32678 (LBSCR 78 Knowle, LBSCR 678, SR B678, IoW W4, Iow W14 Bembridge, SR 2678 & BR 32678)

32678 at Northiam on the Kent & East Sussex Railway - August 2003.jpg

32678 was built at Brighton in 1880 as 78 Knowle and rebuilt to a class A1X in 1911.

As one of the later batches it was fitted with Westinghouse air brakes from new and iron instead of wooden brake blocks. When new it performed on London suburban lines but by the mid-1890s had migrated to Portsmouth, working the Hayling Island and East Southsea branches.

In 1907 it was renumbered 678 in the LB&SCR’s duplicate list and, in the same year, converted to push-pull motor train working which resulted in the cylinders being reduced from 13in to 12in diameter. 1911 saw a Marsh design boiler fitted, the total mileage run at this time being 763,993. Now classified as A1X class, 678 was allocated to Horsham in 1912, moving to Littlehampton four years later. It subsequently returned to the London area where duties included the Crystal Palace motor trains; by the end of 1922 it was back in the country at Horsham.

In the ownership of the Southern Railway it is believed to have been stored out of use at Preston Park from 1926 until 1929 when it was shipped across the Solent to become Isle of Wight W4 (W14 in 1932) Bembridge. Prior to departure for the Island it was overhauled, fitted with an extended bunker and its push-pull gear removed. Its Island duties came to an end in May 1936 when it returned to the Mainland, only to be condemned at Eastleigh seven months later. Fate intervened, for before scrapping started a reprieve was granted and, after overhaul, it returned to traffic in 1937 as 2678, going to Fratton for duty on the Hayling Island services. A year later it was tried as shed pilot at Guildford but was found unsuitable.

1940 saw 2678 hired to the Kent & East Sussex Railway to alleviate a chronic motive power shortage. Some sources suggest that it was loaned by the SR in 1941 but the K&ESR mileage register indicates that it arrived at Rolvenden the previous year. 2678 remained on loan to the K&ESR until nationalisation in 1948 and was retained by BR for further service on the branch for another ten years, thus becoming the longest serving non-K&ESR purchased locomotive to work the line.

Drama occurred in 1949 when, as a result of track subsidence, 2678 was derailed near Wittersham becoming well buried in the light soil, thereby creating recovery problems. By end-1949 the locomotive was turned out in lined BR black, renumbered to 32678, and allocated to Ashford although still sub-shedded at Rolvenden.

The final passenger train on the K&ESR ran in 1954, leaving Robertsbridge in the care of 32678 and sister Terrier 32655 (Stepney), one at each end. Afterwards they ran from Rolvenden to Hastings, where 32678 remained for a further four years, shedded at St Leonards, for the daily Tenterden freight duties. During this period it also worked the seasonal hop-pickers’ trains.

Replaced by diesels in 1958, 32678 returned to Fratton for the Hayling Island branch again, this branch being the final Terrier stronghold. In 1959 it received its final general repairs and repainting at Eastleigh.

By 1963, when Terrier days in BR service were drawing to a close, 32678 was employed on West Quay line at Newhaven. These lines were due to close in mid-summer when the swing bridge over the Rover Ouse ceased to be used by rail-borne traffic. The final trip over the bridge took place on 10 August when all wagons were cleared from the West Quay lines and, now redundant, 32678 left Newhaven for Brighton eight days later. There it saw out its last BR duties as coal stage pilot before its final trip to Eastleigh where it was withdrawn from service on 05 October 1963.

32678’s total mileage was recorded as 1,411,436 upon withdrawal of which 949,056 miles had been run in 43 years of LB&SCR ownership and 462,380 miles in SR/BR days.

Reprieve came again the following spring when 32678 was sold to Butlins and put on display at Minehead holiday camp. In 1975 it was sold to the nearby West Somerset Railway from where it was acquired by Resco (Railways) Ltd in 1983 who moved it to their premises in North Kent.

In 1975, a lengthy restoration began, first at Resco Railways in Woolwich. After a further change of private owner, Knowle returned to the Kent & East Sussex Railway as a kit of parts in 1988. Rebuilding proceeded through the 1990s and the boiler was sent to Chatham Steam Engineering for a very thorough overhaul. Final assembly took place during 1998/99 and the locomotive re-entered service as 2678 in 1999 with the bunker rebuilt to its near original form at the behest of the owner.

Now wholly owned by The Terrier Trust, who purchased it following an appeal, when the previous owner wished to sell, 32678 is a regular performer on the line. In recent years, Knowle has paid visits to the Bluebell, Severn Valley, North Yorkshire Moors, Mid-Hants and most recently, the West Somerset.

32678 was taken out of service in February 2017 for overhaul, and despite delay due to the need to work on larger locomotives, it was steam tested in locomotive was steam tested in July 2017.

In early 2018 a new hire agreement (covering 32670 & 32678) was signed by the owner and the K&ESR. The agreement provides for the locomotives to be based on the railway for an initial 20 year period with an automatic renewal every ten years. The break clause has also been extended to ten years instead of one year. The agreement provides stability for the K&ESR with the aim of always having one in service as well as enabling them to visit other railways.

Although the boiler certificate expires in 2019 the locomotive was taken out of service in November 2018. The overhaul is planned to commence at Rolvenden on the K&ESR before the end of 2018. The aim is to have the locomotive back in traffic in six or seven months later. The speed of the overhaul is thought to be possible due to the locomotive being in good condition following its previous overhaul being extensive.

Home Base Current Status Owner
Kent & East Sussex Railway Under overhaul The Terrier Trust
32678 at Northiam on the Kent & East Sussex Railway - August 2003.jpg 32678 at Northiam on the Kent & East Sussex Railway – August 2003

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