Three years after nationalisation in 1951, the first of a new range of standard steam locomotives took to the rails, only 6 years after the end of the Second World War, and in the same year as the ‘Festival of Britain’. The post-war years were marked by shortages – not just of food and everyday items – but also by shortages of labour and the raw materials for industry.
Britain was still operating a rail system dependent on steam and coal, but was also casting an eye to the adoption of oil, and new power systems to rebuild its railway network, and its locomotive stock. Many of the steam types still in use were well past pension age, and had been designed for specific routes and operating requirements of their previous owners.
Standardisation of components, and other aspects of design and construction had been pursued most strongly by he GWR and LMS, whilst others such as the LNER and Southern Railway had pursued a more varied path. The Southern in particular was probably the most radical and innovative of the ‘Big Four’ in the years leading up to nationalisation.
E.S. Cox, was Executive Officer (Design), Railway Executive and in a paper he presented to the Institution of Locomotive Engineers made this comment about standardisation:
“Partial standardisation was effected during World War II with the L.M.S. Stanier 2-8-0’s which were built and run by the four main line The Austerity 2-8-0’s of Mr. Riddles’ design are also an example of the overall standardisation.”
The design process from 1948 onwards included – of course – the Interchange Trials’ – which helped develop both the overall design principles, and detailed assessment of the performance of key components and sub-assemblies. Then, in 1951, 12 steam types were announced that would provide almost universal route availability across British Railways, but where an existing design met those requirements, it would be adapted into what became the BR ‘Standard’ designs. The Class 4MT 2-6-0 tender design came in at design No. 7 in the original plans:
The list above shows that the subject of this little overview was not even provided with a number range, or quantity at this stage. It was to be introduced in 1952, with Doncaster as the parent office for its design, and building of the eventual 115 locomotives would take place there, and at Horwich Works. There were 11 batches – constructed between December 1952 and October 1957 – but although Doncaster was awarded orders E395 (76020-4) in 1952, E396 (76025-34), part of this last order (76030-34) was built at Derby. In 1954, Doncaster was given order E397 (76035-44), but these too were transferred to Derby.
Horwich had the honour of building the first of the class – 76000 in December 1952, and the last to be built, 76099, was also outshopped in November 1957, despite Doncaster turning out the last numbered member (76114) the previous month.
However, it still begs the question why the class were ever needed, given that its design was very much based on Ivatt’s last 2-6-0 design for the LMS, since no fewer than 82 of that design were built by Doncaster and Darlington between 1948 and 1952. At least it made sense to give Doncaster the prestige of being the parent office for the design of this BR version.
All four of the class rescued for preservation were built at Horwich Works, and those that are operational carry the standard BR lined black livery:
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