Most enthusiasts would say that Southern Region steam came to an end in July 1967 and that ‘3MT’ No. 77014 was probably the last steam engine to work on the region.
Whilst the second part of that thought is almost certainly right, the last withdrawal of a Southern Region steam engine did not occur until September 1967 when ‘USA’ tanks Nos. DS237 and DS238 (formerly Nos. 30065/70) were condemned, outlasting five other class members that were withdrawn at the same time as the rest of the remnants of the Southern classes.
The USA tanks could not claim any Southern pedigree other than there purchase by the Southern Railway shortly before nationalisation as the most cost effective solution to a pressing need to replace the 19th century built Adams ‘B4’ class 0-4-0Ts that had been in use in Southampton Docks from as long ago as 1893.
Dock areas were well known for both tight curves and weight restrictions leading to the survival of various non-standard types around the BR system and Southampton was no exception. Following the widespread neglect and lack of materials during the war, many locomotives were in need of much attention and expenditure and in the case of the ‘B4’ tank engines, most required new boilers which in 1945 were quoted at £1580 per engine with a delay of over a year before they could be supplied. Various ex-War Department tanks were considered and rejected due to their condition and the length of the wheelbase but the ‘USA’ tanks fitted the bill with just a 10ft wheelbase and a price tag of £2,500 each, with most having minimal mileage on the clock and it was believed that one had seen no service at all.
At the end of April 1946 ‘USA’ No. 4326 was taken to Eastleigh works before despatch to the docks in mid-May for trials which clearly were successful as the Southern purchased thirteen further engines from storage at Newbury Race Course.
These were built by both Vulcan and Porter and it was soon discovered that there were differences between the two types so the Porter built engines were exchanged for more Vulcan examples, except for one, there being insufficient Suitable Vulcan built locos available. Thus, the engine that eventually became BR 30061 was different from the rest of the class. Initially numbered 61-73 by the Southern, they became BR 30061-73. The original engine, No. 4326 never carried a Southern number but did appear as BR No. 30074.