April 2010


Of the four main players on the Metropolitan & Widened Lines, the Great Northern had the greater selection of condensing locomotive classes to call upon over the years. Prior to the introduction of Ivatt’s C2 Atlantic tank in 1898, the most recent introduction was Stirling’s 941 class of 0-4-4Ts, a lighter version of the 766 class (a class which they are often considered a part of) comprising of four locos with shortened side tanks, a rearranged cab, and an enlarged bunker with back tank. These alterations enabled them to be used on the LCDR portion of the Widened Lines west of Moorgate Street to Victoria via Ludgate Hill, a route from which the 766 class proper were banned due to their high axle loading. Therefore, these specific duties of the 941 class preclude them from appearing on the Basilica Fields project, despite being ‘Widened Lines locomotives’ of the period.

Not so with the main body of the 766 class – all twenty five were built in three series between 1889 and 1893. These locos were fitted with Stirling’s 4′ 2.½” straightback (domeless) boiler, and all were fitted with condensing apparatus for working the Widened Lines. The first two series followed previous GNR convention and had the condensing pipes running between the frames, but the final series had a revised arrangement with them exhausting from the top of the smokebox sides into the tanks, a style which became standard for succeeding designs.

The 766 class proved to be very successful on Widened Lines duties, the majority of the class surviving the introduction of the C2s, and were not displaced from London until the advent of Ivatt’s powerful N1 0-6-2Ts on Widened Lines services in 1912.

A decision on whether to model one of the earlier series or the final series was something I put off for some time. The early locos had nice clean lines, but the final batch with their big chunky pipework looked like proper condensing locos.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

I’ve chosen number 824 from the first batch of ten, and she can be seen above at Hornsey in 1904, well looked after by her crew, but bearing the tell-tale signs of hard work in the sulphuric tunnels. The little U bend pipe and tall vents on the tank top betrays the condensing apparatus, and the revolving destination indicator on the top lamp bracket is an interesting contraption – I must find out if it superseded, or was superseded by the more familiar brackets and boards, or if the two types were used concurrently.

Of course there are no kits for such a locomotive as this on the market, so it’s going to be an exercise in scratchbuilding. However, the dearth of a drawing here means that unless I’m able to locate one soon, the building of this loco will be held in abeyance.

As mentioned previously, S.W. Johnson’s 0-4-4Ts looked after much of the Midland Railway’s passenger, goods and coal services on the Widened Lines during the 1890s.

Johnson built 205 0-4-4T locos for the Midland over a period of 25 years between 1875 and 1900, all to a design based upon his 134 class built during his time at Stratford as Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Eastern Railway. Although superficially the design remained constant throughout the 25 year building period, there were of course many minor changes and improvements over the years which resulted in several distinct (and indistinct!) classes.

Many of Johnson’s 0-4-4Ts were fitted with condensing apparatus and sent to work on the Widened Lines services, and after much deliberation and scouring dozens of photographs, I chose one of the P class locos built by Neilson in 1893, more commonly referred to as part of the 1833 class. It was rather interesting to find that this particular batch of ten was built as the result of a report by Johnson on 22 September 1892 which stated that:

‘…there are not sufficient four wheels coupled bogie tank condensing engines for working the passenger, goods and coal traffic over the Metropolitan Railway and to the stations beyond.’

How could I resist?

To model 2222 I have a Slater’s kit for the 1252 class as a basis, and will need to make several alterations during the build, not least the size of splashers, as there was a reduction in wheel diameter between the two classes, as well as a change in the wheelbase itself.

Number 2222, delivered in September 1893, is seen at Cricklewood, just short of it’s 10th birthday in June 1903, looking resplendent in the fully decorated London livery where just about everything panel and fitting was lined both inside and out. Blimey.

The well-documented and fierce competition between the Great Northern and the Midland Railways began in the late 1860s, and London’s goods traffic was not exempt, especially not the Widened Lines or Extended Widened Lines. In a seemingly endless, and very expensive game of tit-for-tat, wherever the Great Northern went, the Midland was sure to follow. Therefore, the Midland’s Whitecross Street depot was built as a direct response to the Great Northern’s Farringdon Street depot, but constructional and financial difficulties ensured that the GN depot had already been open for four years before Whitecross Street was finally opened in 1878. The Midland depot had four stories above ground and one basement level, and was located in the heart of the lucrative textile district. In a rather cheeky pawn-takes-queen move, the GNR then opened a non-rail served depot in Whitecross Street almost opposite the Midland, offering a goods and parcels collection service, and warehouse space to rent.

With the coming of the Extended Widened Lines, the Midland Railway found itself in a position to finally get the jump on its arch rival, and a large depot with rail access to the huge six-storey warehouses that surrounded St. Katherine’s Docks was opened in 1889. St. Katherine’s Docks had an infamous reputation in the 19th century; the construction of Telford’s masterpiece left over eleven thousand people homeless and caused the demolition of historical ecclesiastical buildings. Opened to great fanfare, it soon became a white elephant as the twin wet-docks soon became too small for the new and larger ships being built, and by the mid-1860s had merged with London Docks. After this, much of the traffic was brought in by barge and lighter from the lower docks, and the warehouses were used mainly for storing and distributing imported luxury goods such as ivory, shells, sugar, marble, rubber, carpets, spices and perfumes.

Midland goods traffic through Artillery Lane will reflect these imported goods, and the majority of wagons will be opens of various sizes and covered vans, with some perishable goods.

The photo is of the Midland’s depot at Poplar, and is an early photo as at least one of the sheeted wagons is unbraked.

