I like big tank engines and by ‘big’ I mean larger than a GWR ‘61xx’ class 2-6-2T. Perhaps it was because my first trainset had a BR Standard ‘4MT’ 2-6-4T as its motive power that big tanks represent ‘real’ model locomotives to me. However, it was as a result of growing up in a house beside the railway between Staines and Egham that I became acquainted with full-size big tanks. In the last years of Southern steam, these were usually the BR ‘Standard Fours’ reduced to menial duties such as the pick-up goods which passed home at 8.35am and which had introduced me to ‘700’ class 0-6-0s.
However, prior to that, and before their withdrawal in the savaging of SR designs that took place in late 1962, I had come to know and love the ‘H16’ 4-6-2Ts. These were really big, big tanks, introduced by Robert Urie to work transfer freights across south-west London from the newly-completed Feltham hump yard. There were also two similar ‘G16’ 4-8-0Ts built at the same time, but these generally stayed within the confines of the yard where they performed hump shunting duties.
What is it?
The ‘H16s’ were regular sightings for me and I had copped all five in a very short space of time. Their intended transfer work should not have brought them past home but by the BR period, and probably earlier, they were being much more widely used, alongside ‘S15’ 4-6-0s on heavy mixed freights to Reading and Woking, and through to Eastleigh and Southampton Docks. They were rugged and powerful and in bad weather their large, fully-enclosed, cab was no doubt appreciated by crews rather more than the open cabs and weather-sheets of the ‘S15s’ and their Urie ‘H15’ cousins.
As well as working heavy mixed freights, one or two of the class ended their days substituting for ‘M7’ 0-4-4Ts on empty coaching stock workings out of Waterloo to Clapham Junction and Walton-on-Thames.
What would make it viable?
Southern locomotives are always popular with modellers, perhaps because the density of population in the South-East means there are more modellers with ‘local’ interests. However, more recent Southern models have reflected small SR types, the Beattie Well Tanks, ‘O2’ and ‘H’ 0-4-4Ts, Model Rail’s ‘USA’ 0-6-0T dock tank and even narrow-gauge L&B 2-6-2Ts, plus the front-line original ‘Merchant Navy’. True, on the freight front, we had Hornby’s ‘S15’ 4-6-0 and ‘700’ class 0-6-0 a while back, but the ‘H16’ sits perfectly alongside these, completing the ‘Feltham set’.
It’s a big locomotive providing plenty of space for a powerful motor, flywheel, and room for a speaker and DCC sound fittings. The Southern Railway painted the ‘H16s’ in olive green, while in BR days they carried unlined freight black. Who can resist a big, handsome workhorse?
Can I see a real one?
No, all five ‘H16s’ were scrapped and they aren’t a class which is likely to prompt construction of a replica but in my view that’s another good reason why we need one in model form. At present there aren’t even any kits or resin bodies.
What do you think? Comment below and see other thoughts in MR246, out March 15th!