This locomotive was built by Manning and Wardle & Company in 1877 and has the characteristic bent-over sheet cab roof, and side sheets forming little verandahs each side.
One interesting feature of Sharpthorn is the Salter safety valve columns housing the springs – these are graduated with the boiler pressure, a relic of the days before modern Bourdon-tube steam gauges were fitted. It has been fitted with a steam gauge on the Bluebell Railway which is just as well as the two columns disagree by a wide margin.
The locomotive was delivered new to West Hoathly and was used by Joseph Firbank on the construction of the Lewes and East Grinstead Railway. The name of the locomotive comes from a village near East Grinstead.
In 1888 it became the property of Samuel Williams & Sons and used to shunt the company’s coal dock at Dagenham until withdrawn from service in 1958. It remained under the ownership of Samuel Williams & Sons until 1982 but was loaned to the Bressingham Steam Museum.
The locomotive moved to the Bluebell Railway in 1981 and took part in the line’s centenary celebrations in 1982.
As the locomotive was used to build the Lewes and East Grinstead Railway it is of great historical interest to the Bluebell Railway.
Sharpthorn is currently on display on a short track in the upper car park at Sheffield Park station. Its condition is so poor that plans to steam it for the line centenary were quickly abandoned. The work required includes some major repairs to the boiler and the frames, and possibly a new wheelset and tyres. Any use which could be made of the engine will be for show purposes as it has very limited pulling capacity.
As there is a heavy workload on the workshops on the Bluebell Railway it will be some considerable time before the locomotive is steamed again.