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Heritage - 53: London & North Eastern Railway, Twenty-Four Years From Inception to Nationalisation

Updated on January 30, 2019

The Company, Its Remit And Its Leading Lights

'The London & Nearly Everywhere Railway', the LNER's tentacles stretched into rival territory. Its aim primarily was to further the interests of the Board, secondarily to serve industry and commerce as well as a third of mainland Britain's commuters
'The London & Nearly Everywhere Railway', the LNER's tentacles stretched into rival territory. Its aim primarily was to further the interests of the Board, secondarily to serve industry and commerce as well as a third of mainland Britain's commuters
Tom Purvis was a renowned poster designer commissioned by the LNER advertising department to promote the Company. In this poster he drew a parallel with the classic 'Bath of Psyche'. The  seaside led the holiday market at all levels of society
Tom Purvis was a renowned poster designer commissioned by the LNER advertising department to promote the Company. In this poster he drew a parallel with the classic 'Bath of Psyche'. The seaside led the holiday market at all levels of society | Source
There were enough seaside resorts within reach of the LNER, and if they weren't enough there were always services to Blackpool or other resorts in LMS, GWR and SR areas reached within half a day's travel from London, York or Newcastle-on-Tyne
There were enough seaside resorts within reach of the LNER, and if they weren't enough there were always services to Blackpool or other resorts in LMS, GWR and SR areas reached within half a day's travel from London, York or Newcastle-on-Tyne | Source
Even if you didn't want a paddle in the sea, or build sand castles, there were always beaches that drew the sightseer. The Kyle of Lochalsh afforded a view across the water to Skye, to follow in the wake of Flora MacDonald's rowing boat
Even if you didn't want a paddle in the sea, or build sand castles, there were always beaches that drew the sightseer. The Kyle of Lochalsh afforded a view across the water to Skye, to follow in the wake of Flora MacDonald's rowing boat | Source
Every schoolboy's icon - 4472 'Flying Scotsman' is seen in 1929 with a rake of carriages working an express service - now in national ownership through the National Railway Museum's intervention after she was put up for sale 1996
Every schoolboy's icon - 4472 'Flying Scotsman' is seen in 1929 with a rake of carriages working an express service - now in national ownership through the National Railway Museum's intervention after she was put up for sale 1996 | Source
Another icon, streamlined Class A4 ('Streak') No.5 'Capercaillie'. Several were initially named after birds, some were re-named.  This one in September, 1942 as 'Charles H Newton', and again in June, 1943 changed to 'Sir Charles Newton'
Another icon, streamlined Class A4 ('Streak') No.5 'Capercaillie'. Several were initially named after birds, some were re-named. This one in September, 1942 as 'Charles H Newton', and again in June, 1943 changed to 'Sir Charles Newton' | Source
Class D49 was designed by Greslay for semi-fast services and rural lines, built at Darlington under the auspices of Edward Thompson, and showed definite NER features. First in the class to be built was No. 234 'Yorkshire'. See also D49/2 'Hunt' below
Class D49 was designed by Greslay for semi-fast services and rural lines, built at Darlington under the auspices of Edward Thompson, and showed definite NER features. First in the class to be built was No. 234 'Yorkshire'. See also D49/2 'Hunt' below | Source

From Inception, through the Depression to threat of Invasion... The LNER was there to serve

The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) came into being in the aftermath of 'The Great War'. There were conflicting interests before and during its existence, not least between its chief officers.

For reasons best known to the Board after it came into being, the interests of the former Great Northern Railway became paramount and its Chief Mechanical Engineer, (Herbert) Nigel Gresley was thrust forward as the Senior Engineer of the new entity, a 'godlike' status to all but the Chairman. Perhaps because its southern terminus was in London, or perhaps because it was the most influential of the railways on the eastern side of mainland Britain, the Great Northern Railway (GNR) took on the mantel of senior partner of the new company. There were those who felt otherwise.

The equivalent of Chief Mechanical Engineer of the North Eastern Railway, Sir Vincent Litchfield Raven was its Locomotive Superintendent. His first assistant - and son-in-law - was Edward Thompson. Both had military practical and administrative experience from World War One and had held senior ranks with the Royal Engineers at Woolwich on the south-eastern outskirts of London. Yet Raven was close to retirement and even,with a string of innovative electric and steam locomotive designs to his name, his engineering credentials unquestioned, his age told against him. Edward Thompson may have felt his qualifications stood him in good stead, but despite his military experience that Gresley lacked, Gresley had already held the top position in the GNR and 'moulded' Doncaster Plant. The NER's income came from heavy industry based between Teesside (Middlesbrough, Hartlepool), Sunderland, Newcastle and their respective shipbuilding, steel, mining and chemical industries that sourced materials from as far south as the Selby coalfield to the coalfield and northward around Ashington near the coast north of Newcastle in Northumberland. Ironstone for steel and shipbuilding was sourced from around Cleveland in North Yorkshire, lead, lime and other materials for chemical processing came from between the rural Dales and the coast north of Whitby.

