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Union Mills Locomotives on Poppingham

Poppingham – a Table-Top Railway in British ‘N’ Gauge, uses steam-outline locomotives manufactured by Union Mills. These are beautifully made, robust, reliable and have excellent haulage capability. They are absolutely ideal for a ‘working’ layout where the emphasis is on running trains. Union Mills is a small business, based on the Isle of Man, and it is particularly agreeable to be using British-made locomotives.

Union Mills locomotives are made from cast metal and have tender drive with traction tyres. Power is picked up from one rail by the locomotive and from the other by the tender – a simple and elegant arrangement.

Union Mills only supplies customers directly, any of its models offered for sale elsewhere will be pre-owned. I recommend buying direct as Union Mills is a delightful business to deal with, offering splendid customer service and an excellent guarantee. It does not have a website and, in due course, I hope to include at least one example of each of the models it has made on this page. The locomotives are made in small batches and only part of the range is available at any one time.

This page of the website will provide a brief outline of each class of locomotive in service on the railway. More than one engine of most of these classes can be seen on the layout.

 LMS '7F' 0-8-0


This class of 175 locomotives was built by the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) between 1929 and 1932. Pretty much an elongated version of the railway’s  '4F' 0-6-0, albeit with a higher boiler pressure, the class was intended to replace ex-London & North Western Railway (LNWR) and Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway 0-8-0 locomotives on heavy freight working. Unfortunately, in common with the '4F', the ‘7F’s’ axleboxes were not up to the job. When Mr (later, Sir William) Stanier came to the LMS, he cancelled orders for more of these failure-prone locomotives and designed the splendid '8F' 2-8-0 class for heavy freight duties on the railway.

The enginemen's nickname for the '7F' wasn't complimentary - 'Austin 7'! The class was withdrawn from 1949 to 1962, being outlasted by the ex-LNWR locomotives it was intended to replace.

No. 9578 was, unusually, obtained second-hand. I gave her a thorough service and she is an excellent performer.

LMS 7F 9578.JPG

LNER 'J39' 0-6-0

HN (later Sir Nigel) Gresley's second 0-6-0 design for the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER), the 'J39' class was a medium-powered goods locomotive. The 5'2" wheels made the class useful for passenger work as well. This was a large class, comprising 289 engines, almost all of which were built at Darlington Works. Incidentally, the boiler used on the 'J39' class was the same as that used on the 'D49' 4-4-0 passenger locomotives of the 'Shire' and 'Hunt' classes.

On entry into service, the ‘J39’ class was allocated numbers normally following the ex-North Eastern Railway engines (which were not renumbered at the 1923 ‘Grouping’ of British railways) and, as the class multiplied, it took vacant numbers in the ex-Great Northern Railway 3000-4999 sequence. Mr Thomson's comprehensive renumbering scheme of 1942/3, although delayed in most cases until 1946, grouped the class in the 4000-5999 series which was reserved for 0-6-0 tender locomotives. The 'J39's were renumbered from 4700 to 4988. On nationalisation, 60,000 was added to their 1946 numbers.

Recognising the class' abilities as mixed traffic locomotives, British Railways gave it a power classification of '4P/5F'. The introduction of the lighter classes of diesel locomotive and DMUs for passenger work caused the ‘J39’s to be withdrawn fairly quickly, from 1959 to 1962.

As the Table-Top Railway is set before Hogmanay, 1938, I prefer LNER locomotives running on the layout to have their original number, like No. 2726, although I'm not super-strict about this.

LNER J39 2726.JPG

 GWR '32xx' (later '90xx') 4-4-0 - 'Earl' or 'Dukedog'









Isn't this a pretty locomotive? She is certainly Victorian-looking, so it might come as a surprise to read that the class was introduced in 1929.

After the 'Grouping' in 1923, each of the new 'Big Four' railway companies found itself, to a greater or lesser extent, having motive power difficulties. Sometimes, these were specific to certain routes due to restricted loading gauge or low permitted axle loading. For the Great Western Railway, special difficulties were found with regard to the former Cambrian Railways* routes which had severe weight restrictions. Many of the old Cambrian locomotives were approaching the end of their lives and the GWR planned to replace these with its standard designs. Unfortunately, the excellent 'Bulldog' class 4-4-0s of 1899 was too heavy for these routes, so the GWR decided to use elderly 'Duke' class 4-4-0s instead. This class, dating back to 1895 was more lightly-built than the substantial 'Bulldogs'.

Unfortunately, the lighter construction proved the class' undoing on the Cambrian lines and they experienced cracked frames. Back to the drawing board! Some of the 'Bulldog' class were falling due for new boilers, although their frames were suitable for further service. And there were 'Duke' class engines with worn-out frames and serviceable boilers. It was calculated that a new design, mating the 'Duke' boiler to 'Bulldog' frames, would meet the weight limits and, in 1929, a prototype emerged. This locomotive used the frames from 'Bulldog' Charles Grey Mott and the boiler from 'Duke' Tre Pol & Pen (what a delicious name!). Normally, a locomotive's identity is considered to reside in its frames, but the prototype was given the number (No. 3265) and, happily, the name from the 'Duke'. The prototype was successful and 29 more were built between 1936 and 1939, numbered from 3200 to 3228. Although it was originally intended to renumber the prototype into this series, this did not happen.

Now for an amusing escapade. Nos. 3200 to 3212 were originally named; in No. 3212's case for one month only. The story goes that some of the peers who were directors of the GWR (always an aristocratic railway) were complaining that there were no locomotives named after them. Irritated by this, Mr CB Collett, the Chief Mechanical Engineer, arranged for these new engines to be named after earls on the Board. Then the peers saw the ancient-looking locomotives and were most displeased! The names were removed in June 1937 and transferred to 'Castle' class 4-6-0 express passenger engines. Nos. 3213 to 3219 had been allocated names but, as they were built after June 1937, these were not carried and went straight to 'Castles'.

In March, 1946, the class was renumbered from 9000 to 9028. Withdrawals took place gradually from 1948 to 1960 and No. 9017 has been preserved at the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. She can also be seen with her original number, No. 3217, and, delightfully, carrying the name, Earl of Berkeley which she was intended to have.

The 'Dukedog' class is sometimes described as having 'outside frames' but a more correct term is 'double frames'.

No. 3204, illustrated above, was built in August, 1936 and named Earl of Dartmouth until June, 1937. In reality, she was a Machynlleth engine for most of her life but, in the imaginary world of Poppingham, she is allocated to Bobbington shed. Maybe, one day, she'll get her name back.

* Cambrian Railways - always the plural!

