Steam locomotive ‘Premier’ was delivered to Lloyds Paper Mill in Sittingbourne in 1905 and has remained at the Railway ever since.

Over the years a number of modifications have been carried out – improvements and tweaks – that have changed the appearance of the engine since it was first delivered. ‘Leader’ was the other loco of the original pair and is operational at the Railway now but Premier has been out of service for at least a decade.

Over the last few years, work has been carried out on Premier and many parts removed, some for reuse, some for measuring & replacement and others for scrap because this locomotive is going to be restored to ‘as built’ condition.

The main chassis of the locomotive can currently be found inside the engine shed at Kemsley Down but the boiler is 166 miles away at the North Norfolk Railway where it is being overhauled. The 2015-16 Sponsor-A-Tube Campaign was a great success and is now completed.

So what does the boiler do and what are tubes?

The boiler is attached to the firebox at the cab-end and the smokebox at the front end of the locomotive. The firebox, as the name suggests, is where the fireman manages the fire, the boiler is where the water, to operate the steam locomotive, is turned to steam and the smoke box is where exhaust gases are expelled from the engine.

The fire produces hot gasses which pass through the tubes which are surrounded by water in the boiler, as the water heats it becomes steam and this builds up at the top of the boiler, when it is as operational pressure, it is used by the driver to move the train, it passes through pipes to the steam chests and then into the cylinders where it pushes the cylinder head which pushes the drive rods and turns the wheels. And that’s how coal makes the train move!

Premier Stay Campaign

View of inner firebox now that the outer wrapper has been removed – the stays can be seen protruding from the inner liner.

In 2017 we have launched our Premier Stay campaign to raise funds for new boiler stays – these are rather boring looking double-ended screws which hold the parts of the boiler and firebox apart. The previous ones had to be destroyed to enable the boiler to be taken apart and so they need replacing.

There are about 215 stays and they are custom-made for the locomotive – sponsorship costs £25 per stay – visit and quote Premier Stay in the message to ensure your donation gets allocated to the correct fund. Adding Gift Aid to your donation will boost the fund further and will be used for the restoration of Premier.

The first batch of stays.

Enough money has been raised to buy the first batch of stays, for the firebox reconstruction (see below).

Boiler update

The next major step for the boiler is the replacement of the firebox – this is the chamber where the fire is lit and maintained to boil the water in the boiler to make the steam to power the train. It doesn’t actually have a fixed bottom, this is the ash pan which is a separate component. This makes it possible to introduce air to the bottom of the fire plus it makes it easy to clean out the remains of the fire at the end of the day.

The old inner firebox is separated from the boiler.

On 17th January 2017, Premier’s new inner firebox arrived at the North Norfolk Railway as a kit of parts. The next job was for the old firebox to be disconnected from the boiler barrel and front plate.

The new inner firebox was folded and welded together on 24th January.

Meanwhile, back at Kemsley Down…

The locomotive has been stripped right back to the frame and is now in the process of reconstruction. The bare frames were also stripped back of paint and completely repainted in advance of the parts being reinstated.

The rear of Premier’s frames with the new flooring. The hole is where the firebox sits between the frames.

New flooring has been installed so it is now possible to visualise how the locomotive will be rebuilt.

The horn guides were redrilled on 22nd January, new special bolts have now been fitted.

So, what’s next?

The next part of the boiler to need renewal, also requiring fundraising, will be the replacement outer firebox and the new outer wrapper plus various other parts.

In the photos below, you will see the old stays being cut off – now they all need replacing!

How you can help

Aside from sponsoring a stay, we need your help on the rebuild of this and the other locomotives.

The Locomotive Engineering Team meet most weekends – the best way, initially, is to come along to a Work Weekend, during the off-season, or email to offer your help.

The goal

Pictures from our archive.
Premier in original condition. Picture taken before 1910.

Work on Premier’s Boiler at North Norfolk Railway

Update 1 (13 October 2015)

All old tubes now removed

All old tubes now removed

Removal of stays by a BESTT Apprentice.

Removal of stays by a BESTT Apprentice.

All stays removed

All stays removed

Update 2 (31 October 2015)

Starting to remove the outer wrapper

Starting to remove the outer wrapper

Update 3 (13 November 2015)

Removing outer wrapper

Removing outer wrapper

Outer wrapper removed

Outer wrapper removed

View of inner firebox now that outer wrapper removed

View of inner firebox now that outer wrapper removed

Update January 2017

The old inner firebox now removed from the boiler (to make it easier to work on, both the boiler and firebox are upside down).








1 x inner firebox kit.

The new inner firebox is beginning to take shape.

Update July 2017

Tube locations have been marked on the firebox end.

The tube holes are drilled into the back plate.

Inner firebox with tube holes drilled.

Firebox under construction.

Full boiler assembly upended. Firebox at the bottom, boiler (silver section) in the middle and smokebox at the top.

Work on Premier at Kemsley Down

2016-03-25 17.03.32

Premier’s new water tank – it has already had many coats of green paint added and is currently covered up to protect the paint work.

2016-03-25 17.02.35

Premier’s frame is now up on blocks and being painted black. This view is from the front, looking back.

January 2017 update

One of Premier’s bunkers being pressure washed (it is upside down).








Premier’s frames being drilled for new horn guide bolts.

Components are now being remounted to the frames.

Premier’s driving wheels have been painted in the new shade of green.