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PNP Railways Engine Shed

E 772 Sir Percivale (King Arthur) locomotive. Let us take you on a captivating journey through history as we explore the vision, origins, preservation efforts, and unique features of this legendary locomotive.

The Legendary E 772 Sir Percivale (King Arthur) Locomotive: A Fascinating Journey through History

In the world of railway enthusiasts, the name Walter Harper resonates with passion and devotion to all things transport-related, especially railways. Harper, a former British Railway surveyor turned stately homeowner, embarked on a remarkable venture that would bring his love for locomotives to life. One of the standout achievements of his passion is the 10¼" inch gauge model of the illustrious E 772 Sir Percivale (King Arthur) locomotive, a true testament to Harper's unwavering commitment to the world of railways.

The Vision Takes Shape

Harper's dedication to detail and authenticity led him to collaborate with Richards Engineering, where he commissioned the construction of a remarkable 0-4-0 Quarry Hunslet locomotive. This splendid machine, affectionately named Nelly after Harper's mother, was crafted to nearly half its full size. Harper's ambitions did not end there; he also commissioned two N15 King Arthur class engines: E771 Sir Sagramore and E772 Sir Percivale. Harper insisted that both models be created to an exact scale of 2.174" to 12" for standard gauge models on a 10¼" gauge, ensuring a balanced and visually captivating representation. During the latter half of the 1970s, Nelly and Sir Percivale were delivered to their new home at Oakhill Manor, while Sir Sagramore awaited completion.  It was not finished until the nineties and currently resides at Ingfield Light Railway.

Unveiling the History
To understand the significance of Sir Percivale, we must explore the origins of the King Arthur class engines. Sir Percivale is one of the 74 King Arthur Class locomotives constructed for the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) and Southern Railway between 1918 and 1927. This remarkable class of locomotives derived from Robert Urie's H15 mixed traffic 4-6-0 locomotive, initially designed in 1913. Urie's creation was a response to the growing demand for passenger transport during and after World War I, building upon Dugald Drummond's T14, LSWR design from 1911.

The Maunsell Touch
Further refinement and improvements were carried out on the H15 locomotive by Urie and Richard Maunsell, resulting in the birth of the N15, which ultimately transformed into the iconic King Arthur Class engines. The suggestion to name them after King Arthur came from Southern Railway's very first Public Relations Officer, drawing inspiration from the Arthurian Legend and the mystical ties to the Tintagel area. The new King Arthur engines boasted various enhancements, including reduced cylinder sizes, increased boiler pressure, superheaters, improved piston valves, streamlined steam passages, and a larger chimney with a capuchin. These modifications significantly enhanced the performance of the King Arthur locomotives.

Preserving a Legacy
While the original Urie engines were refurbished to match the standards of the new King Arthurs, known as the Urie Arthurs, the Eastleigh Arthurs built by Maunsell at the Eastleigh Works (a total of 24) showcased further advancements. Sir Percivale, belonging to the Scotch Arthurs, was constructed by The North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow and entered service in June 1925. It faithfully served the Southern Railway Company until its decommissioning in September of 1961. Notably, Sir Percivale carries the E prefix above its number 772 due to its exclusive servicing and maintenance by Eastleigh Works.

Preservation Efforts
Sadly, only one full-sized King Arthur locomotive remains intact today. That locomotive is the Scotch Arthur named "Sir Lamiel," bearing the number 777. Preserved as part of the national collection, "Sir Lamiel" is currently undergoing an overhaul at The Great Central Railway, located in Loughborough, Leicestershire. This remarkable railway is the UK's sole mainline Heritage Railway, ensuring that the legacy of the King Arthur class locomotives lives on.

The Fascinating Watercart Tender
An intriguing aspect of Sir Percivale is its unique tender. The tender features eight wheels and is affectionately referred to as a "Watercart." This design can be traced back to Dugald Drummond's original T14 tender, intended to service longer journeys as water troughs were not available on the Southern Railway lines. To accommodate certain destinations with shorter turntables, Maunsell designed a few small six-wheel tenders to accompany some of the King Arthur locomotives. 

Interestingly, Sir Percivale initially operated with a water cart tender, however, it also used a six-wheel tender, for three years.   Maunsell repurposed Sir Percivale's water cart tender to be used behind one of his newly built Nelson Class engines, which were introduced in 1926. Fortunately, by the late 1920s, Sir Percivale had its water cart tender reinstated. The model of Sir Percivale faithfully replicates this unique water cart tender.

The Dimensions of Sir Percivale

The full-sized Sir Percivale follows the Whyte Wheel configuration of 4-6-0. Here are the dimensions and specifications of this remarkable locomotive:

  • Gauge: 4' 8 ½" (1,453mm)

  • Leading diameter of front bogie wheels: 3' 1" (0.840mm)

  • Driver diameter: 6' 7" (2007mm)

  • Engine length: 66' 5 ¾" (20,263mm)

  • Weight: 80 tons 19 cwt

  • Boiler pressure: 200 psi

  • 2 outside cylinders with a total traction effort of 25,320 lbf


These specifications highlight the impressive scale and power of Sir Percivale, making it a true marvel of engineering during its time of active service.

Preserving History for Future Generations

The story of Walter Harper's passion for transport and his commissioned 10¼"  gauge model of E 772 Sir Percivale (King Arthur) locomotive is a testament to the enduring fascination with railways and locomotives. Through meticulous attention to detail and the preservation efforts of organizations such as The Great Central Railway, the legacy of these iconic locomotives continues to captivate enthusiasts and educate future generations. Whether it's the captivating history, the intricate engineering, or the timeless beauty of these machines, the story of Sir Percivale and the King Arthur class locomotives is one that will undoubtedly endure for years to come.


Where can you see the model of Sir Percivale running today?

Sir Percivale is often a visitor to Ingfield, so on occasions, a pair of King Arthurs with concurrent running numbers can be seen double-heading a train around the track.

The model is in the care of John Littlechild (of Starlight Express fame) who does a splendid job of maintaining and improving Sir Percivale.  He visits selected shows and venues throughout the year, and the locomotive when not with John is at Ingfield Light Railway.


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