Conceived in 1937 when Bulleid became CME of the Southern Railway, his vision was for a 4-6-2 fast mixed traffic engine, with quick acceleration and equally capable of hauling services such as the Golden Arrow and Atlantic Coast Expresses, or freight workings, to a speed of around 75mph. Mainly designed from the Brighton Works, under C.S Cocks, Bulleid ensured that the best design practices of the time were applied, though this did not stop him making many alterations as the plans developed, sometimes within hours of agreeing a phase of the design and which led to each batch of engines incorporating modifications which were then applied to the previous batch.
Opting for a very high pressure boiler, Bulleid was able to make the 3 equally sized cylinders smaller, at 18” and better balanced, resulting in his newly designed Bulleid Firth Brown 6’ 2” driving wheels, which in turn reduced hammer blow to the rails. In 1934, Bulleid had opposed the use of streamlining, but for the Merchant Navy design it suited his purposes, being easy to clean mechanically and hiding the boiler’s external pipes, which in turn meant they could be run for function, rather than aesthetics.
Despite the onset of war in 1939, Bulleid’s design was accepted by the wartime Railway’s Executive Committee and production commenced through November 1940 at Eastleigh Works, the first loco, 21C1 Channel Packet, being named on March 10, 1941.
21C16 was built by Southern Railway in 1945. ‘Elders Fyffes’ was named after the UK banana importer Elders & Fyffes limited who had a fleet of specially designed boats used to transport bananas across the Atlantic while keeping them fresh. At the formation of British Rail, the locomotive was renumbered 35016. The locomotive was rebuilt at Eastleigh in April 1957 and continued to serve BR until August 1965.