GWR Dukedog 3204.JPG

SR (ex-LSWR) '700' 0-6-0





Here's No. 306, a typical Drummond 0-6-0 goods engine, albeit modified by Mr Urie. In 1864, Dugald Drummond joined the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway (E&G) at Cowlairs Works, Glasgow. The works manager was William Stroudley, who was to become a major influence on the young Drummond (he was 24 at this time). Incidentally, the person in charge of locomotive matters on the E&G was SW Johnson, who later found fame on the Great Eastern Railway and, especially, on the Midland.

William Stroudley was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of the Highland Railway in 1865 and then the London Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) in 1870. Dugald Drummond followed him to both Inverness and Brighton.

In 1875, Mr Drummond was appointed locomotive superintendent of the North British Railway (NBR) and found himself back at Cowlairs, the E&G and NBR having amalgamated, retaining the North British Railway name, in 1865. There was a pressing need for a class of goods engines on the NBR and Drummond introduced the '100' class 0-6-0 in 1876. This locomotive was heavily influenced by Mr Stroudley's LB&SCR 'C' class 0-6-0 of 1871. Thus began the 'Drummond 0-6-0' and it went with Dugald Drummond to the Caledonian Railway and London & South Western Railway (LSWR). His younger brother, Peter, took it to the Highland and, much enlarged, to the Glasgow & South Western Railway. Later locomotive superintendents on the NBR and Caledonian introduced their own designs, closely based on Dugald Drummond's earlier engines.

Following a period running his own business, Dugald Drummond was appointed Locomotive Superintendent of the LSWR in 1895 and remained there until his death in 1912. His title was changed to Chief Mechanical Engineer in 1905. His '700' class 0-6-0 was introduced in 1897 and 30 were built. The class' mechanical dimensions were similar to his first 0-6-0, although the wheels gained an inch to 5'1" and the cylinder bore half-an-inch to 18 1/2". Cylinder stroke remained unchanged at 26". The boiler and firebox were larger; the total evaporative surface had increased from 1,099ft in 1876 to 1,192ft by 1897.

The '700' class were good locomotives, but Dugald Drummond's successor as Chief Mechanical Engineer, RW Urie, was convinced they could be made better. In 1921, No. 316 was rebuilt with a superheated boiler and lengthened smokebox. This required the frames to be lengthened by 1' 6". The cylinder bore was also increased to 19". Unfortunately, Mr Urie inflicted his stovepipe chimney on the rebuilt locomotive. The rebuilt No. 316 was successful and the rest of the class were treated similarly between 1922 and 1929.

The entire class was taken over by BR in 1948 and the final withdrawals were in 1962.

And, a final thought, the locomotive type so often associated with that fiery Ayrshireman, Dugald Drummond, owed much to William Stroudley the engineer-artist from Oxfordshire.

SR 700 class 306.JPG

LNER (ex-NER) 'J25' 0-6-0

The previous notes looked at a typical 0-6-0 goods engine in the 'Drummond' style, albeit modified by Mr Urie. The two Drummond brothers were very influential in late Nineteenth Century locomotive matters, as, of course, were the Stirlings. There was another important locomotive engineering family at the time but, in my view, they are rather overlooked nowadays.

Thomas Worsdell had a typical apprenticeship with the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) at Crewe and in private engineering works in Birmingham. And then, in 1865, he joined the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), rising to become Master Mechanic of the workshops at Altoona. He returned to the LNWR in 1871 as Works Manager at Crewe. Thomas Worsdell had a brother, Wilson, 12 years his junior. Wilson Worsdell served his apprenticeship with the LNWR and then went to the PRR with Thomas, returning at the same time and re-joining the LNWR.

The brothers parted when Thomas Worsdell left Crewe in 1881, to become Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Eastern Railway (GER). In 1883, Wilson Worsdell, then aged 33, was appointed Assistant to the Locomotive Superintendent of the North Eastern Railway (NER).

The NER's Locomotive Department was undergoing upheaval at this time. The genial Edward Fletcher had just retired after 29 years as Locomotive Superintendent and Alexander McDonnell of the Great Southern & Western Railway (GS&WR) had been appointed as his successor. Unfortunately, Mr McDonnell, who had been particularly successful on the GS&WR, soon encountered difficulties on the NER and resigned in 1884*.

His successor, appointed in 1885, was not, as might have been expected, Wilson Worsdell, already established on the NER, but Thomas Worsdell. Perhaps Wilson Worsdell was considered too young and he remained in his 'Assistant' role. Thomas Worsdell's appointment was a success and he did good work on the NER until his retirement, on health grounds, in 1890. Wilson Worsdell was then appointed Locomotive Superintendent (Chief Mechanical Engineer from 1902) and served the NER with great distinction until his retirement in 1910.

The 'P1' 0-6-0 class was introduced in 1898, half-way through Wilson Worsdell's time in charge of NER locomotives. They had 18 1/2" x 26" inside cylinders and a 4' 3" diameter boiler pressed to 160psi. The entirely conventional arrangement, for the time, of slide valves actuated by Stephenson's valve gear**, located between the frames was used. The wheel diameter was 4' 7 1/4". 120 of these useful engines were built at the NER's Gateshead and Darlington Works. Wilson Worsdell's successor, Sir Vincent Raven, rebuilt 28 of the class with superheated boilers and piston valves.

The class' later history is interesting. Classified 'J25' by the LNER in 1923, withdrawals commenced in 1933 but the final examples remained in service until 1962. During the Second World War, 40 were loaned to the Great Western Railway and these became the only members of the class that were fitted with vacuum brakes. During their time in LNER service, the original Ramsbottom safety valves were replaced by Ross pop valves and, as boilers were replaced, fewer were fitted with superheaters. Not only was the class successful in its own right, it also provided the basis for further development, but that's a story for another day.

The example illustrated above is No. 1988. That was her NER and first LNER number. She became No. 5662 in Mr Thomson's 1943 renumbering scheme.

* The events in the NER's Locomotive Department at this time are fascinating and are worthy of study. Between Mr McDonnell's departure and Thomas Worsdell's appointment, the General Manager, Henry Tennant, chaired a Locomotive Committee which was responsible for the successful and popular '1463' class 2-4-0 locomotives (LNER 'E5'), commonly known as 'Tennants'. No. 1463 survives in preservation. One wonders how much of the design was Wilson Worsdell's work.

Mr McDonnell's resignation is one of the fascinating stories of Locomotive Superintendents' sudden departures. One thinks of Mr Deeley on the Midland, SD Holden on the GER and, of course, Frederick Smith on the Highland.

** Wilson Worsdell was clearly of independent mind and did not follow his elder brother's enthusiasm for Joy valve gear or compounding.

