Category Archives: #OnThisDay

 #OnThisDay in 1945 GSN was named. 20th Feb

 #OnThisDay in 1945 General Steam Navigation was officially named at a ceremony at Waterloo station. The ceremony that took place at platform 10 was a short affair with the usual pomp and circumstance associated of the naming of a top link engine being trimmed back due to the wartime conditions. The ceremony was attended by various directors of both the Southern Railway and General Steam Navigation Co Ltd and in addition as a special tribute to the shop staff of Eastleigh who built the engine were six representatives to see there “baby” christened.
“Between your Company and ours, Mr Kelso, there is a long standing friendship, hallowed by service together in war and peace. The nameplate on this engine is a token of that friendship, and we look forward with confidence to the day when this war is won and your houseflags in ever increasing numbers enter and leave our docks.”
Col. Eric Gore Browne, the Chairman of the Southern Railway addressed these words to Mr Robert Kelso, the Chairman and Managing Director of the company whose name will be henceforth be seen on the nameplate 21C11 – General Steam Navigation.
After a quick footplate ride for Mr Kelso General Steam Navigation returned to Waterloo to get on with the serious work of doing its part to help win the war and hauled the 12:50pm West of England service out of the capital.
You can help us restore GSN by joining the General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society Membership. Membership costs £12 for the year with members being kept up to date with the latest achievements, via our members magazine ‘The Packet’ published three times a year with progress reports on GSN and articles about Merchant Navy’s and the light pacific’s, access to the locomotive when possible and the ability to get involved with the society. You can find out more by clicking this link.

#OnThisDay in 1955 returned to service following Crewkerne modifications. 19th Feb

#OnThisDay in 1955, 35011 General Steam Navigation left Eastleigh works to re-enter service with the British Railways Southern Region following major repair work. The modifications that were carried out to the entire Merchant Navy class were as a result of 35020 Bibby Lines accident at Crewkerne.

On the 24th April 1953, Bibby Line whilst on approach to Crewkerne station fractured her crank axle at high speed. Luckily no one was injured, but the incident resulted in the withdrawal of all Merchant Navy class locomotives from service whilst the cause of the failure was ascertained. An examination of other class members showed that the fracture, caused by metal fatigue, was a common fault. This led to a complete redesign of the crank axle and once installed saw the locomotives return to traffic. General Steam Navigation would continue to haul trains in her original condition until 7th June 1959 when she entered Eastleigh works for rebuilding.

The crank axle continues to be a significant challenge for our project, but without this challenge we would not be pursuing the goal of restoration as an original Merchant Navy. Aided by significant insight from Andrew Marshall (35006 group), we have clarity on the design of axle we should be aiming to have fabricated. This is the redesigned, balanced crank axle that was eventually fitted to all the Merchant Navy locomotives following the Crewkerne incident. Records suggest 35019 had the balanced crank axle fitted 4 years prior to rebuilding, so we can demonstrate it is applicable to our locomotive. We have studied the report into the Crewkerne incident, to help inform our decisions with the axle. We have had insight and support on the axle material from the wider heritage industry, including our friends at the A1/P2 trust and the Clan Project, both of whom have had similar issues of design to overcome. We are missing some of the drawings for the revised design, and we are also evaluating the correct and certifiable grade of steel to use, but our aim is to have the new crank axle ordered at least in 2021, if not manufactured. FEA studies of the design are underway at the University of Birmingham

Our current immediate objective is to restore her unique trailing truck which has led to the Trailing Truck Transformers Fund Club being set up to fund restoration of this unique component in 2021. You can find out how to join the exclusive club by visiting our website on the link below. Thank you…/trailing-truck-club.html

Photo: GSN leaving Exmouth Junction Shed on 5/9/57. The locomotive is believed to be heading to Exeter Central to work an up service (Copyright Brian Marshall)

Become a Trailing Truck Transformer

#OnThisDay in 1955 General Steam Navigation entered the Eastleigh works for a heavy intermediate overhaul. It was during these works when her cast trailing truck she was built was changed for the fabricated design she still has. The fabricated design was fitted to the final ten Merchant Navy’s with the first being 35021 New Zealand Line with 35011s being the last remaining example with all fellow surviving Merchant Navy’s having the earlier cast design. The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society aims to restore this unique component in 2021.

This is your chance to be part of an exclusive club and aid the overall restoration of General Steam Navigation by becoming a Trailing Truck Transformer.

The Trailing Truck was removed from the frames at the same time as the successful boiler lift on 2nd October. The estimate for the full refurbishment and overhaul of the Trailing Truck by specialist contractors is £15,000.

We are offering a maximum of 30 members the opportunity to purchase a ‘Lot’ for £500. Members are welcome to purchase as many ‘Lots’ as they wish up to the maximum target amount.


Members of the Fund Group would receive a number of benefits including:

  • Certificate of membership of the ‘Trailing Truck Transformers’
  • Name engraved on a suitable brass plaque attached to the refurbished Trailing Truck
  • Regular updates on the refurbishment of the Trailing Truck
  • An invitation to a VIP day at the Swindon and Cricklade Railway to see the completed Trailing Truck once it is returned to the railway.

The work

With the trailing truck now removed from GSN, we have undertaken an assessment of the work that will be required to restore it to mainline running standards. This will involve a full strip down to allow us to understand the condition of the frame metal work, which is likely to require non-destructive testing to determine the soundness of the existing material.

The axle will also require removing, but depending on which contractors we decide to use for the overall work we may need to remove this at Blunsdon to enable it to be sent separately for repair with the wheels being re-profiled; whilst the axle bearings will also need assessing and possibly refurbishing.

The frames will also require sandblasting to remove all the old flaking material and paint, with the corroded sections of the framework and rear platform being cut out and replaced with new material. Finally the framework, axle and wheels will need to be primed, undercoated and painted prior to being re-assembled.

To become a Trailing Truck Transformer see our dedicated page here…

We understand that £500 is a lot of money and for people who wish to support the trailing truck but are unable to join the Trailing Truck Transformers club you can help us by donating to our Wheel Set appeal on our JustGiving page here.

Alternatively you can make a donation however large or small into our newly launched Putting Funds into the Frames campaign here…

Any and all donations would be gratefully appreciated.