P Class stored at back of Rolvenden shed

P Class stored at back of Rolvenden shed - 22 June 2013


No. 11 (SE&CR No. 753, SR Nos. A556, 1556, BR No. 31556, Pride of Sussex)

In the early 1900s the SE&CR tried out steam railcars on a number of branch and local services but these had only limited success. No doubt with an eye towards the LB&SCR and its motortrain operations with A1s ( Terriers), the SE&CR decided in 1908 to build some similar small but robust tank engines to augment the railcars. No. 753, the locomotive now on the K&ESR, was the first of these and left Ashford Works and entered traffic on 18 February 1909. It was soon employed on the Sevenoaks to Otford services, Tonbridge becoming its home shed.

From 24 April 1915 till 30 October 1916, No. 753 was engaged in military work, being shipped across the Channel for war service  at Boulogne. Whilst there she was painted unvarnished olive green and numbered ROD No 5753.On return, and after repairs to collision damage suffered on the Continent, No. 753 worked between Swanley and Gravesend West for a number of years but had became carriage pilot at Redhill by 1923. It was renumbered to 556 in December 1925 ,A556 in November 1926, and later to 1556 at a date after July 1931. In late 1928 it was employed on the construction of the Wimbledon - Sutton line and some time afterwards, in common with other members of the class, gravitated to Dover and Folkestone to work around the harbours.

During 1936 and again in 1938 it was hired to the K&ESR which was temporarily short of motive power. It returned to the Channel ports until 1940 when it was transferred to Gillingham, returning to Dover by June 1945. A further period of hire to the K&ESR occurred in 1947. Under British Railways ownership it became No. 31556. During the 1950s there was little work for these small locomotives and they were placed in store from time to time. By the end of 1953 31556 was at Brighton where it was found  employment as a shed pilot and at Shoreham harbour. Withdrawal from BR service eventually took place in April 1961, it being the longest serving P class locomotive.

No. 31556 was sold to James Hodson & Sons, millers of Northbridge Street, Robertsbridge. It arrived in June 1961 and was soon named Pride of Sussex, the brand name of the firm's products. For nearly ten years it worked around the mill and on that part of the K&ESR (by then a private siding) to Robertsbridge station yard. Change of ownership of the mill resulted in closure of the siding and the locomotive's acquisition for use on the K&ESR in 1970.

It was steamed a few times after arrival but was dismantled in 1973 for major boiler repairs and mechanical overhaul. Nominally given the No.11 in the K&ESR fleet it spent 10 years in a stripped down state seeing very little restoration work. During 1984 - 86 steady progress was made and the locomotive returned to service in Southern Railway livery as No. 1556. There followed ten years of hard work, particularly with the Railway's increasingly popular Victorian train. On two occasions the locomotive has revisited France, this time to take part in the K&ESR's twinning with the Baye de Somme Railway. Following the expiry of the boiler certificate in December 1997 she was withdrawn from traffic and returned to traffic in 2001 restored to the full glory of its original currently withdrawn for routine overhaul.


Class P
Weight 28 tons 10 cwt
Tractive effort 7,810 lbs
Cylinders (2) 12 in. dia x 18 in. stroke
Boiler Pressure 160 lbs.
Tank capacity 550 gallons
Wheels 3 feet 9 ins. diameter.