The Great Northern was quick to gain a foothold in goods services on the Metropolitan, and, as well as facilitating through passenger traffic into the City, it was the sharp rise in cross-London goods traffic taken on by both the Midland and Great Northern that led to the opening of the City Widened Lines in 1868, and the Great Northern’s large goods depôt at Farringdon Street in 1874. The depôt was strategically placed for Smithfields Market – or at least, as well as it could be, considering the Great Western’s 1869 depôt was directly beneath – but an extension to the Farringdon goods depôt in 1894 was located beneath parts of Smithfield, including the newly-completed Fish, Fruit and Vegetable market, thereby giving direct access.

By 1877 the GNR had a daily service of 18 goods trains each way into and out of Farringdon Steet via Kings Cross, and a further 27 trains each way on cross- London services to destinations in south London via Ludgate Hill, a figure which had increased to 46 daily workings by 1897 although just under half of these were noted as “when necessary”. With the coming of the Extended Circle and Extended Widened Lines, the Great Northern was keen to gain access to the London Docks via this route, and a two-story depôt measuring 180′ x 125′ was eventually built in 1890 (the upper story being a storage floor) which relieved pressure of that company’s similar sized depôt at Poplar. As at Poplar, the GNR at London Docks primarily concerned itself with exports, and acted as a storage and redistribution depôt to shipping in the port, and as such, dealt with traffic coming from all over the country, as well as goods for export from the nearby London markets. An inventory of goods held on the storage level at London Docks in 1893 showed similar results to one taken in 1877 at Poplar, and found amongst other goods, bottles, scrap iron, biscuits, linseed oil, grain and meal, rope, earthenware and oil cake. The dock was also used by short sea traders who brought in tobacco, dried fruit, canned goods, ivory, wool and spices. GNR goods traffic through Artillery Lane will therefore reflect these commodities, and trains will be limited to primarily opens wagons and covered vans, with a degree of perishable traffic.

The photograph is of the GW depôt at Poplar, with the GNR lines in the foreground, showing typical ‘mundane’ GN goods stock in the first years of the 1900s – the ubiquitous 4-plank and, by this time, increasingly diminishing bow-ended opens. The goods brake is one of the horizontally planked 18′ 6″ brakes, probably still only 10T at this time, with verandahs at both ends, but doors to these diagonally opposite at the right hand end of each side. The livery is noticeable by its absence – grime, perhaps? The loco is one of Stirling’s ‘500’ series of 0-6-0STs which later became J15 under Ivatt’s reclassification, and J54-55 at Grouping. 603 never made it that far; rebuilt in 1914, she was scrapped in 1919.

Despite the Basilica Fields project as an entity having a gestation period thus far of about 10 years (no flash in the pan layout here then, just plenty of procrastination), from time to time new ideas for presenting the different segments suddenly fall out of my head. As with much creative thought, some ideas are instantly attractive but wither and die as impractical, contrived, or the realisation that it was, after all, completely and utterly rubbish. Some ideas are quickly given the bums rush, but later return (sometimes in a new and prettier disguise) and somehow weave themselves into the tapestry almost without me realising it. And [grammar police, shut it] then there are those ideas which are stored away in some box or other in my head with a post-it note reminder to revisit again one day and say hello. Sometimes these hibernating ideas are consigned to the bin, sometimes they are carefully re-wrapped up and packed away again for a better day, and sometimes (and this is where all the foregoing dreary prose has been working towards), sometimes the little lightbulb above my head goes ‘ding!’

Artillery Lane is a relatively new name for a much older part of the overall plan, one which has only in the last year or so coalesced into the present (and final) form, and building commences this summer (honest, guv). Earlier versions existed as part of Sepulchre Street (which is the next segment east of the present Artillery Lane), and I once designed an RMWeb challenge layout/diorama called Sepulchre Street Goods – a multi-level plank showing various internal levels of a Great Eastern depôt/warehouse. The larger Sepulchre Street design eventually ended up with an somewhat unusual plan for presentation which included the subterranean track viewed from inside the cutting walls, between the arches and batters, and this is still how I intend to present Artillery Lane.

However, over the weekend it suddenly it dawned on me; as well as viewing the subterranean lines through the arches and batters, it would be possible to also model the inside of the GW goods depôt at Artillery Lane at the sub-surface level, at least as far as Gun Street. Although the GW depôt itself was quite small, with a compact warehouse at street level, it had a larger underground storage area which could easily be incorporated. In addition, a pair of tracks passed through the depot and served Spitalfields Market directly, where there were several wagon turntables and docks, a traverser, and electric hoists connecting to the market floor above. This development must have stuck in the GER Directors’ collective craw, as in 1884 they’d had their revolutionary Bishopsgate Market, which had brought wagons directly into each trader’s arch, closed following a court action brought against them by the disgruntled market traders at Billingsgate and Spitalfields.

Of late I’ve been particularly impressed with Mikkel Kjartan’s beautifully atmospheric Farthing Layout, and his depôt was certainly the catalyst for turning my thoughts towards modelling the interior at Artillery Lane, but rather than being light and airy as Mikkel’s depot will no doubt be, the Artillery Lane warehouse is going to be claustrophobic with low barrel vaulting, weeping brickwork, peeling distemper, and filled with dark and dingy corners.

Despite the height restriction, there are ways of making it a working model. In reality wagons and vans would have been brought in using rope and a series of hydraulic and dead capstans and this could be replicated, or perhaps (somewhat less keen on this idea) motorising a van or two, or perhaps a ratchet system – all the gubbins would be hidden by the loading platforms. Anyway, I have options, which is always a good thing.

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