The Thompson era on the LNER was in sharp contrast to the previous twenty years, under the guiding hand of Sir Nigel Gresley. During Gresley’s day there were a number of notable designs, and the locomotive stock was represented by a large number of different types, often designed for specific purposes, produced in response to current business and commercial demands. Gresley’s designs could almost be described as bespoke, or niche products, aimed at satisfying an immediate business need, and not providing a standard range, or designing motive power which could be used on a wide variety of services.
The business of running a railway and providing commercial transport services had begun to change dramatically when Edward Thompson took charge, and of course, the demands of the Second World War denied Thompson the luxuries (in locomotive design terms) of the Gresley years. The business was demanding more efficient services, reducing costs – a recurring theme – and simplicity in the locomotive department.
After the initial trial running carried out under LNER ownership, when the design was new, the next major test for the B1s came in 1948, just after nationalisation, and the Interchange Trials began. Some interesting conclusions were drawn on the results of these trials, such as the fact that the B1 appeared to be more economical on the former Midland lines, and the Black Five fared better on the Great Central route!!
Later still, in 1951, a series of trials took place over the Carlisle to Settle route, and B1 Class 4-6-0 No. 61353 formed the subject of intensive trials between 1949 and 1951, along with static tests at the Rugby Test Plant. The B1 performed well, and overall, the tests seemed to indicate a good well-balanced design, with a free steaming boiler, and a locomotive that was economic and efficient at the tasks it was set.
In the end it was the arrival of BR Standard classes and diesel traction that signed the death knell for the class.
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