LNER J25 1988.JPG

LMS '2P' 4-4-0

Isn’t this ‘2P’ 4-4-0 a lovely little locomotive? Her appearance is pure Midland, with the Deeley cab, Belpaire firebox and smokebox door secured by ‘dogs.’  A robust and business-like look, but one wonders what people first thought when Mr Deeley changed the appearance so dramatically from the flowing lines preferred by SW Johnson, his predecessor. Mr Deeley was only in charge at Derby for six years, but locomotives in his style were around to almost the end of steam. Mr Deeley left the Midland in 1909 and his successor Mr, later Sir Henry, Fowler continued to develop these locomotive types, adding superheating where this would be effective and rebuilding earlier Johnson engines to a similar specification as the new locomotives.

Unfortunately, although attractive and reliable engines, the LMS ‘2P’ class were weak performers. It has often been remarked that the Southern Railway’s ex-South Eastern & Chatham Railway ‘E1’ and ‘D1’ 4-4-0 classes, of 1920 and 1921 respectively, so similar to the ‘2P’ in dimensions and appearance, were vastly better performers. There is a good reason for this and it is between the frames of the ‘2P’, hidden from casual view. To understand why, we need to go back to the LMS at the time of the ‘Grouping’ of the railways in 1923.

When the LMS was formed, George Hughes of the already-merged London & North Western Railway and Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway became Chief Mechanical Engineer. Mr Hughes was a good engineer and his only design for the LMS, the 5MT 2-6-0 ‘Mogul’ (sometimes called ‘Crab’) was an excellent engine. This engine was designed at Horwich, not Derby, and the cylinders, valves and valve gear design followed contemporary American practice, particularly that of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Most importantly, the large diameter piston valves featured long travel. Mr Hughes retired in 1925 and was succeeded by Sir Henry Fowler, formerly of the Midland Railway who was based at Derby. Unfortunately, towards the end of the Midland Railway’s independent existence, Derby Works had got itself into a way of thinking it knew best. Now, with Sir Henry as Chief Mechanical Engineer and JE Anderson as Chief of Motive Power, a policy of full ‘Midlandisation’ of the LMS began. As ES Cox has described, Derby Locomotive Drawing Office was split into two sections, each with its Chief Draughtsman. Each section had considerable autonomy, which explains the paradox of why LMS locomotives, designed in the mid-1920s, were so variable in performance. The ‘Fowler’ 2-6-4T class of 1927 was especially good and had large, long-travel valves.

The ’2P’ class of 1928 was not so fortunate. It was based firmly on the Midland ‘2P’ class of 1891, as rebuilt from 1912. These locomotives were recognised, other than by the Midland Railway, of course, as mediocre performers. The trouble was due to poor front-end design with short-travel valve gear. And, you might be surprised by this, the piston valves were below the cylinders – just think of the convoluted steam passages this required! The new LMS ‘2P’ class simply copied these features, fifteen years later. A trip on a Southern Railway Boat Train from Victoria to Dover might have been instructive for at least some of the Derby draughtsmen! The ‘D1’ and ‘E1’ rebuilds, used on these workings, were fitted with new cylinders, with valves above the cylinders, and had well-designed long-travel valve gear.

There were 138 class ‘2P’ locomotives built and they were widely-allocated around the LMS. As time passed they tended to end up on miscellaneous duties, the Watford civil engineer’s train is a well-known example.  MF Higson, in London Midland Fireman, mentions a day on one with an open wagon and brake van, emptying signal box dustbins in and around Preston.

There were two parts of the country where the ‘2P’ class could be seen regularly on passenger duties right up to the early 1960s. On the former Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway, they were often used as pilots to assist heavy trains on the fearsome gradients over the Mendips. The other place was the former Glasgow & South Western Railway routes in south-west Scotland. Many of the class came new to the sheds at Corkerhill, Ayr, Hurlford, Ardrossan, Greenock, Dumfries, Girvan and Stranraer, and some remained there all their lives. They were generally well-regarded by the excellent enginemen in this part of the country. When the first member of the class, No. 577, arrived at Corkerhill, there was no information about the load limit, and it was assumed, as the engine looked rather like a ‘Compound’, it would perform similarly. Jock Paterson was given her on a Keswick excursion weighing 284 tons and off he went from St Enoch station, over the steeply-graded ‘Joint Line’ to Kilmarnock via Barrhead. Driver Paterson was not impressed by his engine reporting, “Twenty-two meenits t’ turn the Shilford [summit of the line], an’ I had her full open and full fore gear.”*  When the new load book arrived at Corkerhill, after this heroic exploit, it was discovered the maximum load for a ‘2P’ over this section was 170 tons!

No. 672 is a regular performer on the Table-Top Railway. In reality, she was allocated to Workington in our period and was at Watford in BR days, on the engineer's duties. She was withdrawn in October 1962 and later scrapped at Derby.

*Ackn. David L Smith Legends of the Glasgow & South Western Railway in LMS Days

LMS 2P 672.JPG

LNER 'D11/1' and 'D11/2' 4-4-0s


'The introduction of superheating led many locomotive engineers towards consideration of smaller engines to do the work previously entrusted to 'Atlantics' and 4-6-0s, and the Great Central 'Director' class, of 1913, was an expression of this trend. These engines were designed to work through between London and Manchester, whereas the 'Atlantics' had usually to be changed at intermediate points.'

OS Nock, The Pocket Encyclopaedia of British Steam Locomotives in Colour, Blandford Press, London, 1964.

The classic British inside-cylinder 4-4-0 had been highly refined by the end of the Nineteenth Century, but increasing train weights had required many locomotive engineers to build larger engines. These 'Atlantics' and 4-6-0s were a mixed bag. It is, perhaps, fair to say those which were new designs tended to be more successful than those which were more like lengthened 4-4-0s. Then, as Mr Nock writes above, came superheating, and an opportunity to extract more power from the already-successful 4-4-0 format.

The ten Great Central Railway 'Directors', designed by Mr JG Robinson, were excellent engines and later became class 'D10' under the LNER. They were mostly named after directors of the company. In 1920, another 11 were built to a slightly enlarged design. A noticeable difference was the side-windowed cab which replaced the earlier cab with curved side cut-outs. These engines became class 'D11' under the LNER. Six were named after Great War battles, with the remaining five named after members of the Royal Family and directors of the company.

After the Grouping of the railways in 1923, the LNER had a shortage of express passenger locomotives for the former North British Railway (NBR) main lines and Mr (later Sir Nigel) HN Gresley arranged for 24 modified 'D11' locomotives to be built for service in Scotland. Due to the less generous loading gauge of the NBR, these engines had their chimneys and boiler mountings reduced in height. This was class 'D11/2', the original class 'D11' becoming 'D11/1', and the engines were soon named after characters from the works of Sir Walter Scott. This continued the tradition of the NBR's 'Scott' class 4-4-0s, classes 'D29', 'D30/1' and 'D30/2' under the LNER.

