The Brighton Terrier

The class of railway locomotives known correctly as class A1 or A1x very rapidly became my favourite locos when I was a train spotter. Back in 1960, engines of this class, known as Terriers, were the oldest engines still at work on the British Railways network. They had been built, from 1872 onwards, as engines to pull London suburban trains. They were small engines, amazingly powerful for their size, and they proved very successful.

That meant they soon did themselves out of a job. More passengers meant heavier trains and bigger and more powerful engines were needed to pull them. Some of the Terriers found alternative work on the old London Brighton and South Coast Railway system. Notably, there was a swing bridge at Newhaven which wasn’t strong enough for heavier engines and a wooden viaduct on the Hayling Island line needed light weight engines too. A few Terriers survived, with their original company, to run these lines. One or two more were retained as works shunters but a fleet of others were sold off to big and small railway companies. Some went to the Isle of Wight, but Brighton built Terriers could be found on obscure branch lines up and down the country.

Some of these engines which went to other companies eventually found their way back again. We can fast forward to the railway grouping of 1923. The old Brighton company joined with others including the lines on the Isle of Wight to become the Southern Railway. A lot of Terriers now belonged to that company.

By the time I was a train spotter the railways were nationalised. Terriers had left the island and all worked on the mainland. There were thirteen of the engines in 1959. Some still lived at Brighton. Others were at Lancing, Fratton and Ashford.

My favourite was number 32635. This had been painted in the original 1870s livery which I thought was glorious. It used to move carriages and trucks around Brighton.

And now to the Isle of Wight earlier this month. At that steam gala one Terrier was at work.


There was a first sighting of Isle of Wight number 8 with a person just about to couple up to a goods train. Do you know, no matter what colour, I still reckon they are very handsome engines. This one carries the name Freshwater.

Later, Freshwater was put in charge of a passenger train.


The carriages here are interesting. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway identified 80 or so carriage bodies in use as beach huts, chicken houses etc. on the island. They have acquired some, mounted them on much newer parcel van frames to produce a set of coaches which are really very historic.

There is one coach body which dates from 1864 which makes it even older than the Terrier.


There’s a view from the cab.

A brief history of the loco. She was built (at Brighton, of course) in 1876 and was sold to the London and South Western Railway in 1903 to operate the Lyme Regis branch. The Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport railway hired the loco in 1913, bringing it to the Isle of Wight. In 1923 it passed to the Southern who gave it the number 8 and called it Freshwater. She stayed on the island until 1949 when she returned to the mainland to help on the Hayling Island branch.

She was withdrawn from service in 1963 and after a three year ownership by a railcar company, the loco became an inn sign on Hayling Island before being purchased by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway in 1979. She was fit for service by 1981.

Engines can only remain in service for ten years. Boilers operate at high pressure and could be lethal if they got weak so every ten years major works are required. Freshwater actually had a brand new boiler in 1998.

And she is still steaming in 2013 at the age of 137!

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