South Eastern & Chatham Railway 1556/1909 0-6-0T
This locomotive was constructed at Ashford Works and purchased by the South Eastern & Chatham Railway [SECR] at a cost of £1,740 in February 1909 and allocated the number 753. When new, it was allocated to Ashford Shed and briefly used on trials on the New Romney Branch before being transferred to Tonbridge Shed for the Sevenoaks-Otford services.
In October 1909, it was used in running trials between Nunhead and Greenwich Park, Beckenham Junction and Norwood Junction, Chatham Central and Strood and over the Westerham Branch. In November 1911, it entered Ashford Works for its first general repair, which involved having its lever reversing gear removed and replaced by the standard Ashford steam system the cylinders being attached vertically to the front of the right hand side tank. At the same time the polished chimney caps and dome were painted over and the wheels rebalanced for steadier running at speed. Modifcations were also made to the spark arrester and blast pipe to sharpen the blast to avoid depositing large quantities of ash against the smokebox door. By July 1914 No.753 was working the Otford-Sevenoaks and Westerham Branch services.
When it became apparent to the War Office and the Goverment that hostilities with Germany would be prolonged, the S.E.C.R. was asked to lay out sorting sidings and an extensive rail system in and around the War Department’s ammunition, clothing and food depots at Boulogne. Much of the permanent way and signalling came from S.E.C.R. sources, while to assist with the construction, Nos.27 & 753 were shipped across the Channel on the 24th April 1915. Before departure they were painted unvarnished olive green with large yellow numerals on the tank sides beneath the letters ROD. After arrival at Boulogne it was renumbered 5753.
It was repatriated on the 30th October 1916 via the Richborough Ferry and found to be badly damaged as a result of a collision and was sent to Ashford Works for attention to its bunker, cab and left hand side tank. By January 1917, it was working the Dartford-Gravesend services. By January 1923 it had been transferred to Redhill Shed and used as the Redhill carriage pilot until the Autumn of 1928 when it was transferred to Battersea Shed and used in the construction of the Wimbledon and Sutton Line.
After the completion of the Wimbledon and Sutton Line, the locomotive returned to Redhill Shed where in December 1925 it was renumbered 556 and further renumbered in November 1926 becoming Southern Railway A556. After July 1935 it was renumbered 1556 and transferred to Dover Shed. In 1938, it was hired by the Kent & East Sussex Railway.
In January 1940 it was transferred to Gillingham [Kent] Shed for working the Chatham Dockyard Branch and providing assistance within the Dockyard. By June 1945 it had been returned to Dover Shed.
Upon Nationalisation it was given the British Railway’s number 31556. 1n April 1950, it was transferred to Brighton Shed where it remained until withdrawn in June 1961. Upon withdrawal it was sold to James Hodson [Millers] & Sons Ltd. for use in and around their flour mill at Robertsbridge, Sussex and named “Pride of Sussex”, the brand name under which the products were marketed in Southern England. In January 1971, it was moved to the Kent & East Sussex Railway where it was repaired, numbered 11 and given the new owner’s livery.