The General Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1821 to run steam ship services from London. Almost 100 years later P&O Navigation bought a controlling interest in the company but it continued to trade under its original name.
It is quite appropriate, therefore, that the General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society who are rebuilding the Southern Railway Merchant Navy Class Locomotive 35011 named after the General Steam Navigation and the New Medway Steam packet Co (Medway Queen Preservation Society) who have rebuilt a ship that operated under GSN management should work together and support one another’s aims.
The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society recently moved their locomotive, Merchant Navy Class 35011, to Blunsdon on the Swindon and Cricklade Railway. There they are working to convert the locomotive back to its 1940s specification; before the class were rebuilt into the more conventional form by British Railways. This includes restoring the iconic air smoothed casing along with Bulleid’s oil bath encased chain driven valve gear. Once complete, General Steam Navigation will be the first engine to be restored to as-built condition within the ranks of preserved Merchant Navy class locomotives.
On the river Medway, the GSNC worked closely with the New Medway Steam Packet Company and Captain J. H. Wills of the GSNC and his wife were on board when PS Medway Queen made her maiden voyage across the Thames Estuary on Friday 18th July 1924. In 1936 GSN acquired the New Medway Company but, again, retained the name for trading purposes.
The Medway Queen Preservation Society have rebuilt their vessel structurally with the aid of HLF funding and are now engaged in fitting out the ship, initially for use as a floating venue for meetings and events. The long term aim is to see the ship sail again under its own power. Medway Queen is berthed in Gillingham, Kent, where a small team of dedicated volunteers are pushing the project forward. Like the locomotive, progress on the ship is governed by the availability of resources – both physical and financial. Although a Kent based organisation, MQPS has worldwide support and has a PR team based, conveniently, in Wiltshire and not far from Blunsdon!
The aims of the two groups’ cooperation will be to support one another in publicity campaigns and appropriate merchandising and marketing initiatives. An early project will be a promotional wagon for 00 model railways. For some years now the Medway Queen has benefitted from income generated by a series of such wagons and it is hoped that a joint project will reach a wider market and generate funds for both teams. Details will be announced when the model goes on sale early in 2020.
For more information on the two societies go to:
www.35011gsn.co.uk and www.medwayqueen.co.uk