ACE Trains E/24 Class M7 0-4-4T Ex LSWR, SR and BR Tank Locomotives
The graceful lines of this beautiful tank locomotive date from Victorian times. Designed by Dugald Drummond, London South Western Railway’s (LSWR) chief engineer this very successful and powerful small class of locomotive was introduced in 1897 to accommodate increased demands from suburban and commuter passenger traffic around the southern and western fringes of London. The ex-LSWR class M7 was the largest and heaviest 0-4-4 tank locomotive used in Britain with some 105 examples being built in five phases at Nine Elms and Eastleigh locomotive works up until 1911.
By 1937 some 36 engines had had their primitive push-pull capability adapted with a compressed air system that increased their versatility avoiding the need to turn the engine around and thus enabling them to work on busy country branch lines and later mixed traffic work. For many railway historians and model railway enthusiasts, the M7 came to be regarded as the ubiquitous passenger tank engine associated with south and south west England. Not surprisingly, the M7 class could be seen everywhere on Southern metals including empty stock and pilot duties at Waterloo, shunting duties at Kingston-Upon-Thames goods yard, around Kent, on the East Grinstead to Three Bridges line, the Horsham to Guildford route, in Hampshire on local work between Winchester and Southampton, Winchester and Portsmouth, the Mid Hants line, the 4.5 mile Bordon branch, the Lymington and Isle of Wight line, local services from Southampton, Romsey and Salisbury and from Eastleigh to Andover Junction, stopping services between Southampton and Bournemouth Central and the long-way around ‘Corkscrew’ route from Bournemouth West to Brockenhurst via Poole, Wimborne and Ringwood as late as 1962.
Further west on the Southern route map the M7 was a familiar sight on local services around Poole, a stalwart since the 1940s on the Wareham to Swanage line, running the shuttle service from Yeovil Junction to Yeovil Town and in Devon for many years the domain of the branch service from Sidmouth Junction to Sidmouth, supporting the Axminster to Lyme Regis branch line, the Exeter Central to Exmouth train and M7s double heading on the Atlantic Coast Express between Exeter and Ilfracombe.
The end of the M7 era came when many of the elderly locomotives (some being over 60 years old at this stage) were in such poor mechanical condition that they were too unfit to take up their duties. By the end of 1964 the vast majority of the class were withdrawn from operation – often to the unanimous approval of enginemen who had battled to keep them going. Two members of the M7 class did survive the cutter’s torch. Earlier in 1962 No: 30245 headed to posterity in York at the National Railway Museum where it was restored to its original LSWR livery whilst No: 30053 went for non-working display in the US in 1967 until she was repatriated back to England some 20 years later. No: 30053 has since been restored to full operational status and can be seen working regularly on the Swanage Railway currently resplendent in BR black livery of the 1950s.
The ACE M7 is the first of a series of 0-4-4T locomotives that cover a variety of railway periods from pre grouping, the Big Four and British Railways eras. Each locomotive comes with a combination of clear or jewelled lamps, two red lamps and white discs.