Kirtley’s 690 class has already been touched upon by way of my post on the closely related 780 class. These six locomotives were delivered in 1869 from Messrs Beyer Peacock specifically for the coal traffic via the Widened Lines to Herne Hill and Battersea which commenced on 17 November 1868 (in fact, the tender for the locos was accepted the following day). The route taken involved the 1:38 incline from Farringdon to Blackfriars which imposed a severe weight limitation on the trains, and the class performed very well on these duties, which then expanded to also include goods trains.

Initially fitted with hand brakes to wooden blocks, the 690 class were given steam brakes in 1878 which clearly defined their goods only role, as the 780 class were fitted with Smith’s simple vacuum for passenger duties later that year. In 1882, the 690 class were also fitted with Sanders automatic brake which continued to segregate them from the 780 class, as they were unable to operate the Smith’s brakes on the Midland’s carriages, and it wasn’t until 1888 that the superior automatic brake was finally fitted to the 780 class, enabling the 690 class (at least on paper) to finally work passenger duties. The 690 class continued to work on Widened Lines goods and coal duties until the introduction of the 2441 class in 1899.

Aesthetically, the 690 class went through many changes up to the Basilica Fields period, and 692 is seen here post-1898 on the duplicate list. At this time, some members of the class had the position of the numbers and maker’s plates transposed. Cabs were been fitted between 1888 and 1893 when the Kirtley boilers were scrapped and Johnson’s C Class boilers fitted, which resulted in an immediate visual difference between the 690 and 780 classes in the route taken by the condensing pipes from the smokebox.

Up to rebuilding, members of the class were probably still in the green livery, but once in crimson lake, the fully decorated ‘Kentish Town’ lining style appears not to have been applied to the 690 class, and although above the footplate they were fully lined, it would seem only the outside cranks and wheels were so treated below.