James Holden took the job of Locomotive Superintendent of the Great Eastern in 1885 during a period of great urgency for both new express passenger engines and shunting/light goods locos. The company had recently exploited the opportunities presented by the direct link to the industrial heartland of Yorkshire with the opening of the GN&GE Joint line in 1882, and the growth of heavy long-distance coal trains resulted in a massive expansion of the marshalling yards at March and Temple Mills. With hindsight it may seem surprising that there were only eighteen 0-6-0T shunting engines on the company’s books in 1885, but at that time many of these duties were performed by ageing 0-4-4T and 0-6-0 tender classes.
Holden was an unusual man, almost unique as a Locomotive Engineer insofar as he didn’t seek to stamp his identity on new locomotives designed during his tenure. Instead, where he saw good in the work of his predecessors he was content to put it to use – and this included the locomotive aesthetics introduced by Worsdell – concentrating on improving upon and standardising the mechanical aspects.
Less than five months after talking office, Holden’s answer to the shunting problem was solved by the design of what became the T18 class; essentially a simple locomotive amalgamating the best of what had gone before. The new locos were 28′ 2½” long over the buffers and had a 6′ 4″ + 7′ 0″ wheelbase. They could carry 2¼ tons of coal and 1000 gallons of water, and had a tractive effort of 16,970lbs.
Mechanically the new locos leaned heavily on William Adams’ K9 0-4-2T design with a two-ring butt-jointed boiler barrel 9′ 1″ long and 4ft 1in in diameter (4′ 2″ over the clothing) pressed to 140p.s.i. Stephenson’s Link motion was employed, being almost identical to the 0-4-2Ts , but the 16″x 24″ cylinders and the arrangement of the motion actually went back even further to S.W. Johnson’s 204 class of 1868 – the eccentrics being different by fractions on an inch. The 4′ 0″ diameter 15 spoke unbalanced iron wheels with an 11″ crank throw (which resulted in three characteristic drop sections each side on the outside brake pull rods) were also a throwback to the same class. William Adams had introduced a single slidebar design which become standard on GER locomotives built with Stevenson’s Link motion, and Holden carried on the tradition. The smokebox tube plate was interchangeable with Worsdell’s M15 2-4-2T class, and the body styling imitated the M15 design, incorporating Worsdell’s stovepipe chimney, steam dome, twin Ramsbottom safety valves in a shrouded casing, cab and bunker. Holden also continued Worsdell’s ultramarine livery with black borders and vermilion lining, finished off with elliptical brass number plates and a vermilion background, though by 1886 he had increased the GER tankside transfers from 4″ to 6″ high.
Ten locos (nos. 275-84) were ordered in December 1885 and released to traffic between May and July 1886. They immediately proved themselves to be a powerful design with excellent steaming qualities so a second batch was ordered, this time for 20 locos (Order K19, nos. 285-304), which were released to the Running Department between March and October 1887. No. 296 was held back from traffic for almost six months, retained by Stratford Works to provide power for the Wheel Shop.
During September 1886, three months after its release to traffic, No.281 was the first locomotive to be fitted with an experimental version of Holden’s patent oil burning apparatus (the reasons for oil firing will be discussed in a future post). A solitary burner was fitted beneath the firehole, 18 inches above the grate on which was placed a coal fire measuring 12 inches deep. Several test runs between Stratford and Broxbourne were made and the performance proved satisfactory if the loco wasn’t forced. However, an uneven distribution of the oil spray caused unequal heating within the firebox plates when any attempt was made to increase the steaming rate and it wasn’t long before the equipment was removed.
By 1887, the four-coupled tank engines used on the Enfield and Chingford lines were struggling to cope with the increasingly heavy trains on both branches, so in July of that year, an experiment was undertaken and no. 294 of the K19 batch was fitted with the Westinghouse brake, screw reverse, and screw couplings, and began a series of passenger trials on the Enfield line using new carriage stock. In the meantime an order for a further ten shunting locos was put in (Order H21, nos. 307-316), which were delivered between June and August 1888.
The Enfield trials proved to be a success, and it was decide that a final batch of T18s should be built as passenger engines with all the modifications of no.294, but with an increase in their coal capacity. To facilitate an extended bunker without altering the length of the frames, Holden shortened the cab by six inches. These passenger locos (Order T21 nos. 317-26) were delivered during November and December 1888 and immediately sent to work on the Enfield line.
In 1889 the eleven locos adapted for passenger duties received 10 spoke cast steel with crescent balance weights and a 10″ crank throw, but although the eleven locos had shown the 0-6-0T design was capable of handling intensive suburban work, Holden had already decided there was room for some improvement and set about designing the next step in the evolution of the type.
