January 2020 Update

January 2020 Update

Looking back to progress in 2019

Since the move of General Steam Navigation our new home at the Swindon and Cricklade Railway   in April 2019 we have held a number of enjoyable and productive working parties made all the more effective by being at our new permanent base, see also our May 2019 update here.

Working alongside our friends at the Swindon and Cricklade Railway   we have obtained and installed a new 20ft storage container alongside 35011 in the Barn at Blunsdon. This gives us a secure base for our tools, equipment and most importantly storage of many of the components that have been removed from the locomotive to enable the next steps of restoration to take place.

In preparation of lifting the boiler during 2020 we have continued to remove the boiler tubes, with the majority of the large tubes now removed. We also removed the top of the old smokebox, this being both badly corroded and also a of a rebuilt type and therefore not suitable for 35011 when restored to original form, this have given us easier and safer access to the boiler front tubeplate. All the boiler mounting points have been regularly oiled up to enable easier removal of the boiler later this year.

As with a restoration of this kind there are many components that need to be removed from the locomotive as part of the process, some of these items will be restored and reused whilst others being for the engine in her rebuilt form will not be required and where possible a offered to other locomotive owners. All the components so far removed have been catalogued and securely stored. These items have included: slide bars, reverser, cylinder and valve chest covers, glands and packing and brake gear.

We also have continued to work on the production of new items including a wide range of new castings, Klinger valves and bogie and pony truck spring beams and hangers being machined, and trial fitted.  Research and Design work and material sourcing is continuing in earnest for the new centre crank axle and new tyres have been ordered for the wheels for the centre axle.

At our November working party that coincided with Remembrance Sunday, those attending marked the occasion by observing a 2 minutes silence, to remember specifically all those in the Merchant Navy whom lost their lives alongside our service personnel. 35011 was also suitably adorned with the Red Ensign flag of the Merchant Navy.

More details and information about the progress being made on 35011 General Steam Navigation will be in the next issue of our members magazine the Packet due later this month.

If you are not yet a member, it’s only £12 per year, you can sign up here  or even better become a shareholder here.

Upcoming dates in 2020


Our next planned working weekends are being held on 25th / 26th January & 29th and February / 1st March.

As always with our working weekends, no experience is necessary just enthusiasm and a willingness to get involved. If you are interested, please contact our chairman at andrew.collett@35011gsn.co.uk for a volunteer form to fill out.

Please note that as well as being a member of us you will also need to be a member of and or join the Swindon & Cricklade Railway.

Also our AGM will be held on the 28th March at the Swindon & Cricklade Railway,  where all members and shareholders are invited to join us. We have a guest speaker from Steam Railway Magazine and it is also a Gala Weekend on the Swindon & Cricklade Railway , so along with seeing the progress that has been made on No.11 there will be plenty going on to make the visit worthwhile.
The formal AGM notice will be in the next issue of the members magazine the Packet.

As always thank you for your continued support.

General Steam Navigation, co-operation between rail and sail

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

May 2019 Update

Since the last update the Society the project has been incredibly busy with the biggest news being the locomotive has arrived at her new home on the Swindon and Cricklade Railway. The move which took 2 days and involved a crane, 2 low loaders and around 30 volunteers was a complete success with the locomotive arriving at the railway on the 20th April.  The Society would like to thank Reid freight and all the volunteers at Sellindge and Swindon for their help during the move. The Society is also incredibly grateful to all our members who donated towards the costs of the move and raised £1,700 in just under a week. You can still support our efforts to cover the move by donating at https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/35011gsn.

General Steam Navigations move to the Swindon generated quite a bit of main stream media coverage for the project. The stand out achievement was a 3 minute feature on the local BBC 6pm news program ’Points West’. The feature included footage of the locomotive arriving, some old photos, interviews with Andrew Collett one of our trustees and Allan Bott one of the Swindon and Cricklade volunteers. Getting the feature was a great scoop for the project as the program gets an average of 580,000 people tuning in.

