753 was the first of the P class locomotive to be built at Ashford Works where it was completed in 1909 and son afterwards was employed on the Sevenoaks to Otford services.
From April 1915 until October 1916 it was engaged in military work at Boulogne where it was numbered ROD 5753 and painted unvarnished olive green. (I have seen it stated suggested that 31027 and 31556 were the first locomotives to be moved to France). The SECR were contracted to construct exchange sidings at the docks in Boulogne for the transhipping of Munitions and other stores.
On return, and after repairs to collision damage suffered whilst at Boulogne, 753 worked between Swanley and Gravesend West for a number of years but became carriage pilot at Redhill by 1923. It was renumbered to 556 in 1925 (A556 in 1926 and later to 1556 in 1931). In 1928 it was employed at on the construction of the Wimbledon – Sutton line and sometime afterwards, in common with other members of the class, gravitated to Dover and Folkestone to work around the harbours.
During 1936 and again in 1938 it was hired to the Kent & East Sussex Railway (K&ESR) which was temporarily short of motive power. It returned to the Channel ports where it worked until 1940 when it was transferred to Gillingham, returning to Dover in 1945. A further period of hire to the K&ESR (by then a private siding for the Pride of Sussex flour mill at Robertsbridge) to Robersbridge station yard. Change of ownership of the mill resulted in the closure of the siding and the purchase of the locomotive for use on the K&ESR in 1970.
It was steamed a few times after arrival but was dismantled in 1973 for major boiler repairs and mechanical overhaul. Nominally given the number 11 in the K&ESR fleet it spent 10 years in a stripped down state seeing very little restoration work. During 1984 to 1986 steady progress was made and the locomotive returned to service in Southern Railway livery as 1556. There followed ten years of operation which included two visits to France to take part in K&ESR twinning activities with the Baye de Somme Railway.
Following the expiry of the boiler certificate in 1997 it was withdrawn from traffic for overhaul and returned to service in 2001 restored with its original livery.
The locomotive was withdrawn from service in 2010 when the boiler certificate expired. Its overhaul was suspended in 2017 and the locomotive was temporaily re-wheeled and moved to the carriage shed for storage. This was to enable work to be concentrated on overhauling the USA 0-6-0T 30070 and Hunslet Austerity 25 Northiam.
Early in 2019 ultrasonic testing of the boiler was undertaken which revealed that there were no major problems.
|Home Base||Current Status||Owner|
|Kent & East Sussex Railway||Under overhaul||Kent & East Sussex Railway|
- 31027 (ROD 5027, SR A27, SR 1027 & BR 31027)
- 31178 (SECR 178, SR A178, SR 1178, Bowaters Pioneer II & BR 31178)
- 31323 (SECR 323, SR A323, SR 1323 & BR 31323)