Another man, around Gresley's age, was Walter Chalmers who had succeeded William Paton Reid as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the burgeoning North British Railway (NBR), may also have had his eyes on the position Gresley held. He had been an apprentice at Cowlairs Locomotive Works on the edge of Glasgow until when in 1904 he became Chief Draughtsman. This post he held for sixteen years when Reid retired and Chalmers was given the reins in 1920. No less in size and importance than either the GNR or NER, the NBR was the chief company north of the border, spanned Scotland from east to west and in the Western Highlands, adjoining the Caledonian and Highland Railways to north, north-west and south. The NBR's wealth came - as with the NER - from the Central Fife coalfield, other minerals, steel making and shipbuilding.

Around the LNER system... Young and old observed at work, on or heading for the shed

A 'Sandringham' class B17 with Gresley side corridora passenger stock at Cambridge, possibly arrived from London
A 'Sandringham' class B17 with Gresley side corridora passenger stock at Cambridge, possibly arrived from London | Source
An East Anglia local passenger train leaves Cambridge with pre-Grouping stock
An East Anglia local passenger train leaves Cambridge with pre-Grouping stock | Source
Ex-GNR Class N2 0-6-2 tank locomotive with condensing pipes passes with Gresley articulated suburban non-corridor stock. The pipes re-fed steam through the boiler and ensured no smoke was emitted in the tunnels between King's Cross and Moorgate
Ex-GNR Class N2 0-6-2 tank locomotive with condensing pipes passes with Gresley articulated suburban non-corridor stock. The pipes re-fed steam through the boiler and ensured no smoke was emitted in the tunnels between King's Cross and Moorgate | Source
A further development of the D49 was Class D49/2 named after fox hunts in he LNER area. No. 247 'The Blankney' pf Hull Botanic Gardens shed is seen here by Falsgrave signal cabin, Scarborough
A further development of the D49 was Class D49/2 named after fox hunts in he LNER area. No. 247 'The Blankney' pf Hull Botanic Gardens shed is seen here by Falsgrave signal cabin, Scarborough | Source
Class Z4 0-4-2 tank engine was bought in 1916 from Manning Wardle of Leeds. She's seen here at Kittybrewster shed on the former GNoSR system
Class Z4 0-4-2 tank engine was bought in 1916 from Manning Wardle of Leeds. She's seen here at Kittybrewster shed on the former GNoSR system | Source
Many hands make... cleaning quicker. Class A1 No. 2597 in the 1930s at Top Shed, King's Cross locomotive depot. Originally GNR, this became the LNER's and then British Railways Eastern Region 'senior' locomotive depot
Many hands make... cleaning quicker. Class A1 No. 2597 in the 1930s at Top Shed, King's Cross locomotive depot. Originally GNR, this became the LNER's and then British Railways Eastern Region 'senior' locomotive depot | Source

Lesser partners in the company were - in England:

The Great Central Railway (GCR), formerly the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincoln Railway before its southward extension via Nottingham, Leicester and Aylesbury to Marylebone Station in north-west London. Its works were at Gorton near Manchester; the Great Eastern Railway (GER) had its works at Stratford, close to the River Lea on the eastern side of London. the industries on the east side of London were its lifeblood, although it stretched into rural Essex and East Anglia where much of its income was seasonal. One source of regular income was Newmarket in Suffolk, the eastern centre of racehorse breeding and racing; the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway (M&GNJR) stretched west-east across the country from the West Midlands to Sheringham in Norfolk. Its works were at Melton Constable in deepest Norfolk. Nicknamed the 'Muddle & Go Nowhere Railway, its operations were almost exclusively rural;.

In Scotland

There were only four railway companies north of the Border, the largest of which was the North British Railway. Aside from this company the Great North of Scotland Railway (GNoSR) joined the LNER group of companies by default, being based in the north-east of the country at and around Aberdeen. Founded in the early mid-19th Century, the GNoSR had expanded westward and north-westward to Inverness, its rivals being the Caledonian Railway (CR) and Highland Railway (HR) which were drawn into the London, Midland & Scottish camp. What industry there was arose from fishing and shipbuilding. The large fishing fleets based around the north-east of Scotland brought with it a host of service industries, and there was of course tourism. Balmoral was one of Queen Victoria's favourite haunts, and her appreciation for the region drew the tourists from as far away as London and abroad..

Joint, associated, absorbed and managed companies

Prior to Grouping in 1923 the NER had absorbed the Hull & Barnsley Railway (H&BR, formerly the Hull, Barnsley & West Riding Junction Railway, an ambitious title as it proved, considering it didn't reach as far as Barnsley and stopped short at Cudworth), a company that like the Stockton & Darlington Railway (S&DR) that had been a serious rival in the NER's early days. Its operating centre was in Hull, with several large dock complexes to its credit. However, as the NER reached Hull first it had the choicer routes and the H&BR was left with a series of level crossings around the edge of town before it reached the city and docks. Its only main locomotive shed in Hull was at Springhead, its locomotive fleet small at the time of absorption. Subsequently its allocation was a mix of ex-NER and LNER steam, ending in 1958 with a small allocation of War Department 2-8-0 locomotives for the coal traffic along with a number of K3 2-6-0 moved from Tyneside.

