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GREAT SOUTHERN RAILWAYS 
K2 CLASS 2-6-0 No. 461 

Builder: Beyer, Peacock & Co., Manchester, 1922, works number 6112

Withdrawn: CI╔, 1965

Companies: DSER, GSR, CI╔, RPSI

Preservation Career: Main line use: 1990-2001, 2012-

Tenders used: DSER No.551


No.461 freshly repainted into CI╔ green livery, 8th September 2011. (JJ Friel)

This engine has its origins in a proposed design for a large 0-6-0 for goods use on the Dublin and South Eastern Railway in the early 1920s.  However, before any were built it was realised that the axle load would be too heavy for the DSER's track.  This had actually happened before in 1903, when seven new 0-6-0s had been plagued by constant derailments due to excessive weight on the leading axles, and had to be retrospectively modified to become 2-6-0s.

This time, fortunately, there was time to alter the design before the engines were constructed.  The size of the boiler was reduced to lower the total weight, as well as adding a 'pony truck' in front to spread the weight over a greater number of wheels.  This resulted in a 2-6-0 or 'Mogul' design.

Two of these engines were built, No.15 (later 461) and 16 (later 462).

The engines were delivered in 1922, when Ireland was in the grip of a civil war.  The railways frequently came under attack and many engines and other rolling stock were destroyed.  Rather than send their brand new engines into this danger the DSER negotiated with the Great Northern Railway (Ireland) to have them stored in the peaceful North until the trouble was over, and so 15 and 16 spent some time at Adelaide shed in Belfast, arriving there on November 14th 1922.

The Colour Question

An eyewitness who, as a small boy, saw them there at this time swore forever afterwards that they were painted green - which would have been a striking and memorable contrast with the austere black of the GNR engines at that time.  This is corroborated by a Wills's Cigarette Card of 1924 which showed No.15 in green.  The image is apparently copied from one of the Beyer, Peacock official photographs (in which 15 is painted 'works grey') - so is the green colour the result of good research on the part of the artist, or just guesswork?

The front and back of the Wills's cigarette card of 1924.  Note that the engine is shown with its original boiler - the dome is further forward, and the smokebox is of typically Beyer Peacock style.

There are no known photographs of the engines at Adelaide.  Photos of them after returning to the DSER seem to show them in a gleaming black - although it is not always easy to tell - and many have doubted that the DSER had them in anything other than black.

The DSER took the engines back at the end of May 1923 but did not keep them very long.  In 1925 the new Irish Free State forced the amalgamation of all the railway companies that were completely within the state.  The new company was called Great Southern Railways.

At first the only change was that in 1925, when No.15 was overhauled at Limerick, her number plates were somehow altered to remove the small letters 'DSER' and replace them with 'GSR'.  However the GSR later changed the engines' numbers, making them Nos 461 and 462.  They received new plates bearing these numbers.  It is difficult to tell unclean black apart from grey paint in monochrome photographs, but it appears they intially remained black, and probably became grey some time later.  They were referred to both as 'Class 461' and 'Class K2'. 

Although always intended as goods engines, the K2 class were found to be quite satisfactory for passenger work as well.  Both engines led a double life, working local passenger trains by day and heavy goods by night.  They were considered very capable and versatile, and 461 was reputedly the better of the two.

461 at Grand Canal Street shed in Dublin in GSR days.  The livery is (probably!) a plain grey similar to that presently carried  by No.186.  She carries the original Beyer Peacock boiler.  (HR Newey)

The Boiler Question

Both engines had their boilers replaced at different times and there is some confusion as to which engine had which boiler.  Original research carried out for this article reveals that 462 was rebuilt for the first time in 1940, receiving a type 'N' boiler.  This was a standard GSR design used in six different locomotive classes.

In 1944 both 461 and 462 were rebuilt.  After this overhaul 461 emerged with a new cylinder block and a type N boiler, while 462 was fitted with 'the original type boiler' once again.

This may be the origin of the claim that the two engines swapped boilers - rather than swapping back and forth more than once it appears from the evidence that they swapped over once only.

It seems most likely that 462's original boiler was scrapped in 1940. When both engines were in the works in 1944 it was presumably most convenient for some reason to take 461's original DSER boiler and put it in 462, and take 462's type 'N' boiler and put it in 461.

If true, this would mean that the DSER boiler which 462 carried for the next 19 years had originally been built for 461, and that the type N boiler now preserved with 461 spent four years as part of 462. 

To add to the confusion 461 apparently retained a DSER chimney her entire life, while 462 is seen in many photographs with a DSER boiler but a non-original chimney.

We hope that is all quite clear!

In 1950 462 was fitted with an experimental automatic ash ejection system - the visible part being two long chutes descending from the smokebox to near ground level.  Apparently this was not a success.  The footplate crews, convinced that they were spoiling the draught over the fire, would on occassion block up the chutes deliberately - sugar beets from the train they were pulling being just the right size for the purpose!