As an aside, when the LNER sub-divided a locomotive class, using an oblique in the class designation, it represents, as examples, 'D11 Part One' or 'D30 Part Two'.

Union Mills has made truly lovely models of both classes, although the so-called 'Scotch Directors' do not have reduced fittings. This is not a bad thing, as these necessary modifications did nothing for the looks of class 'D11/2'. There have been various names available over the years. These are popular locomotives on the Table-Top Railway, with, at the time of writing, five examples to be seen: Prince of Wales, Jutland, Somme, Wizard of the Moor and The Lady of the Lake. All are, of course, absolutely splendid runners and are very attractive in LNER green.

PS Although the former NBR enginemen were critical of the 'D11/2's at first, this was mainly due to the right-hand drive (the NBR had been a left-hand drive line for years, in the Drummond tradition) and the lack of doors between engine and tender. Fairly soon, they were accepted as competent locomotives, although some drivers thought they would have been better with 6'6" coupled wheels, like the 'Scotts', rather than their 6'9" wheels. The 'D11/2's time on top passenger work in Scotland was fairly short, as they were displaced to secondary duties by the coming of the LNER 'D49's to central Scotland in 1928/29.

1 LNER 6397.JPG

LMS (ex-LNWR) '18 in. Goods' 0-6-0 ('Cauliflower')


There is a photograph of great charm, taken by PB Whitehouse in August, 1950, showing a train from Workington to Penrith running between the road and the shore of Bassenthwaite Lake.*  The locomotive is an ex-LNWR '18 in. Goods' 0-6-0. The former Cockermouth Keswick & Penrith Railway had severe weight restrictions and these old stalwarts were in charge of trains until the Ivatt '2MT' 2-6-0 locomotives arrived.

The typical London & North Western Railway (LNWR) 0-6-0 goods engine had a long history, going back to J Ramsbottom's 'DX' class of 1858. These engines had 5' driving wheels and 17" x 24" cylinders. Typical of the LNWR, this was an especially numerous class, comprising 943 engines. FW Webb later rebuilt 500 of the locomotives with a higher boiler pressure as the 'Special DX' class. He also built 500 of the '17 in. Coal Engines', with 4' 3" wheels and 17" x 24" cylinders. From 1880, Mr Webb built a faster and more powerful version with 5' 2 1/2" wheels and 18" x 24" cylinders. This class was officially called the 'Express Goods' or '18 in. Goods'. They soon became known as 'Cauliflowers', apparently because the LNWR heraldic arms carried on their centre splasher looked, from a distance, like that vegetable!

A total of 310 '18 in. Goods' engines were built and 308 entered LMS stock at the Grouping of the railways in 1923. The class was randomly numbered by the LNWR and the LMS decided to give all the locomotives new numbers, starting from No. 8315. In 1940, 20000 was added to their numbers to allow the lower number series to be used for new locomotives. Commencing in 1924, the LMS reboilered the class with Belpaire fireboxes, as seen on No. 8589 above. Many LNWR locomotives had 'H'-spoke, cast iron driving wheels. Apart from the first 10, the '18 in. Goods' had rounded-spoke, cast steel driving wheels.

Upon Nationalisation of the railways in 1948, BR took over the remaining 75 of the class and they were gradually withdrawn from service, the last continuing in service until 1955. Latterly, they were found in North Wales and, finally, on the former Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway where they had been used for many years.

A distinctive feature of the class, nicely reproduced on the Union Mills model, was the raised sections on the footplate to give clearance for the coupling rod pins.

The model is a lovely locomotive and the distinctive LNWR outline makes her look a little bit different. She is mostly used on freight trains, with some occasional passenger work to remind me of many happy times spent in the Lake District. She would look magnificent in LNWR livery, complete with the 'cauliflower' arms, but the LMS Belpaire boiler would, unfortunately, make this unrealistic.


*PB Whitehouse, Branch Line Album, Ian Allan, London, 1962, page 10. I know the location of the photograph well, but the formation of the railway has disappeared below the ugly but useful dual carriageway A66.

I wish to acknowledge the assistance of the LNWR Society in the preparation of these notes. Any errors are mine alone.

1 LMS 8589.JPG

LNER 'J38' 0-6-0


For the first couple of years after the Grouping of the railways in 1923, Mr HN (later Sir Nigel) Gresley was able to meet the LNER's motive power needs by utilising designs from its pre-Grouping constituent companies. The first LNER standard locomotive design was not a fancy passenger engine but an 0-6-0 intended to haul heavy coal trains on the former North British Railway section of the Scottish Area.

Mr Gresley gave Darlington Works' drawing office the job of designing the new class to comply with a direction from the company's Board that it was to be a powerful engine, equivalent to the North Eastern Railway's (NER) 'P3', now LNER 'J27'. The general construction order, made in March 1924, referred to the new design as ''J27' Modified'.

Interestingly, Darlington didn't simply design a slightly updated 'J27', it put a lot more thought into the new engines and took advantage of design features from other LNER constituent companies. For instance, the Great Northern Railway's standard goods engine wheel size of 4ft 8in was used, together with that company's steam chest design, featuring 8in piston valves. From the Great Central Railway came the piston and Stephenson's valve gear designs.

Darlington gave the new design larger axle journals than the 'J27' (if only Derby drawing office on the LMS had been so open to improvements!) and a longer firebox to give a greater grate area. At 20in x 26in, the cylinders were noticeably bigger than those of the 'J27' (18 1/2in x 26in). The boiler diameter and working pressure were as for the 'J27s'.

After the Scottish enginemen had become accustomed to the NER steam reverser and pull-out regulator, the class was accepted as strong, free steaming engines, albeit care had to be taken with the brakes on some of the steeply graded lines over which they had to work.

There was a total of 35 'J38' class engines built, all in 1926, and they were given vacant numbers in the NER number series between No. 1400 and No. 1447. In the final years of the LNER, the class received new numbers under Mr Thompson's renumbering scheme.

Upon nationalisation of the railways in 1948, the entire class passed to BR and they were numbered 65900 to 65934, 60,000 being added to their final LNER numbers. Under BR the class was rated as power class '6F'.*

The 'J38' class were hard-working locomotives, but that work was carried out in the Lothian and Fife coalfields - well away from the orbit of most railway enthusiasts. Think how rarely one sees photographs of them compared to, say, the Southern Railway 'Q1' 0-6-0. There were roughly the same number of locomotives in each class (40 'Q1s') and the 'J38s' were introduced 16 years before the 'Q1s'. The last 'J38' locomotives in service were withdrawn in 1967. By then, they were the final Gresley-designed steam locomotives in BR service.