Joint companies were the Axholme Joint Railway east of Gainsborough in north-west Lincolnshire, the Great Western & Great Central Joint Railway in and around Buckinghamshire, and the Manchester South Junction & Alrincham Joint Railway.

Aside from the H&BR, other absorbed or managed companies numbered the Colne Valley & Halstead Railway in north-east Essex, the East & West Yorkshire Union Railway, the mid-Suffolk Light Railway and the North Sunderland Railway on Wearside in County Durham.

Constituent founder member railway companies of the NER were the Leeds Northern Railway based in Leeds, the York, Newcastle & Berwick Railway and York & North Midland Railway both centred on York from the time of George Hudson.

Minor and associated companies numbered the Malton & Driffield Railway (east of York in the Yorkshire Wolds), the Aberford* Railway in Northumberland, the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway that had appealed to the NER for backing when the NBR began to encroach on its territory south of the Border, the Derwent Valley* Light Railway that ran north-south east of York and linked with the NER on the Scarborough line (Y&NMR) not far from the Rowntree chocolate factory at Huntington, and lastly the Easingwold* Light Railway that joined the ECML at Alne between York and Thirsk to run almost due east to the village of Easingwold for agricultural producers to send their goods to market in York for processing.

The companies' origins and regional requirements or output were divers, between the River Thames to the south and the north coast between Forres and Fraserburgh. The North Sea to the east all the way north provided food and trade. There were even more divers cultural differences, although the language was the same: business and pleasure. The geographical differences and obstacles were overcome with the help of able civil engineers.

* These were also connecting standard gauge railways that relied on the main railway to ease traffic and provide business.

Travellers and commuters

A joint, fanciful LNER, LMSR poster to advertise the attractions of Edinburgh to the well-heeled (few others could afford the hotel prices) showed the pleasant side of the city known to its inhabitants as 'Auld Reekie' - guess why
A joint, fanciful LNER, LMSR poster to advertise the attractions of Edinburgh to the well-heeled (few others could afford the hotel prices) showed the pleasant side of the city known to its inhabitants as 'Auld Reekie' - guess why | Source
The romance of 1930s express services - heightened by the flamour of cocktail bars - fancy a Manhattan at 120 mph? 'Flying Scotsman service could offer dining and a cinema car... ticket anyone?
The romance of 1930s express services - heightened by the flamour of cocktail bars - fancy a Manhattan at 120 mph? 'Flying Scotsman service could offer dining and a cinema car... ticket anyone? | Source
At York carriage works, where once David Bain's NER carriages were assembled, employees finish the varnishing stage on one of the teak pannelled Gresley non-corridor commuter carriages. Carriage building was undertaken at various LNER sites
At York carriage works, where once David Bain's NER carriages were assembled, employees finish the varnishing stage on one of the teak pannelled Gresley non-corridor commuter carriages. Carriage building was undertaken at various LNER sites | Source
Sentinel and Clayton railcars were introduced in the early LNER years to reduce passenger running costs on branch lines - prone to breaking down, unable to pull much in the way of goods or milk vans, some were replaced by steam adapted for push-pull
Sentinel and Clayton railcars were introduced in the early LNER years to reduce passenger running costs on branch lines - prone to breaking down, unable to pull much in the way of goods or milk vans, some were replaced by steam adapted for push-pull | Source
The Yorkshire coast - 1932 poster by Andrew Johnson. Accommodation could be found at farms, bed & breakfasts, hostels or hotels. Beach or hiking holiday? Try Robin Hood's Bay with camping coaches, wide vistas over moor and dales
The Yorkshire coast - 1932 poster by Andrew Johnson. Accommodation could be found at farms, bed & breakfasts, hostels or hotels. Beach or hiking holiday? Try Robin Hood's Bay with camping coaches, wide vistas over moor and dales | Source
Class  V3 2-6-2 tank locomotive with empty stock for the carriage sidings on Tyneside. Expresses ran to Newcastle for 'The Norseman' ferry connection to Norway - note the sleeping car in the formation (4th back from the locomotive)
Class V3 2-6-2 tank locomotive with empty stock for the carriage sidings on Tyneside. Expresses ran to Newcastle for 'The Norseman' ferry connection to Norway - note the sleeping car in the formation (4th back from the locomotive)
Interior Gresley non-smoking corridor 1st compartment with panorama views and highly chromed mirror frames
Interior Gresley non-smoking corridor 1st compartment with panorama views and highly chromed mirror frames | Source
This is one of the 3rd Class smoking compartments, again with views and mirrors. Many of these vehicles have been painstakingly restored by groups on the North Yorkshire Moors andSevern Valley railways
This is one of the 3rd Class smoking compartments, again with views and mirrors. Many of these vehicles have been painstakingly restored by groups on the North Yorkshire Moors andSevern Valley railways | Source
The inaugural run of a Silver Jubilee set in King George V's Silver Jubilee year, 1935, seen on the ECML at Hatfield, Hertfordshire
The inaugural run of a Silver Jubilee set in King George V's Silver Jubilee year, 1935, seen on the ECML at Hatfield, Hertfordshire | Source

At its inception the Company inherited a vast stable of locomotives, passenger and freight rolling stock.

