Find Out more about THE LITTLE LOCO GROUP

The Little Loco Group was formally formed in 2017 from former members of the Wainwright Villas Gang and supported by the Fenchurch Fund in the effort to fund & support the overhaul & restoration of the Bluebell Railway’s historic fleet of smaller engines and the railway’s collection of pre-grouping engines & projects representing this era of locomotive history. In line with these aims and those of the Bluebell Railways Locomotive policy the group aims to help keep an example of one of our two LBSCR A1X terriers as well as one of the three SECR P tanks in an operational condition at all times.

Since 2001 the Fenchurch Fund has been raising funds towards the restoration of SECR No.27 Primrose after successfully fundraising towards the restoration of LBSCR No.72 Fenchurch. With the completion of Captain Baxter’s restoration in 2010 some of the former members of the villas gang, with the aid of the Fenchurch Fund, have taken on the task of seeing the forgotten P No.27 Primrose’s return once again to steam.

About us...


The Fenchurch Fund is part of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society originally formed as the Chip Wood Fund as a memorial to a young Bluebell Railway locoman (Matthew Wood) who died in 1991 at the age of 24. The fund was used at that time to help restore his favourite locomotive LBSCR No.72 Fenchurch. To facilitate this, the group became the Fenchurch Wheel Appeal, later becoming the Fenchurch Fund. The fund raised enough money to help with casting a new set of driving wheels to replace the original cracked wheel and provided funding for much more work to be carried out. Having raised the money and seen Fenchurch returned to traffic in 2001 the Fenchurch Fund decided to focus its attention on raising money to help see SECR No.27 Primrose, the forgotten P, run once again. Since then the Fenchurch Fund has helped to raise just over £40,000 of the expected £150,000 restoration cost towards the return of SECR No.27 Primrose back into active service.

Villa's Gang

The Villa’s Gang has its origins in 1973 when Jock McKay formed a volunteer team to repair No 3 Baxter, which had lain out of use since 1961. Many volunteers helped on this job, especially in its earlier days, but the workforce settled down to a core team of Jock McKay, Nick (“The Wrench”) Payne, Phil Heelis, and Lewis Nodes. Overlapping the Baxter job was another volunteer team working on the “North London” comprising Brian Spurle, Paul Russell, Geoff Stringer, and John Dunsford, and another team working on No 55 “Stepney”, comprising Martin Payne, Trevor West, Andrew Wilkens, and Clifford Wood. Towards the end of the Baxter job the teams started to merge somewhat, and after the North London was completed in June 1984 a new team was formed, with the intention of carrying on a program of repairing some of our more interesting locomotives, starting with No 488 (“Adams”) and at the same time support the railway’s steam crane. Since these early days the Villa’s team went on to restore Fenchurch in Matthew Woods memory finished in 2001, Led by Lewis Nodes and funded by the Fenchurch Fund, as well as Baxter for a second time sponsored by the Bluebell Railway trust and completed in 2010.

The Bluebell Railway's Little locos

The Bluebell Railway has the UK’s largest and most comprehensive collection of locomotives from the former Southern Railway and its three main constituents. It also, surprisingly, has the largest collection of BR standard-design steam locomotives. This is the finest collection outside of the National Railway Museum in York and Shildon, and many are unique survivors of their particular design. A third of this collection is made up of the smaller 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 tank engines of class 1 or less power classification, of which the Little Loco Group helps to Assist, fund & support with the overhaul, Display & restoration of these engines.

LBSCR A1X class No 55 "Stepney"

Built & out-shopped from Brighton Works in 1875 she was first allocated to New Cross shed where she served the growing East London commuter lines. However, after 25 years, as the traffic load on the inner London lines increased, Stepney and her classmates were given new work further south. They ran on Col Stephen’s Light Railways and served the famous Hayling Island line based out of Fratton.

Towards the late 50s, with the end of steam looming and the rise of the preservation era, Stepney became the first engine of the fledgling Bluebell Railway. Soon after, she was immortalized through the Thomas the Tank Engine books by Rev. W. Awdry as “Stepney the Bluebell Engine”. Today, the old East London Girl has become a world-recognized name, with many youngsters seeking her out during their visit to the Bluebell.

Current Condition: On Static Display

LBSCR A1X class No 72 "Fenchurch"

Fenchurch was the first of Stroudley’s famous “terriers” and was out-shopped from Brighton Works on September 7th, 1872. She served the South London Lines and was based out of Battersea. Over the course of her lifetime, she covered an impressive distance of over 600,000 miles before being acquired by the Newhaven Habour Company in 1898.

