With the opening of Victoria in 1860, the Chatham was able to offer a comprehensive passenger service in and about London, but it would be another fourteen years before the trains were fully patronised, which in turn led to a demand for longer trains and a faster service. This upsurge in suburban travel coincided with the appointment of William Kirtley, nephew of Matthew Kirtley, who had died in harness at the Midland the previous year; William had been Matthew’s Works Manager at Derby for a decade. On his appointment, Kirtley found Longhedge drawing office preparing plans for an enlarged ‘Large Scotchman‘ to tackle the increasingly heavy suburban duties, but the new man had other ideas and began preparing drawings for a modern 0-4-4 with side tanks, not unlike Johnson’s latest design on the Midland, though the round-topped tanks were a definite doff of the cap in the direction of Stroudley’s contemporary designs on the rival LB&SCR. With the design approved, tenders were sought, culminating with both Neilson and Vulcan providing nine examples each.

The new locos were all based at Battersea, and immediately ousted the smaller Scotchmen class from through services to the GNR and Midland, as well as taking charge of Victoria to Moorgate Street services. Reaction from the crews was mixed; drivers appreciated the power of the A class, especially on heavy gradients, but firemen were less enthralled with the heat generated in the enclosed cabs, especially when working in the Widened Lines tunnels, nor were they keen on their greater demand on both coal and water. The build up of heat in the cabs was resolved by the fitting of opening look-out windows at the first general repair.

The success of the 1875 batch led to a new batch four years later. Kitson tendered and won the contract for twelve locos which had the driving wheel diameter increased by 4″ to 5’ 7″ and a host of minor detail differences, including raising the height of the condensing pipes exiting the smokebox up to the boiler centre line, and incorporating the front sandboxes in the leading driving wheel splashers. These twelve locos, classed A1, also went to Battersea, sharing duties with the earlier A class, and were also utilised on services terminating at Hendon and Wood Green. The new locos proved to be free-steaming and the crews preferred them to the original locos as they were easier to fire, and the cabs better ventilated.

Kirtley’s A series was completed in 1883-4 with the introduction of six locos classed A2. These were almost identical to the A1 batch, but again with some minor differences, and were built by Robert Stephenson & Co. Again, all six were sent to Battersea, working on all suburban services alongside the A and A1s as well as Martley’s 0-4-2Ts, but by the 1890s they were more likely to be seen on services to Wood Green.

All three classes were fitted with the Westinghouse brake between 1888-91 at which time steam sanding was incorporated. Coal bars on their bunkers were added in the 1890s

It’s very unlikely that I’ll build an example of all three in LC&DR livery – the Chatham service over the EWL isn’t going to be that intensive(!), and I think it likely that No.112, the final example from the Vulcan-built batch of 1875 (Class A) is the likely candidate.

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