Some dated back to Victoria's reign. Standardisation would take most of two decades and in some cases locomotives and stock inherited from smaller constituent companies were in turn inherited by British Railways in 1948. .

Of course many locomotives built by these companies before WWI were still in good working order, as was the stock. Signalling and communications equipment would be overhauled and updated naturally, although the East Coast Main Line from King's Cross to Edinburgh was already largely uniform in standard. Trunk routes elsewhere had also been updated, such as from Liverpool Street (London) to Norwich, Harwich and Great Yarmouth in the east, Marylebone to Manchester and Lincoln in the North and Midlands, York to Leeds and Manchester, York to Hull, Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Carlisle over the Waverley route and Edinburgh to Aberdeen in Scotland.

Almost from the outset Gresley had introduced new locomotives and passenger stock for the premier routes, although pre-WWI East Coast Joint Stock carriages would continue in use for some years to come (some have been preserved, such as at the National Railway Museum in York).

New Pacific-type locomotives of Class A1 (later to be re-boilered and re-classified A3) appeared, starting with No. 2500 'Windsor Lad' and a little later 'Flying Scotsman' appeared, to become the 'darling' of the public, at times to haul the train of the same name non-stop to Edinburgh Waverley Station. In the 1930s a new class of express locomotive made its appearance, such as No. 4500 'Garganey' (in March, 1939 she was re-named 'Sir Ronald Matthews' after the current Chairman). Nicknamed 'Streaks', these were 'teamed up' with corridor tenders from the outset for crews to relieve their colleagues at the halfway mark near Durham. In 1935 a number were built for the 'Silver Jubilee' service to mark the King George V's 25th anniversary. No. 2509 'Silver Link' appeared first, followed by No. 2510 'Quicksilver', 2511 'Silver King' and 2512 'Silver Fox'. These locomotives were partnered with trains of silver-grey streamlined carriages, and both locomotives and carriages were fitted with chrome-plated numbers and door furnishings. The 'Race to the North' was undertaken with zeal by both the LMS and LNER. One-upmanship had a new face.

Of course Gresley also produced designs for normal expresses and lighter locomotives, Class B17 'Sandringham' for East Anglian express services as well as the Harwich boat trains from London, and Manchester (the 'Hook Continental') as well as semi-fast workings. Shorter side corridor carriages were built for these and suburban or local services. Some carriages were designed as 'lavatory composites', three first class compartments at one end and four third class at the other, with toilets separating them and side corridors to link the compartments for access to the lavatories. One compartment at either end spanned the width of the vehicle. In all carriages mirrors and panorama views of destinations on the system - as had been introduced by the pre-Grouping companies - and well upholstered seats meant passengers could travel long distances in comfort.

Two strong, long wheel-based class of locomotive were introduced, Class P1 and P2 2-8-2, and allocated on the long Edinburgh- Aberdeen expresses. Given names from Sir Walter Scott's novels, they proved unsuitable for the route, however, with its sharp curves. More on them later. .

A new fleet of locomotives began to be built even before the LNER was officially 'launched'

Gresley's Class A1 2547 'Doncaster' takes the 'Flying Scotsman' train (10.00 from both Edinburgh and King's Cross simultaneously). Many of the class wee rebuilt in the 1930s to Class A3.
Gresley's Class A1 2547 'Doncaster' takes the 'Flying Scotsman' train (10.00 from both Edinburgh and King's Cross simultaneously). Many of the class wee rebuilt in the 1930s to Class A3. | Source
 Class A4 4462 'Great Snipe' brings an express through New Southgate in the north London suburbs during the 1930s
Class A4 4462 'Great Snipe' brings an express through New Southgate in the north London suburbs during the 1930s | Source
A4 No. 4482 'Golden Eagle' awaits the 'off' at King's Cross with the 'Flying Scotsman' service - top-hatted stationmaster in attendance
A4 No. 4482 'Golden Eagle' awaits the 'off' at King's Cross with the 'Flying Scotsman' service - top-hatted stationmaster in attendance
Class A4 4468 'Mallard' passes Barkston Junction on the ECML near Grantham in Lincolnshire with the York dynamometer carriage and one of the Silver jubilee sets on 3rd July 1938 to tackle her record-breaking run
Class A4 4468 'Mallard' passes Barkston Junction on the ECML near Grantham in Lincolnshire with the York dynamometer carriage and one of the Silver jubilee sets on 3rd July 1938 to tackle her record-breaking run | Source
Gresley Class K4 2-6-0, 'The Great Marquess' is seen here with a steam tour in the 1960s after being bought for preservation by Viscount Garnock - they were designed for the West Highland line fish trains to Glasgow
Gresley Class K4 2-6-0, 'The Great Marquess' is seen here with a steam tour in the 1960s after being bought for preservation by Viscount Garnock - they were designed for the West Highland line fish trains to Glasgow | Source
Gresley's experimental 4-6-4 'Hush-hush No. 1000 on the Forth Bridge in the mid-1930s
Gresley's experimental 4-6-4 'Hush-hush No. 1000 on the Forth Bridge in the mid-1930s
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, A1 2577 'Night Hawk' is seen from the Norman keep with a northbound express rattling over the (in)famous 'diamonds'
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, A1 2577 'Night Hawk' is seen from the Norman keep with a northbound express rattling over the (in)famous 'diamonds' | Source
P2 2-8-2 2004 'Mons Meg' - named after a Sir Walter Scott character - at rest. The class would be rebuilt to A2/2 when Edward Thompson took up the reins
P2 2-8-2 2004 'Mons Meg' - named after a Sir Walter Scott character - at rest. The class would be rebuilt to A2/2 when Edward Thompson took up the reins | Source

Shorter distance passenger services had not been ignored in the years before WWII.