The model certainly looks powerful and, being from Union Mills, she is. I believe I was lucky to get her as the 'J38' hasn't been included in any Union Mills list since I ordered her. I suppose the class' limited geographical distribution might affect its popularity as a model. Still, she's perfectly at home here, between the Forth and the Tweed, and there is a former LNER branch line, which had heavy coal traffic, not far from the end of the garden. Although I prefer my LNER locomotives to have their original numbers, No. 5919 has her post-War number.


* Was the 'J38' the LNER's (or BR's) most powerful 0-6-0? The locospotters would have pointed to the former Great Eastern Railway's 'J20' class with a tractive effort of 29,044lbs as against 28,415lbs for the 'J38'. Both had the same 180 psi boiler pressure, but the 'J20' had 4ft 11in wheels and 20in x 28in cylinders. The Southern 'Q1' had a tractive effort of a mighty 30,080lbs, with 19in x 26in cylinders and a 230 psi boiler pressure. But BR rated both the 'J20' and 'Q1' as '5F'. Tractive effort is of more interest to locospotters than enginemen, who want the right engine for the job to be done.

1 LNER 5919.JPG

GWR '2301' Class ('Dean Goods') 0-6-0

The Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act of 1846 marked the beginning of the end for the Great Western Railway’s (GWR) broad gauge system. The Act allowed certain new broad gauge lines to be built but the location of these was carefully defined. Although the broad gauge remained for almost half-a-century after, it gradually went into decline.

The railways from Birmingham to Shrewsbury and Chester were standard gauge and became part of the GWR in 1854. Known as the Northern Division, it had its own locomotive works at Wolverhampton where Joseph Armstrong was in charge. Although he reported to the Paddington-based Daniel Gooch, the GWR’s Superintendent of Locomotive Engines, Mr Armstrong had considerable autonomy and Mr Gooch had relatively little to do with standard gauge locomotives. Mr Gooch resigned his position in 1864, although he remained on the board of the GWR, becoming its Chairman in 1865.1

In what I think was a clear recognition that the future would be standard gauge, Mr Armstrong was appointed the GWR’s Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent in 1864 and moved from Wolverhampton to Swindon, where the company built a substantial house, Newburn,2 for him.

Mr Armstrong designed the ‘388’ ‘Armstrong Goods’ class of standard gauge goods engines, of which 310 were built from 1866 to 1876. These had five foot diameter coupled wheels and 17” x 24” cylinders. The engines had double frames and some of the class were temporarily and ingeniously converted to run on the broad gauge by giving them longer axles and placing the coupled wheels outside the outer frame.

Joseph Armstrong remained in post until his death in 1877. His successor was William Dean, who had been his Senior Assistant at Swindon since 1868. Mr Dean had commenced his career as an apprentice to Mr Armstrong at Wolverhampton and the two men appeared to have worked especially well together.

The ’2301’ ‘Dean Goods’ class, introduced in 1883-84, was essentially an updated version of the ‘388’ class with inside frames. The class had 5ft. 2in. diameter coupled wheels and 17” x 24” cylinders. Like the ‘388’ class, Stephenson link motion was used.3  The first 20 built had domeless boilers but, from 1884, boilers with the distinctive large steam dome were fitted. Construction continued until 1898, by which time 260 had been built.

Twenty ‘Dean Goods’ engines were rebuilt as 2-6-2T locomotives, becoming the ‘3900’ class.

There were also less drastic modifications over the years. Cylinder diameter on some engines was increased to 17 1/2” from 1908 and the boiler pressure increased from the original 140 psi to 180 psi. From 1911, Belpaire fireboxes were fitted, replacing the original round-topped type. Some of the class were superheated.

Withdrawals were protracted. The first, No. 2365, was withdrawn in 1928. British Railways received 54 of the class at nationalisation in 1948 and withdrawals continued. At the end, only two remained in service, shedded at Oswestry, and used on the Abermule to Kerry branch, which closed in 1956. No. 2538 remained in service until 1957. No. 2516, withdrawn in 1956, has survived and is preserved at Swindon.

The class was in government service during the two World Wars and some engines served in both. Sixty-two locomotives were in government service during the Great War, all overseas. During the Second World War, 108 engines were in government service, some abroad and some in this country. Not all the locomotives sent abroad during both Wars returned and some had interesting service records which are beyond the scope of these notes.

There was an interesting variation with double frames, the ‘2361’ class, built in 1885-86. Although sometimes thought of as a double-framed version of the ‘2301’ class, these engines had different boilers, a different wheelbase and 26” stroke cylinders, so are a different class.

No. 2537, illustrated above in her pre-1934 GWR livery, is an excellent locomotive and sees a lot of use on the layout. There are other examples of the class on the Table-Top Railway, in both post-1934 GWR ‘roundel’ livery and in War Department paint scheme.


1 He became a Member of Parliament in 1865 and was created a Baronet in 1866.

2 Given the house name, the link with Newburn-on-Tyne must have been strong in Joseph Armstrong’s mind. The house was the residence of subsequent GWR locomotive superintendents Mr Dean and Mr Churchward. Mr and Mrs Collett had no children and decided not to live there.  The house was later demolished and Newburn Crescent was built on the site.

3 The use of Stephenson’s valve gear is, I think, a good example of Mr Armstrong’s autonomy as Mr Gooch had invented his own valve gear.



Sir Daniel Gooch and Joseph Armstrong were born within a month of each other in 1816. The Northumbrian connection was strong - Sir Daniel was born in Bedlington and Mr Armstrong, who was born near Carlisle, moved to Newburn-on-Tyne when he was eight years old. There was a Stephenson connection as well. The young Daniel Gooch was a draughtsman at Robert Stephenson & Company and Joseph Armstrong was an engine driver on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway.

Dean Goods for Website.jpeg

LNER (ex-NER) 'J26' 0-6-0


For simplicity I will normally use the LNER class nomenclature in these notes.


At the end of the Nineteenth Century, the North Eastern Railway (NER) had an excellent goods engine in the ‘P1’ class 0-6-0 of 1898, later LNER ‘J25’, and the subject of previous notes in this series. However, traffic was busy and the company wanted to run heavier goods trains. Mr Wilson Worsdell, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the NER, rose to the challenge with a development of the ‘J25’ – the ‘P2’ class, later LNER ‘J26’, of which 30 were built in 1904/1905.

The ‘J26’, was very similar to the ‘J25’ below the running plate, with 4’ 7 1/4" coupled wheels and 18 1/2” x 26” cylinders. As with the ‘J25’, Stephenson link motion and slide valves were fitted. So far, so conventional.

