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The Brighton engine works and the goods yard, part two

By Guy Hall

In this second half of the article, I will show you some of the many engine designs manufactured in the Brighton works. The steam locomotive is a very simple design; water is heated to a very high temperature which turns into steam and the steam is then used to push rods out of a cylinder, which propels the locomotive through a set of connecting cranks. The first locomotives built in Brighton looked like the image top right.

The first engineer was Craven and this is a typical example of an early steam loco. It is called a 2-2-2, which means it has 3 sets of single wheels, 6 in total. Other wheel sets were 0-6-0, which means 6 wheels linked together, right up to 4-6-2, which means 12 wheels in total. This big arrangement had a small 4-wheel truck to guide the loco on the track. 6 big wheels with the rods that drive the train and a single 2-wheel truck to help take the weight and to keep a smooth ride. Engineers experimented with all sorts, eventually the most popular were 0-6-0, 0-4-2, 2-6-0 and 4-6-2. One exception was the last steam loco built in Britain; Evening Star was a freight loco with a wheel set of 2-10-0, work that out for yourself! You will see some of these types in the pictures that follow. Types of loco built in Brighton ranged from tiny shunting engines to large Pacifics, usually 4-6-2 which pulled the large and fast passenger trains. Another famous engineer was Stroudley (Who has a road and a Brighton bus, number 487, named after him!) and his most popular loco design was the Terrier tank, of which there are still some surviving today. One of these, Brighton, built in 1878 was exhibited at the Paris exhibition in 1878 and another named Stephney became the first locomotive of the fledgling Bluebell railway in 1960. Stephney also appeared in the Thomas the Tank engine books, fame indeed! Other names included Sutton, Waddon and Patcham. These locos were designed for freight, but proved to be very versatile and were often seeing pulling small passenger trains. Up to the mid-1960s, you could see them at work on the Isle of Wight and the Hampshire branch for Hayling island. Brighton still survives and is on the isle of Wight at the Haven Street railway, a true survivor. Wheel set is 0-6-0 (see fig 2).

Locomotives continued to develop and get bigger (fig 3).

This is a large 4-6-2 tank engine with the Brighton works staff, just after WW1 in 1918.This is an L class express locomotive and was named Remberance after the 532 LBSCR men who died in WW1. Other names were Stroudley and Charles. C. Macrae. From June 1923, after the completion of this class, Brighton engine works took a back seat to the more modern and spacious Eastleigh works in Hampshire.

A Brighton loco in charge of the royal train, a 4-4-2-wheel set. Not all engines were named, the smaller goods locos were just numbered. Other engineers include Marsh and Billinton (Who also has a road named after him in Brighton), all producing locomotives of assorted designs, some successful, some not. Below- The new order, the Southern railway! A 4-6-0, not built in Brighton.

After WW2, the works sprang to life again. The engineer O.V Bullied produced one of the strangest locos ever built, the Leader a double ended steam loco, which was an 0-6-0- 0-6-0!! (fig 4)

Sadly, it was not successful. When Bullied went to work on the Irish railways, he built a turf burning version of this, which with modifications, did work.

(Over page - fig 5), a Bullied 4-6-2 West country class loco, a light Pacific from 1947. Most of these were built in Brighton. These large, technically innovative streamlined Bullied designed express engines were named after places in the West Country and were designed to run on the lightly laid and twisting West country lines. Many of the locos had beautiful name plates and badges. The Southern turned this into a publicity machine; originally it was to highlight resorts and towns to visit by train, but the later engines of the class were used to commemorate the recent war, being named after aircraft, squadrons and people involved in the battle. Previously the naming of a loco was mostly a private affair, but now the naming ceremonies took place at the favoured town or city. Wells, the small cathedral city in Somerset, had the engine visit and the town turned out to see the nameplate unveiled, probably the biggest engine to visit this small, long closed branch line. Examples of West country names, Bude, Salisbury, Padstow, and Hartland Point. The Battle of Britain class names included Sir Archibald Sinclair, Anti-Aircraft Command, Spitfire and Tangmere. Bude, Salisbury, Padstow, and Hartland Point. The Battle of Britain class names

included Sir Archibald Sinclair, Anti-Aircraft Command, Spitfire and Tangmere.

Brighton works office also did a lot of work on the design of the last locomotives built in the UK, the British railway standard classes.

Above - The last loco manufactured in Brighton, the never named number BR 4-6-2 standard tank 81054, produced in 1957.This was the 1,211 loco to be built there. You can see this unique survivor at the Bluebell railway today. The works, as mentioned before was run down and shut by 1958. The final item produced was the infamous bubble car by Isetta. Production lasted from 1957 to 1964 and over 30,000 were produced! At peak times, 300 cars a week were produced and 48 cars would depart on a night train from Brighton to London.


Once a huge employer of men, the works has now gone and is but a memory. My father was a carpenter on the railway and he took me round as an awed 8-year-old, just before demolition started. My dim recollection is of a huge, empty building with overhead cranes, silent and unused, almost like Tolkien’s Mines of Moria. My father rescued some of the tools and when he died, I gave them to the Lynton and Barnstaple railway in Devon, a unique and superb little preservation line. Some of the locomotives built at Brighton still work on preserved railway lines throughout the UK, especially the West Country/Battle of Britain class have survived in large numbers, despite their oddball engineering. Terriers are also popular in preservation and Stephney is still at the Bluebell Railway. When you next visit a preserved line, do go and see one of these superb designs, they are our Brighton railway heritage!

Posted in History on Mar 01, 2023