This week I finally made it down to a garage to meet a V.I.P. As I opened the doors there he was with big sad eyes, “SIR PERCIVALE”.
No we don’t have one of the Knights of the Round Table residing in a garage, but rather a 10¼” model of a Southern Railway King Arthur Class 4-6-0 locomotive Number E 772. The sad eyes of course are the spectacle plates in the cab designed to be almost teardrop in shape to allow for maximum vision in these minimum width cabs and to fit through the narrow tunnels on the Southern lines.
I was rather surprised by the sheer size of this model. The engine is 7′ 2″ long and the tender is 5′ 3″ a total length of 12′ 5″, it is 2′ 6″ from rail to tip of the cab and 1′ 9″ wide. It is built to true scale 2.18 inches to the foot, (a rather ragged fraction of 1/5.5 scale). At the moment “SIR PERCIVALE” is awaiting a paint job so the livery is rather patchy, but in parts you can see the green colour characteristic of the Maunsell period on the Southern Railway. The cab is rather spectacular but the tender has more paint than the Loco right now.
This model of a King Arthur was one of the Oakhill Manor in Somerset collection that was sold off in or before 2004. It has been slowly refurbished over the years and has now had a preliminary steam test but awaits its full boiler test to be signed off.
Having had my interest aroused I did a little research on the net and was amazed to discover that there were 74 full size King Arthur class Locomotives built for or by The L.S.W.R. and Southern Railway between 1918 and 1927. They were, of course, named as a massive advertising campaign for the Southern Railway.
This six-coupled class loco was derived from the 736 class of 4-6-0 engines introduced by a Mr Urie on the L.S.W.R. in 1917, however the original 22′ x 28′ cylinders of the forerunners were reduced to 20 1/2′ x 28′ in The King Arthur’s. The boiler pressure was also raised from 180 to 200lb psi, super heaters fitted, improved piston valves, more streamlined steam passages and a larger chimney with a capuchin.
In actual fact the original Urie engines were rebuilt as King Arthur’s, these are known as The Urie Arthurs’s, (20 in total), and some of the new engines, to the modified design, were built by the North British Locomotive Co. Ltd and these are fondly known as The Scotch Arthurs (30 in total).
The Eastleigh Arthur’s were built by Maunsell at Eastleigh (24 in total). SIR PERCIVALE is an Eastleigh Arthur as denoted by the prefix E before its number 772. Although I am given to understand, by the fountain of all knowledge (my husband), that all the King Arthurs were denoted as E as they ran and were maintained out of the Eastleigh works.
SIR PERCIVALE has an 8 wheel tender also known as a “Water Cart”. As the Southern lines did not have water troughs the locomotives could not pick up water on route. This was mainly because the Southern Railway was more of a commuter service offering shorter stopping passenger runs, hence the engines required less amenities en route than those of other railways, travelling much greater distances non-stop.
Some of The King Arthur’s, used on the eastern section of the line, had a six-wheeled tender ( to enable them to be turned on shorter turntables) whereas those engines used on the western section (like SIR PERCIVALE) sported the double-bogie tenders and could carry 5,000 gallons of water.
Unfortunately these majestic Locomotives were slowly edged out of service between 1953 and 1962. The Southern Railway being one of the first to adopt electric traction very early on in the 20th century.
SIR LAMIEL ( A Scotch Arthur named after a minor Knight of Cardiff and alleged to have had a following of the fairer sex ) is the last remaining full size preserved King Arthur and it can be found on display at The National Railway Museum in York, or out running on either the mainline or a preserved line quite often.
The Urie Arthur’s have romantic Arthurian names including EXCALIBUR, CAMELOT, TINTAGEL and MORGAN LE FAY,to name but a few. The Eastleigh and Scotch Arthurs are all “SIR’s” apart from QUEEN GUINEVERE and KING ARTHUR himself in the Eastleigh group.
The full size SIR PERCIVALE entered into service in June 1925 and was withdrawn in September 1961. As a romantic footnote the knight himself was a legendary knight of the round table in King Arthur’s Court and he was noted as a hero in the quest for the grail, before being replaced in later literature by Sir Galahad.
A wonderful piece of railway history that should enthrall all model engineers and miniature railway enthusiasts not to mention fans of heritage and historic steam locomotives.