Conceived in October 1991, a number of Class 33 Loco Club members were brought together to form an entirely new and distinct group of enthusiasts and so began the ‘33046 Fund’ having, as one would imagine by its title, the original aim of preserving 046 should it become available on a tender list and in a condition worth acquiring. In view of its withdrawal in January 1998 the Fund had always been mindful that should it have ever secured it in good order then it would have been regarded as something of a minor miracle! In January 2000 the ‘Fund’ changed its name as the members were increasingly aware of the misleading title, now being called ‘The South East Locomotive Group’. The Group’s main aim then became the securing of the best available Class member with the funds at its disposal.
In the early days it was recognised that we must quickly find a place we could call home. After some searching, looking, checking, writing, talking and consultation, the Group settled for the East Kent Railway which operates from Shepherdswell, a few miles West of Dover. Some of our Group members are professional railwaymen and provided driver training to other members in order to supply drivers for the E.K.R.. This included a Class 116 diesel multiple unit hired by the railway and ex-Army 0-6-0 diesel hydraulic shunting loco 427 ‘The Buffs’. This proved to be a useful exercise for driver experience and the Railway/Group relationship. Up until the acquisition of mainline locomotives in January 2000, the Group organised monthly work parties, and with the assistance of 2-stroke mechanised aids, members committed many hours of their time to the clearance of trackside and embankment vegetation where years of growth had been allowed to take hold since Tilmanstone colliery and the line closed in 1984.
In the Autumn of 2004, the group completely relocated to the Spa Valley Railway, A Press Release was circulated in early November 2004 to officially announce the move.
LIMITED COMPANY STATUS
Since March 1994 we have registered as ‘South-East Rail Limited’. This will act as the operating company and will have public liability cover. It does not and will not own any of the SELG’s assets, ie. support vehicles, locomotives, spares, tools etc.
Demand for good examples of locomotives on the tender lists during the mid-1990’s had been extraordinary and although we had been unsuccessful in the tendering process the Group had not been idle. Besides the authorised recovery of spares from various sources, acquisitions included an ex-LMS coach, M31148 recovered from Colwyn Bay and a 1936-vintage coach (both subsequently equipped with power and lights) for storage and workshop space. The latter was deemed surplus in 2003 and sold to a model railway group at the EKR. M31148 was also disposed of before leaving the EKR in late 2004.
In March 1998 the Group made the significant purchase of a 1961-built ex-Army 0-6-0 Diesel Hydraulic Ruston & Hornsby shunting loco, 427 ‘The Buffs’ when it came up for sale, already based on the E.K.R.. 427 is a bit like little brother of a Class 07. Plans for the shunter included modifications (to brakes for example) to assist in starting a Crompton and working passenger trains at the railway. The first such passenger workings started in December 1998 and continued with much success. 427 received a second name, ‘9th Field Squadron, Royal Engineers’ at a ceremony on 25th March 2000. In early 2004, the SELG sold 427, remaining at the EKR.
In January 2000, the Group finally acquired two Cromptons, 33063 and 33065, in a private purchase. Moved from covered accommodation in Essex to the E.K.R. in mid-March 2000, 063 returned to working order as early as July 2000 after attention to minor defects. 065 required more work to get running but was restarted and moved under its own power for the first tine on 14th July 2001.
33063 moving on-loan to the Spa Valley Rly. in July’03 while 33065 followed in July’04 after a short visit to the Kent & East Sussex Rly..
The maintenance and/or overhaul of our two Cromptons continues to this day. In early 2014, for example, 33063 is being brought out of its winter hibernation for the new season (with some mtce. scheduled to ensure continued reliability and availability) while 33065 is receiving the attention of a professional welder, replacing rotten sections of steel in the bodywork and both cabs as part of a major and detailed overhaul. Not inexpensive, but an investment in their longevity. We aim to be here for the long term!