to Brighton express trains including the heavily loaded Pullman services the Brighton Limited, and the Southern Belle, which the LB&SCR described as "the most luxurious train in the World".
After Nationalisation the remaining engines were allocated to Brighton shed. Living on borrowed time they spent periods in store. In their latter days they were very much in demand for use on specials.
One member of the class was withdrawn in 1949, but the remainder continued in regular use until 1956. The last survivor was withdrawn in April 1958.
The first loco withdrawn was SR 2423 (32423) 'The Needles' in May 1949 from Brighton shed, without receiving its BR number.
The last loco withdrawn was 32424 'Beachy Head' in April 1958 from Brighton shed. When withdrawn, it was the last Atlantic 4-4-2 locomotive to remain in ordinary service in Great Britain.
No examples of the H2 class were preserved, but on 29 October 2000 the Bluebell Railway announced its intention to reconstruct a Brighton H2 Atlantic based on SR/BR period Beachy Head. At the time of writing many surviving locomotive parts had been assembled.
Designer : Douglas Earle Marsh/L. B. Billinton
Builder : Brighton Works
Introduced : June 1911
Build date : 1911–1912
Total produced : 6 - Total to BR 6
Configuration : 4-4-2
Gauge : 4 ft 8½ in (1,435 mm)
Leading wheel diameter : 3 ft 6 in (1.067 m)
Driver wheel diameter : 6 ft 7½ in (2.019 m)
Locomotive weight : 68 tons 5 cwt (155,100 lb/70.4 t)
Tender weight : 39 tons 5 cwt
Fuel type : Coal
Boiler pressure : 170 lb sq in (1.17 MPa) (subsequently increased to 200 lb sq in)
Cylinders : Two (outside)
Cylinder size : 21 in × 26 in (533 mm × 660 mm)
Valve Gear : Stephenson (piston valves)
Tractive effort : 24,520 lb
Withdrawn : 1949–1958
Disposition : Original locomotives scrapped, new loco, a Beachy Head replica, under construction