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I too saw it live as a kid back in the 50s. Outside broadcasts on TV were very rare and the BBC had given the programme a big build up previously.

Merlin, one of the original Urie N15s was to be withdrawn anyway. We were expecting the loco to be blown to pieces according to the advance information. Those N15s were built very well - they were much heavier than contemporary 2 cylinder 4-6-0s. Urie was supposedly asked why his 4-6-0s were so much heavier than a GWR Saint and replied "Perhaps the specific gravity of steel is different at Swindon".....


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I think that the derailment was less for the benefit of the British Army than for MGM. The film "Bhowani Junction" was being shot about this time - it was released later in 1956 - and some sequences were shot on the Longmoor Military Railway. I am pretty certain that I read somewhere (possibly in "Heritage Railway") that "Merlin" - disguised with a false wide firebox and new cab - was doctored to look a bit like an Indian Standard XB Class to show the aftermath of a sabotage attempt, although I think there is some debate about this. The coaching stock in the Bhowani Junction sequence wasn't that used in Saturday Night Live - I think at least some was ex-SE&CR from the panelling detail. Most of the film was shot in Pakistan, but the authorities there were unwilling to stage a crash sequence, so this and some other scenes were shot at Longmoor. Getting very slightly off-topic, stock shots of King Arthurs and other Southern power around Clapham Junction (I think) featured as background shots in the same film purporting to show scenes in India (!) and Soham explosion survivor WD77337 appeared with a paint disguise to make it look vaguely like an Indian HGS 2-8-0.


A still from the sequence in "Bhowani Junction" showing what I think is "Merlin" in disguise is at this link - about half-way down the page.



This must have been one of the last location sequences shot - along with the other Longmoor ones - as the film was released by June 1956.

Edited by Sansovino
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What a disappointment! Just noticed this thread and thought I was in for a treat. Nm.


Btw, Ron Ron Ron ... I love your alter ego Hank ,,,,, Reminds me of a (supposedly real) character I was told about last week ... Hans von Waffenscheiten. :jester:


Ok, back to reality!!



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She looks like she remained fully functioning. Was she scrapped or was she re-railed?


"Merlin" was in fairly poor condition when the stunt took place, so was an ideal candidate for it. After the stunt, the engine was recovered and hauled away to Brighton, where she was eventually cut up.


It wasn't the first or last time the Army had underestimated the quantity of explosive needed to destroy something. I was told a story - and it is only a story - about them being called in to help demolish a viaduct (Brackley?) after the closure of the GC route. Explosive charges were inserted into the brickwork at various points, and eventually it was all systems go. Only problem was that the charges failed to have any effect on the viaduct, which remained intact!


The N15s were substantial engines, weighing in the order of 120 tons-plus with tender (Urie originals) in fighting trim. The later Maunsell and NBL-built batches weighed in at over 130 tons. I think the axle loading was about 20/21 tons.

Edited by Horsetan
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