Andrew Collett and Allan Bott were also interviewed for BBC Radio Wiltshire’s  Drivetime program. General Steam Navigation also made the front page of the S&CRs local paper the ’Swindon Advertiser’. All this mainstream coverage is a great success for the project and our new hosts as we look to build our volunteer and supporters base in the local area.

The Society held its AGM on the 18th May at Blunsdon station on the Swindon and Cricklade Railway. This year’s event was the first time the Society has been able to hold the AGM with the locomotive present and was the majority of our members’ first time seeing 35011 in person. A full write up will appear in Issue 10 of the Packet out in the next couple of months.

If you are considering getting involved with the restoration of the locomotive joining today is the perfect opportunity to join. Working parties will be starting soon at the Swindon site and will make the next stage of her life and you could be part of that new chapter. For more details please do get in touch with us through our website or various social media platforms.

As always thank you for your continued support.

General Steam Navigation setting course for the Swindon and Cricklade Railway

35011 sets course for the Swindon and Cricklade Railway

The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society are pleased to announce that they have agreed terms to move locomotive 35011 to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway in Wiltshire.

The Society restoring Merchant Navy class locomotive 35011 General Steam Navigation are working to retro convert the locomotive to its 1950s 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 valve gear incorporating chain drive. 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.

By relocating the group and the locomotive to a publicly accessible site near Swindon, restoration will be able to step up a gear, with a target to complete the rolling chassis within the next five years. The Swindon and Cricklade’s Blunsdon station will become the new home for 35011.

The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society was formed towards the end of 2015 with the aim of restoring 35011. The Society has made great advances since then, but volunteers were keen to find a permanent restoration  base for the locomotive.

“We are delighted that we can finally announce that the locomotive will be moving to The Swindon and Cricklade Railway in the near future” said Simon Shutt, Chairman of the General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society. “This move will enable us to take the project to the next step and escalate our efforts to put the steam back into General Steam Navigation.”

Working in association with other locomotive groups based at The Swindon and Cricklade Railway, the plan is to remove the locomotive boiler for the first time since it was withdrawn by British Railways, to allow thorough restoration of the locomotive frames and wheel sets.

“We are pleased to welcome this group to The Swindon and Cricklade Railway” said Mick Lay, chairman of the railway. “By relocating General Steam Navigation to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway both parties will benefit.” said Mick. “General Steam Navigation will be a valuable and useful locomotive when we extend to Cricklade and also help raise the profile of our railway while 35011 is restored. In giving General Steam Navigation a permanent home, we hope it will provide mutual support to our volunteers and the team working on her.”

The cost of the move has been priced up just under £9,000 which is where we need your help. We are fundraising to help cover as much as the cost as possible with the target being set at £4,000, the more money the Society can raise the more money that can be spent on components and help restore this mighty beast. If you can donate please consider supporting  the Society by visiting our Just Giving page below thank you.


February 2019 Update

The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society are delighted to report that on Wednesday 13th March the Society will be announcing the new base that the locomotive will be moving to. The new base will see the restoration and eventful running of the Society’s Merchant Navy class engine.

Issue 9 of the Packet which will be posted to members in the coming days will feature an indepth article on the new base and the exciting times that lay ahead for the project.

Feburary was a busy month for the projects engineering team with volunteers working on the locomotive at Sellindge to prepare her for the upcoming move.  We do have to inform our supporters that unfortunately we won’t be publicizing any dates for the physical move of the locomotive due to space requirements at both ends of the trip.

Ian Ferguson one of our expert machinists completed the work on the Klinger valves and have been collected by one of the Societys trustees. We’d like to thank Ian for all his hard work on the valves and the Society plan to fit them to the manifold during the AGM to display to our members,

Work on the bogie spring beams was progressing with the profiles being machined for us by Asbrook Engineering in Devon.  These beams are being made the same way as the beams for the trailing truck and should be delivered by the end of March.

