British Railways Rebuilt Merchant Navy Class


Facts and Figures


Oliver Bulleid


December 1948

Total Built of Class


Boiler Working Pressure

250psi (Originally 280psi)

Wheel Arrangement


Driving Wheel Diameter

6 ft 2 in

Number of Cylinders


Valve Gear

Walschaerts (Originally Bulleid)

Locomotive Weight

97.9 tons

Water Capacity

6,000 gallons


B.R. Southern

Built At

Eastleigh Works


September 1966

Grate Area

48.5 sq ft

Power Classification


Tractive Effort

37,515 lbf

Cylinder Size

18 in x 24 in

Max Speed


Total Length

69 ft 8 in

Coal Capacity

5 tons

Last Overhaul



No. 35027 was one of 30 Merchant Navy class locomotives to be built by the then Southern Railway and latterly British Railways to the design of O.V.S. Bulleid.

Originally unnamed, Port Line worked over the Southern Region of British Railways throughout her career. Originally featuring “air smoothed” casing and chain driven valve gear, Port Line was rebuilt in 1957 before being retired in 1966. Like many surviving steam locomotives she was sold to Woodham Bros. scrap yard Barry, South Wales but not cut up. The loco was sold to The Port Line Locomotive Project in 1982. Port Line was to become the first ex Barry “Merchant Navy” to return to steam, this was achieved in 1988. It was later sold on to a private indiviual who donated it to the Royal Scot Locomotive & General Trust.

No. 35027 Port Line is a “Bulleid Pacific” design express passenger locomotive, a member of the “Merchant Navy” class. O.V.S. Bulleid became Chief Mechanical Engineer to the Southern Railway in 1937 and in answering the call for a new, modern, powerful steam locomotive to help replace the aging fleet of the time he produced his first “pacific” design of locomotive, 30 of which were built. Being named after various fleets in the merchant marine these engines became known as the “Merchant Navy” class. These were powerful locomotives, capable of speeds in excess of 100mph.

Port Line was built in 1948 at Eastleigh Works. It was allocated the number 35027 and entered traffic in “air smoothed” form to a design incorporating many innovative engineering techniques and developments of the time such as electric welding and a unique internal chain drive assembly for the valve gear.

On April 24th 1950, 35027 was taken to Southampton docks where it was officially named Port Line by Mr. W. Donald, chairman of the shipping line of that name.

35027 was allocated to Bournemouth shed in December 1948 where it would primarily have been used on express trains bound for London Waterloo. It was moved to Stewarts Lane shed in March 1950 and back to Bournemouth in June 1955. One of the Southern’s most prestigious trains was “The Golden Arrow” and during its time at Stewarts Lane Port Line was one of several class members to be used on this train.

In 1955 British Railways took the decision to rebuild the entire class to a more conventional layout. This rebuilding programme significantly altered the appearance of the locomotives by removing the “air-smoothed” casing and substituting three separate sets of valve gear for the original internal chain driven design. Many other detail changes were made, all of which were aimed at easing maintenance or reducing the time that the class spent out of traffic in the workshops. In Port Line’s case this rebuilding was untaken in May 1957.

In April 1959 Port Line achieved the rare honour for a member of the class of hauling the Royal train from Windsor to Hamworthy Junction, at which place the train was berthed overnight. Preservation.

The loco was purchased by the Port Line Project in 1982, and taken to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway where restoration was commenced. This work was to be completed at Swindon from where the loco was moved to the Bluebell Railway where a period of operation commenced. Subsequently the loco was moved to the Swanage Railway by the Southern Steam Trust, (as its owning group were now known.) It was subsequently sold to a private individual who donated it to the current owners. Holland America Line is currently awaiting its turn in the restoration queue.