HISTORY OF THE H2
The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway H2 Class was a class of 4-4-2 steam locomotives built for express passenger work. They were designed when D. E. Marsh was officially Locomotive Superintendent & were built at Brighton Works in 1911 & 1912.
The Class were originally a spin off the prior LBSCR H1 Class, built in 1905/6. However, the H2s carried larger cylinders & were superheated unlike the H1s. They were an immediate success & shared with the Class H1 the London to Brighton express trains including the heavily loaded Pullman services the “Brighton Limited” & the “Southern Belle”, which were the LB&SCR described as “the most luxurious train in the World”. As with non-superheated class they were gradually replaced on the London-Brighton express trains in 1925/6 by the “King Arthur” & “River” classes along with Electrification of the Brighton Mainline, but there was still plenty of work for them on other express services, including boat trains connecting with the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry service. H2s were also found on the secondary routes from London to Brighton via Shoreham via Uckfield & via the Bluebell Line. They were also given names by the Southern Railway at this time & were modified by Oliver Bullied to have modified cab, chimney, dome & a boiler PSI of 200 as opposed to the earlier 170 psi.
Following the cessation of the cross-channel ferries after 1940, as a result of World War II, the class were left with little work to do & several were put into store or else moved to miscellaneous duties in the south of England. The H2s however returned to the boat trains after the end of the war & continued to do so until they were being taken over by Bullied-Raworth electric loco by the Mid-1950s. Other workings synonymous with the H2s were the heavy rush hour trains from Victoria to East Grinstead, the Brighton to Plymouth service which they hauled as far as Porthmouth and the inter-regional, summer Saturday services which they collected at either Kensington Olympia or Mitre Bridge. They were also known to stray further afield on rare occasions such as Brighton-Plymouth train at Yeovil Junction.
One member was withdrawn in 1949 due to an accident but withdrawals of the class started in 1956. The last H2 to survive was No. 32424 ‘Beachy Head’ whose swansong was an enthusiasts’ special over the route she had made her own – to Newhaven – on 13th April 1958, before going to Brighton shed for the very last time. Her final journey was to Eastleigh for withdrawal, not only under her own steam but also with a 12 coach ECS behind her. It is noteworthy that not only was Beachy Head the last of the Brighton Atlantics, she was also the last surviving British Railways express locomotive of that wheel arrangement.
However, a new build is in progress at the Bluebell Railway and it should not be at all that long before we can travel behind a Brighton Atlantic once more.
For more information on the New Build ‘Beachy Head’ & where to donate to the project.