As always thank you for your contuined support

January 2019 Update

At the start of a each year we tend to look back at the previous years achievements and 2018 was another stand out year. Amongst the highlights were the new nameplates for the locomotive which sponsored by 2 of our members and unveiled at the Societys in March. The biggest engineering success was gathering all the major components required to overhaul the trailing truck once the locomotive has been stripped down. Securing all the major parts for the trailing truck saw the project undertake many firsts including the first component made from our own patterns (axle box covers) and the first component made from Society generated CAD (trailing truck spring beams). All this work allowed us demonstrate the difference between our unique fabricated trailing truck and the far more common cast version. Work was also undertaken at Sellindge in the form of general maintenance and preparing the locomotive for a future move. Thanks to our amazing supporters we also secured many original parts for the locomotive including a whistle valve, lamps and a speedometer.

Work is on going with the machining of the Klinger Valves with Ian making steady progress. Inside the valve is what is known as a lantern. Its job is to apply pressure to the packing that seals the valve piston by allows steam to pass through it when the valve is open. It is not been possible to obtain stainless steel castings which meant Ian had to machine them out of a solid billet of stainless steel. The caps of the Klinger valves have been fully machined which was made easier through the use of special trapezoidal taps that sped up the process no end. At our AGM the Society plans to have the completed valves on display test fitted to the manifold. The machining of this particular component is very complex and the Society is extremely grateful to Ian for all his hard work over the past year.

The third annual General Meeting of the Society will held on Saturday 18th May 2019 however the location cannot be revealed at this time. The Society is in the final stages of a agreeing a new base for the locomotive with the contract being discussed at this time. Its planned that the locomotive will be moved to the new site in time for the AGM to allow our members attending to see her and as many of the various parts the Society has gathered attached to her. This has also seen Issue 9 of the Packet being delayed until the contract is signed. The issue is ready to go to the printers so once the deal has been agreed our members will get the news on there doorsteps soon after. The Packet features some major updates on various fronts including the crank axle,  more original components, more parts made from scratch and the galas we are attending in the coming months.

As always thank you for your contuined support


November 2018 Update

November has been another productive month for the project with lots of work being carried out behind the scenes which should take the GSN project to the next level. We are quickly approaching our 3rd birthday and the Society is hopeful of announcing a new restoration base that we are currently in negotiations with. Should this be agreed and the deal signed the Society will launch an appeal to raise the approximately £7,000 required for the transportation costs and crane hire fees to move the J94 chassis and its boiler that‘s currently in front of 35011 at Sellindge. This could also see our AGM being delayed by a couple of months this year in order to have the event at the new base with the locomotive present. As soon as anything is agreed be assured our members will be the first to know.

The General Steam Navigation is delighted to announce the long term loan of some original Bulleid components to be used on 35011. Kindly lent to us by Eddie Wearing the components include a Smiths Speedometer that was removed from a Bulleid Pacific and 4 electric lamps. The Smiths Speedometer‘s were installed on all of the LNER‘s top link engines, the Bulleid Pacific’s and the BR Standard Class Locomotives such as the Britannia’s. This makes them a very sort after component item within the heritage railway sector as the supply of originals dries up so securing one for the locomotive is a great achievement. Before use the Speedometer will need to be sent to a specialist company such as Wayne Jones and Partners for overhaul, calibration and certification.

Last month we mentioned with with Christmas fast approaching it was the perfect time to join easyfundraising.org.uk. We were delighted to see several new supporters sign up which has led to an immediate increase in donations.  Easy Fundraising is a great way to raise money for charities, schools, sports clubs, community groups, Merchant Navy class steam locomotives, and other good causes just by shopping online and selecting your chosen charity, in our case General Steam Navigation.

As always thank you for your contuined support

October 2018 Update


October was a busy month for us with the Society stand visiting both the Mid Hants Railway Autumn steam gala and the Exeter Garden Model Railway show. These events were very successful for the project with the Society signing up several new members. The Society would like to take our stand out and visit more railways in 2019 but for that we need your help. Events on our wish list include the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railways May gala, the Severn Valley Railway and the Great Central Railway. The more railways we visit the more people will see our society and hopefully join which will be a major boost to our efforts to restore 35011. If you are interested in supporting GSNs restoration through manning a sales stand please do get in touch via the website.

