The Southern Railway required a locomotive capable of hauling 500 ton trains at an average 55 M.P.H, but with severe restrictions imposed, the Chief Civil Engineer. R.E.L. Maunsell designed his “Lord Nelson” class to weigh little more than a “King Arthur” but with the highest tractive effort in Britain at that time.
The engine is notable for its crank settings of 135° instead of the more normal 90°. Listen out for the eight exhaust beats per revolution of the driving wheels, she sounds as if she is travelling faster than other locomotive types at the same speed.
Lord Nelson entered service in August 1926 at Stewarts Lane, moving in March 1930 to Exmouth Junction, April 1930 to Stewarts Lane, February 1940 to Nine Elms, February 1943 to Bournemouth and January 1949 to Eastleigh to be withdrawn 18th August 1962. At this time Lord Nelson had accumulated a final mileage of 1,349,617. Listed for museum status, 30850 went to the Pullman Co.’s works near Brighton, remaining there until 1977.
In 1979 the loco was restored at Carnforth to operate main line tours until firebox problems sidelined it as a static exhibit. In 1997 the E.R.P.S. overhauled Lord Nelson at Eastleigh back to main line use, partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. After negotiations with the owner, N.R.M, it arrived at Alresford in February 2009 to be based at Ropley.
Lord Nelson, or ‘Nellie’ as she is affectionately known, is a popular engine with crews here at the MHR, but provides a challenge for Firemen, a challenge which most relish! With a long firebox, some 10’ 6” to the front, a very accurate aim with the shovel is required in order to build and maintain the fire and get the best from the engine.
For a Southern engine, Lord Nelson is also unusual for having a split grate, whilst this was common elsewhere, which requires mastery of the technique necessary to keep the boiler steaming well.
Lord Nelson could often be seen hauling prestigious boat trains such as ‘The Cunarder’ from Southampton to London during the years of steam on the main line.