In 1890 a modified design for passenger and shunting work under a new classification R24 was released to traffic (also the subject of a future post), and sent to work the Enfield line, cascading the entire T21 batch of T18 locos, nos. 317-26, down to shunting duties. The ten locos were stripped of their Westinghouse brakes which were immediately fitted to the second batch of the R24 class (Order S24) already under construction. Only no. 294 was unaffected and remained a passenger engine.
From 1890 only those locos fitted with the Westinghouse brake were painted in the ultramarine livery as they came into Works for overhaul, and locomotives fitted with steam or hand brakes only were painted in a plain black livery with vermilion bufferbeams and side rods. Some post-War railway historians have mentioned the presence of vermilion lining on black-painted goods and shunting locos, but primary evidence seems to contradict this – only the lowly 0-4-0ST Coffeepots having their black livery offset by lining in the blue livery style . By the turn of the century only no.294 of the class remained in blue.
Smokeboxes on the Great Eastern had an average life expectancy of about a decade, which included two or three major repairs. From 1892 a new style smokebox of flanged construction with a radiused front edge was introduced for all the company’s locos, replacing the earlier design built up with angle iron, and by the middle of the Edwardian period most of the T18 class were so fitted. At about the same time a new design of continuous handrail was introduced for new-build locomotives, and some, but by no means all of the existing loco stock had their separate handrails replaced. It appears that most of the T18s retained the separate handrails.
In 1893, no. 281 was transferred to Service Stock at Stratford Works where (for the next 69 years) it was one of the Works’ shunting locos. It was soon fitted with a cut-down chimney the same height as the steam dome, probably due to one of its duties being in an area of restricted height. In November of that year no.281 was again fitted with oil firing apparatus, but this time with the now standard arrangement of twin burners. There is no record of when this was removed for a second time, but was almost certainly circa 1905 during wholesale removal of the equipment from the company’s locos.
From 1894 Macallan blast pipes (designed and patented by one of the company’s employees) were fitted to all the class as they came into Works. From this date a new style of blower valve was also introduced on the GER, replacing Worsdell’s spherical type mounted above the handrail, the new ones only fitted to locos with continuous handrails as the operating rod ran inside them. However, it appears that few, if any T18s were retro-fitted with the new blower valves, even those fitted with continuous handrails appear to have retained the separate valve mounted above.
Three coal rails were fitted to the bunkers of all the T18s except no. 281 (which never received them) between 1895 and 1899 when they passed through works, and at the same time all except Westinghouse-fitted no.294 and one example of the class already so fitted in 1893 received the steam brake, having previously been fitted with hand brakes only.
In 1896 the ten ex-passenger locos of the T21 batch were altered from screw to lever reverse and fitted with cast iron 15 spoke unbalanced wheels to bring them in line with the rest of the class.
The final changes made to the T18s in the period covered by Basilica Fields was the class-wide rebuilding which took place between 1898 and 1908. All fifty locos were given new two-ring boilers pressed to 160psi to the same pattern used by the E22 and R24 class tanks.
Modelling the T18 class
For Basilica Fields the T18 class will be represented by one of the forty from the first three batches with the original cab and short bunkers. It’s been quite difficult to ascertain with certainty exactly which T18s were allocated to the Stratford District for shunting in the 1890s/early 1900s, but I believe I may now have a contender though it does need a little more research. There have never been any kits for the T18 class in any scale and was resigning myself to a scratchbuild, when discussions with my good friend and master modelmaker Colin Dowling revealed he needs a handful of the beasts for his embryonic Bow Creek Wharf layout and was prepared to cut the platework on his milling machine. So in the absence of surviving General Arrangement drawings (quite a rare omission for GE locos and rolling stock) we collated as much information as possible, consulted the contemporary and very good HT Buckle drawing from his series in the Locomotive Magazine published between 1901 and 1913 (Buckle was at one time employed in the Drawing office at Stratford), and scoured various photographs. Both Colin and I came up with a series of dimensions, most of which tallied, after which Colin went away and produced a definitive drawing from which the masters can now be cut. Colin has already produced a master for the 4′ 0″ 15-spoke wheel which will also be useful for the R24 shunting Buckjumpers. But more of that anon.
The T18s deserve a little more prominence in the history of the GER and are too often overlooked – Aldrich’s observation was spot on – so I’m grateful to all those who have ploughed this lonely furrow long before my efforts. This entry would have been so much poorer in content without information from the following:
- Great Eastern Locomotives Past & Present 1862-1945 – C Langley Aldrich RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 8A
- Locomotives Illustrated #116
- Yeadon’s Register Volume 48
- The Locomotive Magazine
- The Great Eastern Society Special #3 ‘All Stations to Liverpool Street’
- Lyn Brooks of the GERS
- John Gardner of the GERS