A number of tank and tender locomotives was introduced on semi-fast, local and suburban services, and some pre-Grouping designs rebuilt or re-configured. One rebuild/reconfigured locomotive was Vincent Raven's Class H1 4-4-4 tank locomotive designed for Harrogate to Leeds or York trains, rebuilt to 4-6-2 Pacific specification and re-classified A8. These would augment the NER's Pacific tank stable, Classes A6 and A7. Class A6 itself was a rebuild of the 'Whitby Willie' 4-6-0 built for coastal passenger working between Middlesbrough-Whitby-Scarborough or Whitby-Malton. Class A7 had been built by the NER to work coal traffic in tightly laid-out mine exchange sidings where Class Q6 was unable to cope. Gresley Class V1 2-6-2 tank locomotives were introduced in the early 1930s to passenger traffic and was used on empty stock working to Heaton carriage sidings on Tyneside. Some Class V1 locomotives were fitted with higher pressure boilers and re-classified V3.

At around the same time tender locomotive Class D49 4-4-0 'Shires' were introduced on services in Yorkshire, the North East and eastern Scotland. The first, No. 234 'Yorkshire' was allocated to the Hull area. Some were rebuilt with Lentz rotary cam arrangement and named after fox hunting establishments, the first being No. 352 'Leicestershire' in June, 1932, re-classified D49/2 and renamed 'The Meynell'. The first of the class built as D49/2 was No. 201 'The Bramham Moor'. Class B17 4-6-0 were named after stately homes in the East Midlands and East Anglia. They were allocated to East Anglia and cross-country services from Manchester Victoria on the former GCR to Harwich on the 'Hook Continental' boat trains to connect with ferries across the North Sea to the Hook of Holland as well as Liverpool Street (London) to Harwich on account of their lower axle weight due to restrictions on East Anglian lines. A number were re-boilered in 1938. No. 2830 'Thoresby Park' .was renamed 'Tottenham Hotspur' and a number of others were likewise re-classified. Others again were renamed after East Anglian army regiments. Further B17s were re-named with royal themes to take the royal family to Kings Lynn in Norfolk for Sandringham House. One locomotive, No. 2870 was first named 'Manchester City', then for some reason in May 1937 re-named 'Tottenham Hotspur' and in September that year re-named again to 'City of London' for the Sandringham royal train.

Some locomotives were transferred out of their home region to Scotland or the North East and Yorkshire. A number of ex-GNR and ex-GCR freight locomotives as well as some passenger locomotives went to NBR territory under Gresley's 'Horses for courses' scheme. Class A5 Pacific tank locomotives were transferred to the North East to augment ageing NER classes, performing on the hilly coastal routes to Scarborough and inland from Whitby to Malton. It was their success on the sometimes slippery rails in this area that led to Gresley having Raven Class H1 rebuilt to A8. Because of their smaller wheels and therefore greater tractive power they were able to haul longer holiday trains on the route from Middlesbrough to Scarborough. .

LNER freight motive power

Class V2 'Green Arrow' was built as the showpiece to publicise the eponymous fast freight service from London to Edinburgh
Class V2 'Green Arrow' was built as the showpiece to publicise the eponymous fast freight service from London to Edinburgh | Source
Class K3 2-6-0 was designated 'mixed traffic', -  seen here with mixed goods, the locomotive might also be seen on weekend holiday specials...
Class K3 2-6-0 was designated 'mixed traffic', - seen here with mixed goods, the locomotive might also be seen on weekend holiday specials...
... Just as this class J39 0-6-0 was, seen here with a holiday excursion at Nottingham for the east coast (usually Mablethorpe or Skegness in Lincolnshire during 'Wakes Weeks' - factory or mill workers' holidays)
... Just as this class J39 0-6-0 was, seen here with a holiday excursion at Nottingham for the east coast (usually Mablethorpe or Skegness in Lincolnshire during 'Wakes Weeks' - factory or mill workers' holidays)
Class U1 2-8-8-2 articulated heavy freight locomotive - Not a Gresley design but contracted from Bsyert-Garratt for heavy coal trains on the steeply graded Wath line between Sheffield and Manchester. One only purchased,
Class U1 2-8-8-2 articulated heavy freight locomotive - Not a Gresley design but contracted from Bsyert-Garratt for heavy coal trains on the steeply graded Wath line between Sheffield and Manchester. One only purchased,

New freight vehicles were also brought out for the non-stop 'Green Arrow' fast goods service to Scotland...