But things were very different above the running plate as the ‘J26’ had an absolutely enormous boiler, 5’ 6” in diameter. The ‘J25’s’ boiler was 4’ 3” in diameter, typical of the time. Not only was the boiler much larger in diameter, the firebox was a foot longer, which required the new engine’s frames to be 11” longer than those of the ‘J25’, although the coupled wheelbase remained unchanged at 16’ 6”. The boiler’s working pressure was high for its time, at 200psi, but this was soon reduced to 180psi and later engines of the class were built with this boiler pressure.

A consequence of the massive boiler was, as the firebox couldn’t fit neatly between the trailing coupled wheels, a sloping grate had to be fitted. This was in order to give a generous clearance above the rear axle, to avoid the firebox heating the bearings, and the grate was one foot higher at the back than the front.

The class was successful and, for a decade, was used on the principal long distance goods and mineral trains until displaced from these workings by later 4-6-0 and 0-8-0 classes. The ‘J26’ engines were then used on secondary goods and mineral services and were widely allocated to sheds over the NER and, following the ‘Grouping’ of the railways in 1923, the North Eastern Area of the LNER. During later LNER days, the class became concentrated on Tees-side sheds. This remained largely the case after nationalisation of the railways in 1948. Withdrawals commenced in July 1958, with the final ones going in June 1962.

At the Grouping, the engines in the class retained their NER numbers and were later renumbered in the 5730-5779 series under the LNER’s post-War scheme. BR added 60000 to the final LNER numbers.

There were several modifications made to the class of particular interest to railway modellers. The engines were initially fitted with Ramsbottom safety valves inside a brass casing. These were replaced with Ross pop safety valves and the casings were dispensed with.

Following the introduction of the ‘P3’, later LNER ‘J27’, class, which had a modified version of the ‘J26’s’ boiler with a more gently-sloping grate, the NER decided to standardise on this boiler. Between 1910 and 1925 all the ‘J26s’ received ‘J27’-pattern boilers. In 1937, the LNER modified this design of boiler with a longer firebox, and consequently shorter barrel, although it contained more tubes. In this design of boiler, the dome was mounted further back, closer to the cab. Both the original ‘J27’ boiler and the subsequent LNER development were made in superheated and non-superheated types. As far as I'm aware, the ‘J26’ class only ever received non-superheated boilers.

Finally, the spectacle plate. When built, the ‘J26’ had traditional round cab spectacles. In 1913, once the enginemen had worked on the new ‘Q6’ 0-8-0s with their much larger cab spectacles, they requested earlier engines be so modified to improve visibility. The NER agreed to this and all the ‘J27’ class were modified. However, although 22 members of class ‘J26’ were modified, the project was abandoned by the NER and 28 ‘J26s’ retained their original, round spectacles. I believe there was cab-swapping at repairs so particular modellers will need to undertake their research regarding this matter.

No. 1773, illustrated above in her LNER livery, is a very useful engine and can be seen on goods workings on the layout. She has her first LNER number, a ‘J27’-type boiler with Ross pop safety valves and round cab spectacles. Her prototype was built in 1904 and withdrawn, as BR No. 65749, from Thornaby shed in 1959.


LNWR 'Prince of Wales' 4-6-0

‘Of all the improvements made since George Stephenson outlined the basic form [of the steam locomotive], the superheater remains the principal. Its great success was due to the fact that it attacked the heat cycle at the point where the losses were greatest, namely in the cylinders, by the elimination of condensation during admission and expansion and re-evaporation at exhaust.’


ES Cox, World Steam in the Twentieth Century, Ian Allan, London, 1969  Page 113


Although the idea of superheating developed at the end of the Nineteenth Century*, it was in the first decade of the Twentieth that it transformed steam locomotive design. Wilhelm Schmidt’s flue-tube superheater was first installed in an engine in Germany in 1902. It was first used in Great Britain in 1906. Credit for the first application is often given to Mr Churchward on the Great Western Railway, with ‘2900’, or ‘Saint’, class 4-6-0 No.2901 Lady Superior, but I understand Mr Hughes on the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) was actually first to use it a few weeks earlier. However, the L&YR’s application was for two 0-6-0 goods engines of the ‘28’ class. It took the L&YR until 1908 to fit superheaters, Walschaert’s valve gear and long travel piston valves to four 4-4-0 passenger locomotives which were truly exceptional performers. Unfortunately, Mr Hughes did not use superheating on his 4-cylinder 4-6-0s of the same year. These large locomotives had a remarkably high coal consumption.


In the early days, there were a few arguments against superheating. It added about a ton to the weight of the engine and the apparatus needed careful maintenance which added to the running costs. At first, a royalty payment was required to use the Schmidt superheater but Chief Mechanical Engineers did not take long to circumvent Dr Schmidt’s patent with their own variations on his basic design, such as the Swindon or Robinson superheaters. The most important drawback in the early years of superheating concerned valve and cylinder lubrication and it took some development before the oils available could cope reliably with the higher temperatures of superheated steam.


But progress towards reliable superheating was swift and a splendid example of this can be seen on the London Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR), where Mr Earle Marsh introduced his superheated ‘I3’ 4-4-2T engines in 1908. Dr Schmidt assisted Mr Earle Marsh with some of the details of the design of these locomotives, which were an immediate success in service.


At the turn of the century, locomotive matters on the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) were at a fairly low ebb. Mr FW Webb, the Chief Mechanical Engineer since 1871, had at first designed some very successful locomotives but later in his term of office he introduced a series of innovative designs. Unfortunately, these were not generally successful. Many were 3-cylinder, or occasionally 4-cylinder, compounds. Mr Webb eventually retired in 1903 and his successor, George Whale, lost no time in introducing a simple (eg non-compound) 4-4-0 locomotive of conventional design. The first of the class, No. 513 Precurser, entered service within 10 months of Mr Webb’s retirement, which was a tremendous achievement. The new ‘Precurser’ class engines were entirely successful and, at one point, Crewe Works was building them at the rate of two per week! It was decided that a 4-6-0 version of the ‘Precurser’ class should be built for the Northern Division of the LNWR, to provide greater adhesion for the difficult route from Lancaster to Carlisle, and the ‘Experiment’ class was introduced in 1905.


At around this time some British railways were having trouble with 4-6-0 classes, which were not always proving as successful as the traditional 4-4-0 designs. This was somewhat the case with the ‘Experiment’ class, as the firebox had a shallow grate to clear the rear coupled axle. Fortunately, the enginemen adjusted their firing technique and the class became very successful, if not quite as highly-regarded as the ’Precursers.’


