HISTORY OF THE SR L1
The design and introduction of Maunsell’s L class 4-4-0 smacks, in modern-day terminology, of creative accountancy as his vastly more capable N15 class was already in production and destined for the Kent coast express turns in addition to which his Lord Nelson prototype was about to undergo rigorous road testing with the intention that they would be used on the same routes. However, there was an outstanding works order for 15 express engines still on the books from the time of the grouping in 1923 and he obviously considered that there was a dire need for Kentish motive power to supplement the existing fleet until the Arthur and Nelson projects were successfully completed.
The L1s bore a strong resemblance to his rebuilds of the Ds and Es and visually owed much, as usual, to the Derby influence at Ashford during his tenure. There was no capacity available for the construction of these engines and so the entire building project was contracted out to the North British Locomotive Company who delivered all 15 of the class during 1926.
They proved, in common with his other 4-4-0 rebuilds, to be reliable, strong locomotives and all survived in service well beyond 30 years with the last survivor, 31786, being retained until 1962. Slightly longer than the rest of the class for use on a couple of enthusiasts’ rail tours early in that year.
Due to a lack of capacity in the design department the class was little different from the L class siblings and had only a slightly higher tractive effort with the main differences being of the cosmetic variety. The N class smokebox and chimney, a side-window cab and the mogul tender were the only significant external technical changes from the L class. During the long and fruitful life of the L1 class the only obvious changes were the removal of the smokebox-mounted snifter valves and changes of number and livery.