An eponymous locomotive, Class V2 2-6-2 'Green Arrow' was unveiled in the mid-1930s as a 'flagship' representative of the Company's interests in the public eye. A smaller class, V4 'Bantam Cock' was introduced shortly before the outbreak of war and allocated to Scottish sheds. Only two were built before Gresley's sudden death 'in harness' in April, 1943. New freight and goods stock was built, older stock updated before it could be used on the new service. A new standard had to be maintained to secure the customers the Company sought in order to provide the revenue needed for its upkeep.

On the mineral front, new steel 20 ton capacity hoppers were built for the North Eastern and Eastern regions' coal and iron ore traffic. Lime was extracted in upland areas for processing in the steel-making process. There were bogie hopper wagons in existence from NER days, used on Tyneside for the export trade as well as shipment to power stations. The cycle could not be broken lest industry ground to a halt. A whole array of new freight vehicles was introduced to transport everything from bricks to horses, cattle and sheep.

Signalling installations

These were updated where necessary to cope with new standards of safety. New streamlined brick and concrete signal boxes were introduced on main routes to replace elderly structures scheduled for demolition or enlargement. Light signalling had been introduced on the ECML before WWI to replace the gas operated system. Many trunk routes were still controlled by elderly semaphore systems and would not see light signalling until after Nationalisation - in places well after.

Wooden posts were being replaced by steel, wires between signal boxes and posts encased in square steel tubing to protect them from extreme temperatures.

Station facilities

Some had not had a face lift in the century almost since 'Locomotion' first ran in September, 1825. New concrete, steel and glass concourses replaced old brick or timber ones. Goods handling facilities had also not been updated since Victoria's reign, and would not be at some outlying sites that were out of the public gaze. Besides which their 'quaintness' was what drew tourists to countryside branch lines. Mechanical handling was needed, however, at goods depots for loading containers and large crates etc. Many older depots were still equipped with manually operated goods cranes, to be either demolished completely and/or replaced by new buildings and hydraulically operated cranes.were brought to bear on speeding up delivery schedules between goods depots and either factories or domestic customers. In many instances mail was stacked in bags on open trolleys, as well as newspaper bundles, to be replaced by mobile cages hauled by re-chargeable electric platform tractors.

Money would be in short supply, however, as the 1920s and 1930s wore on during the slump. Where not in the public eye things plodded on as it had done in the course of the previous century. Gresley's penchant for fast passenger locomotives and new carriage stock for the 'showcase' lines meant the Company had largely to rely on pre-Grouping locomotive stock, the bigger constituents (GCR, GNR, NBR and NER) being more fortunate in this respect. Smaller players such as the GNoSR, GER and M&GNJR had to put up with whatever came their way when their own stock failed. The Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) who only had track, signalling and stations could not afford to be choosy about what the LNER deemed suitable for their purposes. The Easingwold Light Railway north of York was given a Class J72 0-6-0 tank locomotive, a few open wagons and a pigeon van to deal with their traffic. Fortunately, as with the DVLR, the terrain was no challenge and trains did not generally run faster than 20-25 mph. The DVLR's biggest traffic flow was in grain wagons for the Scottish whisky distillers, local or national bakeries and animal foodstuffs.

Wartime LNER

General Eisenhower leaves the armoured LNER carriages built for his personal use until the D-Day 1944 landings took forces to Europe
General Eisenhower leaves the armoured LNER carriages built for his personal use until the D-Day 1944 landings took forces to Europe | Source
An ambitious wartime poster, 'In War And Peace' displays the flags of the Allies  -were we to expect the Nationalist Chinese and Soviet Russians to travel on Britain's war-torn railway system?
An ambitious wartime poster, 'In War And Peace' displays the flags of the Allies -were we to expect the Nationalist Chinese and Soviet Russians to travel on Britain's war-torn railway system? | Source
1941, private owner coal wagons lined up in sidings for war traffic. Due to the shortage of open wagon stock they would not only be used on coal trains. A very long mixed freight train rounds the curve on the right
1941, private owner coal wagons lined up in sidings for war traffic. Due to the shortage of open wagon stock they would not only be used on coal trains. A very long mixed freight train rounds the curve on the right

The likelihood of hostilities with Germany re-arising in the later 1930s saw preparations set in motion to deal with exigencies (see 'HERITAGE - 51-52)

Intensive building and storage of resources was resumed. Although a number of freight locomotive classes had been built to augment older pre-Grouping stock (J30 0-6-0, K3 and K4 2-6-0, and V2 2-6-2) the Company still relied heavily on the older engines. The GCR, GNR, NBR and NER had invested copiously in heavy goods, freight and mineral motive power, but some of these engines were by 1939 a little antiquated.

Edward Thompson

With the death 'in harness' of Sir Nigel Gresley in April, 1941, his successor Edward Thompson embarked on new mixed traffic locomotive building. The Class B1 4-6-0 emerged from various works. Nicknamed 'Bongos' - a number were named after African antelopes - these locomotives were reliable and built to a standardised design with easy access to the coupled wheelsets without having to resort to hoists. They were easily maintained - unlike many of Gresley's designs, that depended on pre-War manpower levels for care - and were allocated around the LNER network between the Thames in England and the Dee in Scotland.