Mr Whale, having achieved an incredible turn-around in the locomotive affairs of the LNWR, retired in early 1909 and was succeeded as Chief Mechanical Engineer by CJ Bowen Cooke on 1 March of that year. In November of the same year, the LNWR and LB&SCR companies agreed to introduce through engine working for the ‘Sunny South Express’ between Rugby and Brighton. The two railways’ locomotives worked the train turn about. The LNWR used a ‘Precurser’ 4-4-0, normally No. 7 Titan and the LB&SCR used an ‘I3’ 4-4-2T, normally No. 23. To the delight of Mr Earle Marsh and the amazement of many locomotive enthusiasts, the tank engine proved vastly more economical in use of coal and water whilst achieving excellent timekeeping. This was a very public proof of the benefits of superheating.


The lesson was not lost on Mr Bowen Cooke and he introduced improved versions of the ‘Precurser’ and ‘Experiment’ classes in 1910 and 1911 respectively. Both new designs, the ‘George the Fifth’ and ‘Prince of Wales’ classes, featured superheating, piston valves and redesigned cylinders. And what excellent engines they were!


In total, 245 ‘Prince of Wales’ class engines were built. The first 90 were named, but the 155 built after the Great War were unnamed, allegedly because brass for the nameplates was in short supply.


The class had 20 1/2" x 26” cylinders and 6’3” coupled wheels, with the 8” piston valves actuated by Joy valve gear. Interestingly, not all were built at Crewe - 90 were built by Wm Beardmore & Co. and 20 by the North British Locomotive Company.


Mr Bowen Cook died in harness in 1920 and was succeeded as Chief Mechanical Engineer by Capt HPM Beames. Capt Beames fitted five of the ‘Prince of Wales’ class with outside Walschaert’s valve gear. These engines looked ungainly in motion and were nicknamed ‘Tishies’ after Tom Webster’s cartoon racehorse in the Daily Mail. Tishy could cross his forelegs when running!


In later LMS days there was a policy of scrap and build which resulted in early withdrawal for ex-LNWR passenger locomotives. Four locomotives of the 'Prince of Wales' class survived to be taken over by the nationalised British Railways in 1948, with the last being withdrawn in 1949. Incidentally, much of the ‘Prince of Wales’ class’ work was taken over by the LMS ‘Class 5’ 4-6-0s, designed by Mr WA (later, Sir William) Stanier and introduced in 1934. When this class was being designed at Crewe its working title was ‘Improved Prince of Wales’!


There are three ‘Prince of Wales’ 4-6-0s on the Table-Top Railway – No. 86 Mark Twain in LNWR black livery, No. 5604 Enchantress in LMS crimson lake and No. 25732 in LMS unlined black. They are all excellent runners and an enjoyable reminder of a fascinating period in steam locomotive development.


* Mr (later, Sir John) Aspinall's L&YR 'Atlantic' 4-4-2 No. 737, of 1899, is recognised as being the first British locomotive with a superheater. This was a smokebox superheater and, as Sir John remarked to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers during his Presidency in 1910, it was an "excellent steam-drier". Dr Schmidt had also experimented with smokebox superheaters but decided he preferred the significantly higher temperatures possible with a flue-tube superheater.

Prince of Wales No. 86 Mark Twain.jpeg

GWR ‘2251’ Class (‘Collett Goods’) 0-6-0


By the 1920s it was apparent that the Great Western Railway’s (GWR) stock of 0-6-0 locomotives was becoming in need of replacement. The Nineteenth Century ‘Armstrong Goods’ and ‘Dean Goods’ classes were performing useful work of a secondary nature and it was decided that a broadly similar, but more modern class, should be introduced to allow the old engines to be gradually withdrawn from service.


During Mr Churchward’s time as Chief Mechanical Engineer, Great Western locomotive practice was especially innovative, but his successor, Mr Collett, was content to consolidate, developing and refining earlier designs and, effectively, building new classes from existing parts.


At the ‘Grouping’ of the railways in 1923, the GWR had inherited a large number of non-standard locomotives from the absorbed companies and efforts were being made bring these into line with Great Western practice, particularly with regard to boilers. This led to a new boiler type being introduced, called the Standard No. 10. In typical GWR style, it was a development of the existing Standard Nos. 2 and 3 boilers.


The GWR also had a lot of elderly pannier tank locomotives which required replacement and, in 1929, the ‘57xx’ 0-6-0PT class was introduced. This class owed a great deal to previous practice, but was more powerful than the old locomotives which the class was replacing.


In 1930, No. 2251, the first of the new class of 0-6-0 locomotives was introduced. It was effectively the frames, 17 1/2” x 24” cylinders and motion of the ‘57xx’ married to the Standard No. 10 boiler. 5’ 2” coupled wheels, like those of the old ‘Dean Goods’ class, were fitted, rather than the 4’ 7 1/2” wheels of the ‘57xx’ class. An advantage of this was the new 0-6-0 class was happier running at higher speeds than the ‘57xx’ and, although it was commonly referred to as the ‘Collett Goods’, the class was often used for secondary passenger work.


The Standard No. 10 boiler was bigger than that fitted to the ‘57xx’ class and, importantly, it was superheated. Although both the '57xx' and the '2251' classes retained traditional flat valves, both had improved valve settings which made them better performers than the locomotives they replaced.


The '2251' class had a tractive effort of 20,155lbs, which was over 10% higher than that of the earlier ‘Dean Goods’ engines, and it was rated as power class ‘B’ by the GWR and, after nationalisation, as ‘3MT’ by British Railways (BR). The 'MT' designation meant 'Mixed Traffic', which was a recognition of the work the class was undertaking.


These improvements came at a slight cost as the new class was almost four tons heavier than the earlier 0-6-0 locomotives, which resulted in it having a Yellow route restriction. The 'Dean Goods' was ‘uncoloured,’ which enabled it to be used on the lightest-laid lines, particularly in Wales. Therefore, the ‘2251’ class did not succeed in replacing completely the earlier engines.


The class eventually totalled 120 locomotives and was built over a period from 1930 to 1948. This gave it the distinction of being the last 0-6-0 class built in Great Britain*. Engines of the class were allocated to sheds all over the GWR system, apart, as far as I'm aware, from Cornwall. The first of the class to be taken out of service was No. 2258, in 1958, with the final survivors being withdrawn in May and June 1965. Fortunately, No.3205 has been preserved.


No. 2253, illustrated above, is an excellent engine and is often used on the railway. The full-sized locomotive was built in March 1930 and withdrawn in March 1965. For most of her life she was allocated to Worcester shed. No. 2253 is in later 1930s condition as she has the 1943 roundel, often called the ‘shirt button’ on her tender. Other examples on the layout have the earlier ‘Great Western’ lettering on their tenders.