Issue 8 of the Packet landed on our members doorsteps this weekend and was another bumper issue.  The Packet has updates from the engineering team. new original Bulleid components, another magazine scan from Southern Railway magazine and reports from all the various departments within the Society.

General Steam Navgation made a surprise TV appearance this week albeit in 00 gauge form. She appeared for a couple of seconds on Channel 5s Great Model Railway Challenge show when Team Tonbridge were testing the layout. Sadly Team Tonbridge didnt win there heat but seeing a model GSN was a nice surprise for us.

With Christmas fast approaching today is the perfect time to join easyfundraising.org.uk. Easy Fundraising is a great way to raise money for charities, schools, sports clubs, community groups, Merchant Navy class steam locomotives, and other good causes just by shopping online and selecting your chosen charity, in our case General Steam Navigation.

How it works

  1. First go to the easyfundraising website (www.easyfundraising.org.uk)
  2. Choose a link to any of the 2,700+ retailers (e.g. Amazon, Asda, M&S, Waterstones, etc) to be taken to the retailers own website
  3. Shop as normal

By registering General Steam Navigation as your good cause on the easyfundraising website, purchases that you make, after clicking through to any retailer from the easyfundraising website, will automatically provide a donation to us. It really is as simple as that! And if you install the easyfundraising Donation Reminder you don’t even have to remember to do steps 1 and 2! There is also an App for mobile devices. Refer to the easyfundraising website for any further details.

Click here to sign up.

As always thank you for your continued support


September 2018 Update

September saw our volunteers working hard on the locomotive at the Sellindge site. With the spring beams being completed by North Bay Railway Engineering Services the Society had hoped to be able to get the trailing truck axle sprung when test fitting all the new components. Unfortunately the hangers and various fittings weren’t completed by our machinist in time but we were still able to pose all the remaining components together to show the difference between the early cast style trailing truck and GSNs unique fabricated style design. The Society would like to thank all the volunteers who attended and the members who contributed towards the components. A full write up of the working weekend will appear in the next issue of the Packet due out late October.

Top; 35006s early cast style trailling truck with GSNs fabricated design below

The Society will be hosting a sales stand at the upcoming Watercress Line Autumn Steam gala. The event has a Western region theme with guest locomotives Foxcote  Manor, Large Prairie 5199 and BR Standard ‘4MT’ 2-6-4T No. 80078 all visiting the line. The Society would welcome any volunteers who’d like to help man the stand or people who like to find out more about the project to come along.

Lots of exciting progress is being made with the project and today is the perfect time for people who are considering about signning up to do so. The General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society Membership costs £10 for the year with members being kept up to date with the latest goings on with the locomotive, receive our members magazine ‘The Packet’ 3 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 sign up by visiting our membership page here.

As always thank you for your continued support.

August 2018 Update

August has been another busy month on the engineering front of the project. North Bay Engineering Services in Darlington have been making serious progress with the trailing truck spring beams for GSN. The beams which were water cut using CAD made by a society volunteer are currently being machined to the required specifications and should be delivered by the middle of September. The beams are the first ones made for a Merchant Navy for over 50 years and the biggest component we needed to replace on the trailing truck.

Our next working weekend will be held at Sellindge between the 28th and 30th September to which all our members are invited to attend. At this working weekend we plan to trial fit all the various components for the trailing truck should the hangers and fittings be completed in time. One of the components we have been recently working on is the axle box covers which we got cast earlier in the year. They have now been machined for us by Leaky Finders in Devon with the covers requiring the oil feed hole boring, the fixing holes reamed and the back edges milled flat to create a tight fit against the axle box. The work was done in a timely manner and ready to be fitted to the locomotive.

In July we mentioned that the Society was loaned an original Bulleid electric lamp to be use on the locomotive. The Society has now got the lamp all wired up and working to display at various stands and Society events.

As always thank you for your continued support





Montly updates from the 35011 project