After the Southern Railway was formed, Fenchurch was given a new number, 2636. She had a varied career, spending time at Newhaven & working on Hop Picking Specials, as well as on the South Kentish lines. Finally, after a total of 1,109,513 miles, she was withdrawn by BR on January 4th, 1964. However, in May of that same year, Fenchurch found a new home at the fledgling Bluebell Railway arriving on the 4th of May 1964 (the last to do so over BR metals) with ex-LBSCR fruit van No 270.

Current Condition: Operational

SECR P class No 27 "Primrose"

Built at Ashford Works & out-shopped in February 1910 No.27 was initially allocated to the Isle of Sheppey Light Railway as a comparison to the former LBSCR Terrier Waddon currently at work there. With the outbreak of the 1st World War, No.27 and Sister No.753 were engaged in military work being shipped across the Channel for war service at Boulogne. Whilst there she was painted olive green and re-numbered as ROD No.5027. Post war No.27 found her calling working the docks at Dover becoming No.1027 during the Southern Railway era & finally No.31027 under BR.

No.27 arrived at the Bluebell in 1961, the Railway’s third engine, and for two years carried the name “Primrose”. In 1963 she was repainted into full SECR passenger livery and was a mainstay of the Bluebell’s operational fleet for much of that decade into the early 1970s.

Current Condition: under restoration

SECR P class No 323 "Bluebell"

Built-in 1910 at Ashford Works, No. 323 was initially designed for suburban passenger work, although quickly superseded and relegated to shunting duties. Finishing off with BR as 31323, the locomotive was withdrawn from BR in 1960 and was one of the first locomotives to be saved by The Bluebell Railway.

The loco was then named ‘Bluebell’ and became one of four of the class to have survived into preservation. 323 became the flagship locomotive of The Bluebell Railway and played a key role in establishing the line as a major tourist attraction.

‘Bluebell’ last ran on the railway in 2019, after its last overhaul to service, but as of 2024 ‘Bluebell’ has now entered the main Workshop for a full overhaul to working order within the foreseeable future.

Current Condition: under overhaul

SECR No 178 "Pioneer II"

No.178 was built at Ashford works in 1910 being first allocated to Ash a sub shed of Reading. With the outbreak of war, No.178 was allocated to Margate. January 1917 saw her allocated to Bricklayers Arms for two years and then a transfer to Tonbridge followed spending several years operating the Westerham branch. 

Withdrawn from passenger duties in 1926 No.1178 was transferred to Folkestone and then Dover. Re-numbered 31178 under BR her final allocation was to Stewarts Lane Battersea and withdrawn surplus to requirements she was sold to Bowaters and re-named Pioneer II. 

In 1969 she was purchased by the Bluebell Railway and moved to Sheffield Park & after an extensive restoration she was returned to traffic in February 2010.

Current Condition: Stored Off Site [Margate]

No 3 "Captain Baxter"

With its bar frames and Fletcher’s patent valve gear it is an unusual engine, and its red livery makes an attractive contrast to the predominantly greens and blacks of our other locos.

Built in 1877 by Fletcher Jennings & Co., Captain Baxter spent its entire working life at the Dorking Greystone Lime Works at Betchworth station. Initially named Captain Baxter this was shortened to just Baxter around 1947. Captain Baxter arrived at the Bluebell Railway in 1960 after its industrial service ended in 1959. Following a single steaming Baxter was laid up until 1982 when, under the guidance of Jock McKay, Baxter was returned to service following a comprehensive overhaul. Baxter subsequently had a boiler overhaul in the early 90s & an additional overhaul completed for the 50th Anniversary of the Railway in 2010.

Current Condition: On Static Display

No 4 "Sharpthorn"

Sharpthorn was used in the construction of the Lewes and East Grinstead Railway by the contractor Joseph Firbank, and so is of great historic interest to the Bluebell. Built in 1877 for Charles Deacon of Kettering it was sold on just a year later to Joseph Firbank and probably delivered to the construction base at West Hoathly by a team of horses from Grange Road station in 1878. One of four locomotives employed in the construction work until the opening in 1882 it would have hauled materials along the line as the work proceeded.

In 1888 it was purchased by Samuel Williams and Sons and for the next 70 years was employed hauling coal trains around Dagenham Dock. After withdrawal in 1958 Sharpthorn was preserved & put on static display with the locomotive being purchased by the Bluebell Railway in November 1983.

Current Condition: Awaiting Cosmetic Overhaul