The K&ESR has two of the ten still surviving members of this class of 50 small six coupled tank locomotives built by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway between 1872 and 1880. Known to generations of the general public as ‘Terriers' they were known to railwaymen as ‘Rooters'. The former name is the one which has stuck and is thought to have originated from their reputation for outstanding work on the South London line and in the tunnels of the East London line . They had a capacity for hard work far in excess of their diminutive size. Designed by the Brighton Company's Locomotive Engineer, William Stroudley, they were introduced as class A (later A1). Between 1911 and 1947 nearly half the class was rebuilt with improved boilers and longer smokeboxes and were redesignated as class A1X.

32678 Knowle at Bodiam 290510

Knowle at Bodiam - 30 May 2010

No 78 Knowle emerged from Brighton Works in July 1880 as part of the last batch of A1 class locomotives. From new the whole batch were fitted with Westinghouse air brakes and iron instead of wooden brake blocks. At first, Knowle worked on the London suburban lines but by the mid-1890's had migrated to Portsmouth, working the Hayling Island and East Southsea branches.

In 1907 it was renumbered 678 in the LB&SCR's duplicate list. In the same year, it was converted to push-pull motor train working whereby the locomotive could be controlled from a drivers position in a trailer carriage. This avoided the problem of conventional trains where the locomotive had to run round its coaches at the end of each trip. This adaptation included reducing the cylinders from 13 in. to 12 in. diameter: as a consequence Knowle has rather less power than No. 3. November 1911 saw a Marsh boiler fitted and consequent conversion to class A1X. The total mileage run at this time was 763,993. No. 678 was allocated to Horsham in 1912, moving to Littlehampton four years later. It subsequently returned to the London area where duties included the Crystal Palace motor trains. By the end of 1922 it was back in the country at Horsham.

In the ownership of the Southern Railway it is believed to have been stored out of use at Preston park from 1926 until 1929 when it was shipped across the Solent in May of that year to become Isle of Wight W4 (W14 from 1932) Bembridge. Prior to departure for the Island it was overhauled, fitted with an extended bunker and its push-pull gear removed. Its Island duties came to an end in May 1936 when it returned to the mainland, only to be condemned at Eastleigh seven months later. Howver a reprieve was granted and, after overhaul, it returned to traffic in May 1937 as No. 2678, going to Fratton for duty on the Hayling Island services. A year later it was tried as shed pilot at Guildford but found to be unsuitable.

1940 saw No. 2678 hired to the K&ESR to alleviate a chronic motive power shortage. Some sources suggest it was loaned by the SR in 1941 but the K&ESR mileage register indicates it arrived at Rolvenden the previous year. No. 2678 remained on loan to the K&ESR until nationalisation in 1948 and was retained for service on the line for another ten years, thus becoming the longest serving non-K&ESR locomotive to work the line.

Drama occurred on 29 March 1949 when, as a result of track subsidence, No. 2678 was derailed near Wittersham and became well buried in the wet soil, thereby creating a considerable recovery problem which was nevertheless overcome. By the end of 1949 the locomotive was turned out in lined BR black and renumbered 32678 .

No. 32678 worked the final K&ESR passenger train on 2 January 1954, with sister locomotive No. 32655 (better known as Stepney of the Bluebell Railway) at the opposite end of the rake of coaches. No. 32678 then moved from the closed Rolvenden shed to St. Leonards for the daily Tenterden freight duty and the seasonal hop-pickers trains.

Displaced by diesels in 1958, No. 32678 returned to Fratton for the Hayling Island branch duties and received its final BR overhaul and repaint at Eastleigh in September 1959. By 1963 the Terrier's days in BR service were drawing to a close and No. 32678 was employed on the West Quay line at Newhaven. That line closed on 10 August and No. 32678 left Newhaven for Brighton ten days later. There it saw out its last BR duties as a coal stage pilot before its final trip to Eastleigh and withdrawal from service on 5 October 1963. Total mileage was recorded as 1,411,436, of which 949,056 miles had been run under LB&SCR ownership and 462,380 miles in SR/BR days.

32678 wsr

32678 visiting the West Somerset Railway on a wet Friday afternoon October 2004
Photo by Bob Pendleton

Reprieve came again in 1964 when Knowle was sold to Butlins and put on display at their Minehead holiday camp. Subsequently it moved to the nearby West Somerset Railway from where it was acquired by Resco (Railways) Ltd. who moved it to their premises in North Kent. After a further change of private owner, Knowle returned to the K&ESR as a kit of parts in 1988. Rebuilding proceeded through the 1990's and the boiler was sent to Chatham Steam Engineering for a very thorough overhaul. Final assembly took place during 1998/99 and the locomotive re-entered service as No. 2678 in late May 1999 with the bunker rebuilt to its near original form at the behest of the owner.

Now wholly owned by the Terrier Trust, who purchased it following an appeal, No.32678 is a regular performer on the line . In recent years, Knowle has paid visits to the Bluebell, Severn Valley, North Yorkshire Moors, Mid-Hants and the West Somerset.


Class AIX
Weight 28 tons 5 cwt
Tractive effort 7,650 lbs
Cylinders (2) 12 in. dia x 20 in. stroke
Boiler Pressure 150 lbs.
Tank capacity 500 gallons
Wheels 4 feet 0 ins. diameter.


The Official Website of the Terrier Trust