* But not the last designed. That distinction went to Mr Bulleid's 'Q1' class of 1942 for the Southern Railway.


A Note on Boiler Standardisation.


Under normal conditions, the governing factor for the time it took to give a steam locomotive a general repair was the boiler. In the earliest days, the engine and boiler were repaired at the same time. Later, some railways realised that a spare boiler or boilers for each class of locomotive could significantly speed up the general repair and reduce the time the engine was out of traffic. Rather than waiting for its boiler to be overhauled, the locomotive would receive a boiler which had been repaired earlier. Its boiler, when ready, would be fitted to another locomotive and so on.


On the GWR, Mr Churchward took this interchangeability a stage further and introduced a standard series of boilers which could normally be used for different classes of locomotive. This reduced the number of spare boilers required. The Great Western boilers were good and the BR Standard '3MT' 2-6-0 and '3MT' 2-6-2T classes used a development of the Standard No. 2 boiler.


Interestingly, I believe the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust intends to have interchangeable boilers between its 'A1' 4-6-2 and the 'P2' 2-8-2 it is building at present. The plan, as I understand it, is to have three boilers for the two locomotives.

2251 class.jpeg

LNER (ex-NER) 'D20' 4-4-0




By the middle of the last decade of the Nineteenth Century, the typical British inside-cylinder 4-4-0 had reached a high state of development and was firmly established as the norm for express passenger motive power on most railways. Certainly, some companies had other ideas, including the LNWR with its idiosyncratic three and four-cylinder Webb compounds. The Great Western and the Great Northern had long favoured single-driver locomotives for express passenger work and there was an enthusiastic, if brief, revival of the ‘Single’ on certain other railways at this time.

Also, just before the end of the century, 4-4-2, ‘Atlantic’ locomotives began to appear, firstly on the Great Northern in 1898 and then on the Lancashire & Yorkshire in 1899. Although the Highland had the country’s first 4-6-0 class, this was a goods engine and it was 1899 before the first passenger 4-6-0s were introduced on the North Eastern, followed by the Highland in 1900.

These were the main exceptions, elsewhere the inside-cylinder 4-4-0 was generally favoured. The type originated in Scotland on the North British and Glasgow & South Western railways. Earlier British 4-4-0s were outside-cylinder locomotives and this type continued in use for a while, especially on the London & South Western and Highland railways. There was a major development of the inside-cylinder 4-4-0 on the Caledonian Railway in 1896 with the famous ‘Dunalastair’ class,  This had a much larger boiler, at 4’ 8” diameter, than had been the norm and had a working pressure of 160 psi. These engines had 18¼ x 26” cylinders and inside Stephenson valve gear. The big boiler was able to produce all the steam that was required to work heavy trains over gradients.

The North Eastern Railway (NER) had good 4-4-0s of the M and Q classes, built between 1892 and 1897. These were typical for their time with 4’ 4” diameter 160 psi boilers, 19” x 26” cylinders and slide valves worked by Stephenson valve gear. No. 1621 is preserved as part of the National Collection.

Deciding that something more powerful was required, Wilson Worsdell, the NER’s Locomotive Superintendent, introduced the ‘R’ class 4-4-0 in 1899. These were a distinct development, having 4’ 9” diameter boilers, pressed to 200 psi which was high for the time and piston valves. The coupled wheels were 6’ 10” diameter, a slight reduction from the 7’ 1¼” coupled wheels usually fitted to the ‘M’ and ‘Q’ engines. The cylinders were 19” x 26”.

The ’R’ class was an immediate success and 60 were built up until 1907, all at the NER’s Gateshead Works. They worked the principal NER express passenger trains from the time of their introduction and their excellence made them difficult to replace even by later and larger types of locomotive.

At that time, the NER ran ‘The Fastest Train in the British Empire’ over the 44.1 miles of ‘racing ground’ between Darlington and York. This train was booked to average 61.6 mph. According to the late Professor Tuplin, ‘R’ class locomotive No. 1672 once made the run in 39 min and 34 secs which remained a record for many years. I calculate this to be an average speed of 66.87 mph, start to stop.

Not only were the ‘R’ class free-running and fast engines, they were also capable of hard work. At the time of their introduction, ‘one engine one driver’ was still common practice on British railways. But, according to the late OS Nock, certain of the ‘R’ class were allocated to two regular crews who worked in shifts to enable the locomotives to work longer diagrams. Mr Nock gave as an example, Newcastle to Edinburgh and return with the first crew and then Newcastle to Leeds and return with the second.

Mention of NER locomotives working through to Edinburgh1 is a reminder that the ‘R’ class did not work only on relatively easily graded lines. The North British Railway’s route between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Edinburgh has a summit at Grantshouse. At 400 feet above sea level, this is the highest point on the East Coast Main Line. The climbs to Grantshouse were (and remain) severe, especially the four and a half miles at 1:96, on almost constant curvature, of Cockburnspath Bank in the up direction.

As well as being good engines, the ‘R’ class was long-lived and 50 engines survived to be taken into British Railways’ stock, albeit by then being used on lighter duties. The various designs intended to replace them had all been withdrawn from revenue-earning service by the end of 1948, but the ‘R’ class, having been designated ‘D20’ by the LNER after the Grouping of the Railways in 1923, continued well into the 1950s. By 1957, the final six were allocated to Alnmouth and worked services from there to Newcastle as well as on the Alnwick branch. Until March 1953, they could also be seen on the, since 1930, goods only southern section of the old Alnwick to Cornhill (Coldstream) line. This had been severed by flooding north of Ilderton in 1949.

The last ‘D20’ in service was No. 62395 which was withdrawn from Alnmouth in November 1957.

No. 2024 illustrated above is a frequent performer on the Table-Top Railway. She is in the earlier LNER passenger livery with her number on the side of the tender. Later, this was replaced by the initials ‘LNER’ and the number relocated to the cabside.


1 Under an agreement of 1862, the NER gained running powers over the NBR to Edinburgh. The NBR gained running powers for its Border Counties Railway trains from Hawick, via Riccarton Junction, over the NER from Hexham to Newcastle. In early 1897, the NBR attempted to terminate the agreement and commenced working the East Coast trains from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Edinburgh. The companies descended into a legal quarrel which got to the House of Lords. Their Lordships declined to become involved and referred the companies to the Railway Commission. In early 1898 the commission gave its ruling and the NER resumed working almost all the express passenger trains over this section. Probably as a face-saving measure, the NBR was allowed to work a few. All in all, this was an unfortunate disagreement between two companies which were expected to be allies. The late C Hamilton Ellis speculated that the NBR had been annoyed by the NER being given too much credit for the East Coast performance during the ‘Races to the North’ in 1895.

LNER 2024.jpeg
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