30928 Stowe was one of the twenty engines making up the second batch of the Schools class. Constructed under order 631 at Eastleigh works, the locomotives were costed at £5374 each. 928 was released to traffic in June 1934 (carrying boiler 1029 and attached to tender 728) and sent to Fratton depot for work on the Waterloo – Portsmouth Harbour route.
In September 1939 Stowe was fitted with a Flaman recorder and in April 1942 donned the wartime black livery. In November 1946 it was transferred to Brighton and worked the Brighton – Salisbury/Bournemouth trains. Malachite green livery was regained in July 1947 and in October that year a move was made to Bricklayers Arms Shed. Renumbered 30928 in June 1948 the next reallocation was to Stewarts Lane in September of that year, in company with 929 (then unrenumbered) to work the Newhaven boat trains. The three Bullied 1CoCo1 diesel electric locomotives which were built at Ashford and Brighton works took over this job and Stowe went back to Bricklayers Arms in May 1949 but not before it had inadvertently made the first passage of the class from Lewes up the Uckfield line.
On 7th February 1949 30928 was called out to take a fitter up to Uckfield to examine Atlantic 2425 which had a crosshead key work loose whilst proceeding light from Newhaven shed to Uckfield preparatory to working the 8.18am to London. Repairs could not be effected to enable the Atlantic to take the business train forward so Driver Lower decided to use 30928 instead, not realising the class was prohibited across Ashurst viaduct. In later years official sanction was given for the Schools to use the route. In June 1949 Stowe appeared in BR lined black livery and without its pressure relief valves. In April/May 1955 it lost tender 728 and received 710 and then in August 1957 had tender 714 attached on the occasion of the engine’s first visit to Ashford works (previously all shoppings had been at Eastleigh).
Upon electrification of the Portsmouth Direct route in July 1937, 928 went with the other Fratton Schools to Bournemouth shed. It was repainted ‘Bournemouth’ (later to be known as malachite) green in July 1938 and performed with distinction on the Waterloo – Weymouth expresses. It holds the highest speed authenticated for the class – 95 mph – which was attained near Wool under the hand of Driver Guy on a four-coach train from Dorchester to Wareham, the 15 miles taking no more than 13¼ minutes.
The last visit Stowe made to works in the course of non repair was May/July 1959 – after it had a grand total of 1,040,040 miles from the time of construction – when it, AWS gear, blowdown valve gear and water treatment liners to coupled wheels and was regaled in B R Brunswick Green.
Loaned to Tonbridge in August 1961 it was finally transferred to Brighton in October of that year to be withdrawn a year later in November 1962 and stored at Stewarts Lane. It was noted as to be withheld from scrapping in May 1963 and was purchased by Montagu Ventures (Lord Montagu), being transferred from rail to road at Millbrook in February 1964, arriving at Beaulieu still in BR green livery. Lord Robertson of Oakridge performed the inauguration ceremony on 24th March 1964 at the Motor Museum of the Bournemouth Belle – which comprised a static exhibition in the open of 30928 and three Pullman coaches – a train Stowe never appears to have headed.
It subsequently moved to the East Somerset Railway at Cranmore in 1973 before moving to the Bluebell Railway in 1980 where it was returned to working order in 1981. After ten years of operation Stowe was withdrawn from service in 1991 in need of a full overhaul.
In 2000 it was bought by the Maunsell Locomotive Society which secured the future use of the locomotive on the Bluebell Railway where it can be employed to haul an authentic rake of Maunsell coaches. In 2003 the tender was completely rebuilt but the full overhaul on the locomotive did not start until 2013.
The Bluebell Railway have described the heaviest ever boiler repair that they have undertaken. The boiler attached to 30928 was previously carried by 938 Epsom but was fitted to Stowe in 1955. The cost of the overhaul of the locomotive amounted to nearly £200,000 by the start of 2017 and was expected to cost another £100,000.
In July 2017 the boiler was lifted off the frames to enable the axleboxes and journals to be examined.
It is planned that the locomotive will be back in operation as a 4-4-0 engine in April 2019 after operating briefly in December 2018 as a 4-2-0.
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