(Close examination of photographs shows that when this modification was made 462 was carrying a DSER boiler, not a type N as stated in other sources.  This fits with the theory proposed above.)

Detroit lubricator as carried by No.461. (Vincent Brady)

CI╔

In 1950 Great Southern Railways was nationalised and merged with the Irish bus companies to become Cˇras Iompair ╔ireann. CI╔ added a 'flying snail' emblem on the tender, removed the number plates and painted the numbers on the cab sides instead.  By 1961 she is known to have been black rather than grey, though exactly when this happened has not been established.

461 and 462 continued working on goods trains until the early 1960s.  In 1963 462 was scrapped along with the remaining DSER boiler.  461, with the type N boiler (and DSER chimney) finally went out of use in 1965 after a brief career as a stationary boiler.

In 1967 CI╔ announced that - following an appeal from the Irish Railway Record Society - they would preserve three steam engines as static exhibits.  GNR(I) No.131 was to be displayed at Dundalk, GS&WR No.184 at Inchicore and 461 at Waterford.  Only 131 ever got her plinth, but all three engines eventually made their way to Whitehead and into our care.

461 was repainted and displayed at the Inchicore open day in 1968.  When she refused to move due to a seized piston, the piston rod was simply cut through with gas.  Over the following years she and 184 were moved from shed to shed by diesel engines - 461's bearings running hot several times due to lack of lubrication.

461 at an Inchicore open day in 1968.  CI staff have painted her up as DSER 15, in black with red lining.  In DSER days she did not have the distinctive Inchicore style smokebox - and the white-wall tyres are a very un-Irish feature apparently added in a fit of creative passion.  In the background is GNR(I) No.131(CP Friel)

In 1977 461 and 184 were offered to the RPSI on 'permanent loan' (only becoming officially ours in April 2005, when we bought them and 131 from CI╔).  Initially they were brought to our base at Mullingar, but many parts of 461 had been lost or broken - for example, the blast pipe was missing and the severed piston rod had somehow to be replaced. 

461 rather sorry for herself, as she arrived at Mullingar (B Pickup).

The facilities at Mullingar were clearly inadequate to restore 461, so she was moved to Whitehead by road and was gradually overhauled there. 

461 in the old engine shed at Whitehead during the first of her two lengthy RPSI overhauls.  Both engine and tender have been removed from their wheels by labouriously jacking them up.  Some of the loco wheels can be seen on the left. (CP Friel)

461 finally returned to traffic in 1990.  Initially she was in CI╔ livery, a plain black with a painted number and 'flying snail' on the tender.

461 just after entering traffic in 1990, in CI╔ black livery. (CP Friel)

Shortly afterwards replica GSR numberplates were fitted, painted black with red lettering, and the flying snail was painted out.  461 ran from 1990 to 2001 all over Ireland - like most of our engines it would be quicker to list the places she hasn't been!

461 and the President

461 and her footplate crew are introduced to President Mary Robinson at Dublin's Pearse station, on the occassion of 461's official launch on 16th April 1991. (CP Friel)



461 with replica number and works plates, at Portrush with the 'Portrush Flyer'.  (CP Friel)

At Connolly shed, Dublin. (B Pickup)


Near Enniscorthy in GSR livery in the 1990s. (CP Friel)


461 under test at Whitehead in 2011 - she had yet to be painted!

In 2001 461 was stopped due to the expiry of her boiler certificate.  Overhaul work commenced immediately but it was found that she required very heavy rebuilding of the firebox - even more so than No.4 had done shortly beforehand.  The overhaul has taken ten years.

The question of livery was given much thought as the overhaul neared its end.  After seven years with one grey and one black engine, neither of those options seemed very attractive.  The choice fell instead on CI's popular green livery.  461 never carried this in service - it was for passenger locos and she was officially a goods engine - but it was felt that the livery should be represented on the main line and 461 was the least inappropriate loco to do it. 

461 is now ready for service again.  She is the only DSER locomotive surviving, and the only main line inside cylinder 2-6-0 in these islands.  We suspect she may still be using her original tender, which would also be unique among operational Irish engines.  By the time she is withdrawn from service again she may have reached her 100th year. 

One experienced steam driver has declared her the best loco, bar none, that ever ran in Ireland.  Soon we will all have a chance to see if he was right!

461 and 186 - the RPSI main line steam fleet for the next few years

Sources and Further Reading

  • Locomotives of the GSR by Jeremy Clements and Michael McMahon.  Colourpoint Books 2008.  ISBN 9781906578268.  (Available from the RPSI Shop)
  • A Decade of Steam - On CIE. in the 1950s by Drew Donaldson, Bill McDonnell and Jack O'Neill. RPSI 1974.
  • Beyer, Peacock - locomotive builders to the world by RL Hills and D Patrick.  The Transport Publishing Company 1982.  ISBN 0903839415.
  • Forty Shades of Steam - The Story of the RPSI by Joe Cassells and Charles Friel.  Colourpoint Books 2004. ISBN 190424226X.



Keeping Steam alive in Ireland since 1964



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