SECR P no.323 'Bluebell'

323 in the yard at Cranmore
323 in the yard at Cranmore
Credit: R.P.Wiesham, 1981
Company: SECR
Type: P
Built by: SECR Ashford
Status: Left in May 1984
Other numbers: 31323
Photo Gallery

323 "Bluebell" was loaned to the East Somerset Railway to help out when there was a motive power shortage. The engine departed Sheffield Park on 18th September 1980 arriving at Foster Yeomans site the next day, on 25th September "Bluebell" was towed to Cranmore by class 47 diesel. 323 was in service from 4th October until the end of the season when she was winterised. Re-entering service on the 4th April, it worked right through the 1981 season and handled the first Santa Specials on the ESR. When operating these services on the 6th December, 323 became caught up in terrible snow drifts before the line was closed as impassable. 323 remained in Somerset for the 1983 season.

Whilst at the ESR, 323 carried the full Bluebell Railway livery of lined blue with nameplates and crest on the tank sides. The engine was used 38 times in 1981, 27 in 1982, and 30 in 1983. During the 1983 Santa season, some of the boiler tubes began to leak, so the engine was taken out of service for repairs. Once these were repaired, other tubes started leaking so it was decided that 323 should soon return to Sheffield Park. The engine arrived back at the Park during the 3rd week of May 1984 where it was re-tubed and repainted before returning to service in September.