Class L1 2-6-4 tank engines were also introduced for short-haul passenger and mixed traffic around the system, allocated on suburban and rural routes, although they did not perform as well as Class A6 and A8 4-6-2 tank locomotives on undulating coastal routes. They were also introduced on more level East Anglian services for which they were better suited.

A number of Pacific tender engines were created from rebuilding Gresley's class P1 and P2 2-8-2 and the last batch of Class V2 2-6-2. These were re-classified A2/1, A2/2 and A2/3. Class A1 4470 'Great Northern' was also rebuilt to class A1/1. The rebuilt locomotives were allocated to sheds along the ECML between 'Top Shed' (King's Cross, London) and York.

A rebuilt medium 2-6-0 tender locomotive from Class K4 , K1/1 3445 'MacCailin Mor' was put back in service on the West Highland line fish trains. She would be the prototype for Thompson's successor Arthur Peppercorn's Class K1, allocated around the former LNER area of British Railways (Eastern, North Eastern and Scottish).

Thompson's new classes K1, A1 and A2 were redesigned after his retirement by Arthur Peppercorn, whose year in office saw a number of modifications but no new engines or stock.

He also introduced steel bodied main line and suburban carriages to augment or replace older stock. With their smoother outline bodies and elliptical opaque end windows similar to the Pullman style, these were distinctive in their appearance. On the suburban and stopping trains the lavatory composite composites were also fitted with the opaque oval toilet windows halfway along the vehicle. A short 4 wheeled general purpose van design with the same end profile as the suburban carriages was added to the fleet, as well as full brakes for express baggage and parcels, to be attached to express passenger services. Some were later to be found in parcels train formations as new British Railways stock was introduced.


Edward Thompson locomotive builds and re-builds

Class A1/1 was a rebuild of Gresley's A1, later rebuilt to A3. There were howls of derision amongst the pro-Gresley camp, although the engine was given a new lease of life
Class A1/1 was a rebuild of Gresley's A1, later rebuilt to A3. There were howls of derision amongst the pro-Gresley camp, although the engine was given a new lease of life | Source
Thompson's Class A2/1 were rebuilds of the four-strong Gresley class P1 2-8-2 allocated to the north of Scotland, as with Class P2 (below) . This is No. 3698 'Waverley', one of the Sir Walter Scott characters
Thompson's Class A2/1 were rebuilds of the four-strong Gresley class P1 2-8-2 allocated to the north of Scotland, as with Class P2 (below) . This is No. 3698 'Waverley', one of the Sir Walter Scott characters | Source
Thompson rebuild of Gresley class P2 2-8-2 seen here as Class A2/2. The wheelbase of the P2 was too long for the curves on the Edinburgh-Aberdeen route, and after rebuilding were allocated on the ECML between London and York
Thompson rebuild of Gresley class P2 2-8-2 seen here as Class A2/2. The wheelbase of the P2 was too long for the curves on the Edinburgh-Aberdeen route, and after rebuilding were allocated on the ECML between London and York | Source
Class A2/3 No. 517 'Ocean Swell' was one of the newly configured Class V2 2-6-2
Class A2/3 No. 517 'Ocean Swell' was one of the newly configured Class V2 2-6-2 | Source
Class B1 was Thompson's 'nod' to the mixed traffic fleet, newly built in the later years of WWII. Several have been preserved as representatives of a locomotive popular with crews
Class B1 was Thompson's 'nod' to the mixed traffic fleet, newly built in the later years of WWII. Several have been preserved as representatives of a locomotive popular with crews | Source
Class B2 was a rebuild of Gresley's B17 'Manchester City' and re-named April, 1946 to 'Royal Sovereign' for George VI's train to take the family to Sandringham
Class B2 was a rebuild of Gresley's B17 'Manchester City' and re-named April, 1946 to 'Royal Sovereign' for George VI's train to take the family to Sandringham | Source
Class L1 2-6-4 tank locomotive no. 9000 retored to original livery - seen here at Gateshead near Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Class L1 2-6-4 tank locomotive no. 9000 retored to original livery - seen here at Gateshead near Newcastle-upon-Tyne | Source

Post-War services thrived into the 1950s, although the writing was on the wall...

With relaxed petrol rationing (Nasser and the Suez crisis in 1956 notwithstanding), increased car ownership and more frequent bus or coach journeys over longer distances, less travellers used the rail services. Country bus services ran into the heart of villages, whereas stations were often at least a couple of miles away.

Nevertheless there were still full trains on main and trunk lines, and when railway speed restrictions were lifted in the 1950s to shorten journey times some drifted back to take the train. It was after all more leisurely and on longer trips there were buffet cars to visit for a cuppa, a snack and a chat. Many still took the train from cities to seaside towns, such as at Scarborough and Whitby or Bridlington, where whole factories shut down in Bradford, Leeds, Halifax and Huddersfield or Sheffield. Trains were even routed from Glasgow via Edinburgh to Scarborough by way of a little known junction at Pilmoor between York and Thirsk. Even with a reversal over the bridge near Malton on the Driffield line, and forward onto the York-Scarborough line it was quicker than a coach or car.

