In the spring of 2006 the Lavender Line announced it’s first steam gala in 10 years with the visit of a very special engine.
Martello is an 0-6-0 Side tank ‘Terrier’ class steam loco built to a simple but effective Victorian design by the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in the later part of the 19th century. A Number of these diminutive little engines were built to haul suburban services across the south east from the busy networks on London to the quieter branch lines of Sussex.
After completion in 1875 Martello was located to the outer southern suburbs of London to work pilot trains and the slow services from Terminals such as Waterloo, Victoria and London Bridge. These loco’s earned the nickname ‘Terriers’ in the late 1890’s, the reasoning for this due to their rapid acceleration from station to station and the fact that they adopted a very loud bark for such a little engine! In 1911 the CME of the LBSCR at the time Marsh decided to rebuild the Terriers by improving the steaming techniques and enlarging the boiler to enable the loco’s to withstand longer distances. Martello was also lucky enough to become one of the few Terriers to survive into British railways right up to 1963, just 5 years before the end of steam!
She was then sold to the Holiday camp Butlins in 1964 and remained there until 1971 where the loco was taken by low loader to the Bressingham Steam museum in Norfolk for a full rebuild. She was rapidly rebuilt and by 1975 Martello was steamed once again for her 100th birthday.
After a healthy 10 years of running the demonstration trains at Bressingham Martello was placed on static display until the late 1990’s when the museum decided she deserved another overhaul and by the summer of 2005 she was returned to steam and the Terrier was all set for a tour of the UK to celebrate her return to traffic.
After one of the Lavender Lines members approached the Bressingham steam museum about the loan of Martello to Isfield there was a very exciting prospect that it could actually happen. Within a few weeks the railway received a letter confirming the hire of Martello to the Lavender Line and preparations for her visit started immediately. On the 8th May she finally arrived by low loader and the very next day Martello was steam tested and ready for her first public outing at Isfield.
A special press day saw a number of photographers take part in some spectacular photo shoots along the line with the mixed good train being one of the more popular choices.
By the second weekend the railway had organised a full on steam gala featuring 3 steam engines, 0-4-0 sentinel, 0-6-0ST Kitson ‘Austin 1’ and of course Martello. Both days saw an intensive timetable with top and tailing, parallel departures, double headers and freight trains! The weekend was a complete success and to see an ex BR steam engine that would have worked through Isfield returning to Sussex was a sight not many members will see again. After a final weekend at Isfield Martello bowed out for a trip on the low loader once again and she made her way to the nearby Spa Valley railway in Tunbridge wells as a guest engine.
But this wasn’t to be the last time Martello visited the Lavender Line. Clive Groomes famous footplate courses had moved to Isfield as the Lavender Line is a quieter location for these courses, this left Clive with a bit of a dilemma. When Clive moved his courses to Isfield in 2008 the only working steam engine was 0-4-0ST Teddy, an engine that is far too small for any footplate course. For a short while 0-6-0ST Austerity ‘Rolvenden’ was drafted in as a substitute loco until a long term solution was sorted.
By the summer of 2008 Clive’s prayers were answered with the return of Martello to the Lavender Line. She was immediately placed into service on the courses and run there until the Autumn of 2009 where she was returned to Bressingham. It is hoped that she will return one day for a third visit and provide the public with opportunity of seeing an ex mainline engine departing Isfield station.