Then came the late 1960s and package holidays by air to the Mediterranean, that signalled the end of seaside extravaganzas, ice cream, kiss-me-quick hats, toffee apples, candy floss, sticks of rock (rolled, brittle candy), saucy picture postcards and walks on the promenade... Although not forever, but that's another story.

Thompson passenger stock - corridor and non-corridor restoration

Under restoration by the LNER Carriage Association (LNERCA) at Pickering on the NYMR - TK1523 seen from the corridor connecting end in LNER simulated teak finish with white lead roof
Under restoration by the LNER Carriage Association (LNERCA) at Pickering on the NYMR - TK1523 seen from the corridor connecting end in LNER simulated teak finish with white lead roof | Source
Thompson non-corridor brake 3rd, also restored to original livery
Thompson non-corridor brake 3rd, also restored to original livery | Source
In British Railways plain crimson livery, Lavatory Composite Diagram 338 shows the central opaque oval toilet window with ventilation slider. The three 1st class compartments were at the near end (right)
In British Railways plain crimson livery, Lavatory Composite Diagram 338 shows the central opaque oval toilet window with ventilation slider. The three 1st class compartments were at the near end (right) | Source
The LNER armorial, the coat of arms that incorporated the effigy of Mercury, messenger to the gods with the rose and thistle of England and Scotland (although the red rose is officially that of Lancaster, not York)
The LNER armorial, the coat of arms that incorporated the effigy of Mercury, messenger to the gods with the rose and thistle of England and Scotland (although the red rose is officially that of Lancaster, not York) | Source

© 2018 Alan R Lancaster

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    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      That's good Liz. Best way to go for good products. I tend to 'adapt' my stock for the sake of realism. I know it cheapens them, but there are people out there who see the 'adaptations' as good modelling technique. DOGA have an annual competition at the summer AGM (held at the Model Railway Club premises near King's Cross), and weathering as well as good renumbering or detailing is greatly appreciated. Pristine models wouldn't get a look-in. That's the model railway world for you. Mind you, having said that, some excellent finishes on kits and scratchbuilt models are also appreciated.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      Thanks for the advice. I will bear it in mind when he gets older. We sold the railway via an auctioneer and did reasonably well.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Liz, I hope you got a good price for them (mint condition, boxed etc). There are some unscupulous dealers out there and families who don't know the real worth of what they're selling get ripped off.

      I think you might have started grandson off on the right track with Thomas. Keeping him there is down to nurture. There are a lot of model railway clubs who have a junior section and encourage their efforts. A few model railway magazines have junior sections for the young 'uns to show off their talents. Get him a subscription to either Hornby Magazine (nothing to do with the manufacturer) or British Railway Modelling to see what the 'outside world' has to offer. It pays dividends. A lot of model societies die off for lack of 'young blood'.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      Thanks. I have done. Your articles are impressively thorough. Sadly, as we had neither the space nor time, my father's collection was sold when we had to clear the house. Someone somewhere will be making use of it. I did, however, buy my grandson recently a Thomas train set for his first birthday.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello again Liz, shame your Dad didn't manage to complete your layout. If you go to my profile page here click on the 'Thoraldby' slide link.I sold that to a fellow Double O Gauge Association (DOGA) member early this year and now I've started on another, 'Ainthorpe Junction', the progress being charted on the page as it goes along. Further down is a page I'm still in the process of finishing for a portable mini-layout, 'Thorpe Carr', which awaits its fiddleyard unit (off-scenery train sorting area). You could in theiry still embark on a layout of your own, as there are aids and tools available now that weren't around even ten years ago.

      Enjoy.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      I mentioned Scotsman and Mallard, as those are the ones I remember from 40 years ago. We did have others as well, but many never saw the light of day from their boxes, as my Dad never fulfilled his ambition of finishing a layout in the loft!

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Liz, 'Scotsman' and 'Mallard' were just flagships, with a fleet of smaller and 'less significant others' behind that kept the system afloat.

      The colliers kept the fleet going, the minesweepers made sure the way was safe for the elite to look good in their finery. The work was put in by a myriad of mixed traffic locomotives, to bring passengers to the big names and take them away again at their main destinations. The goods engines were there to make sure everybody got their Christmas goodies and the mineral engines transported the means to make steel to build bridges and rails.

      That was the 'Merry-go-Round' of the LNER. Myself I prefer mucky old Q6s, J27s, K1s and B1s. I've got one Peppercorn A1, 60147 'North Eastern' (second-hand) and I'll probably get another second-hand one and name that 'Vincent Raven' or 'Wilson Worsdell' (both Tyneside allocations, Gateshead and Heaton).

      I like 'Scotsman', she's a very work(wo)manlike machine, and so is 'Mallard', don't get me wrong. I just prefer the 'also rans' in the race.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      I always felt a little put out that when my Dad assigned 2 railway companies each to myself and my brother, he got LNER, which meant the Flying Scotsman and Mallard amongst others.

    • alancaster149 profile imageAUTHOR

      Alan R Lancaster 

      7 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Pamela, those were the days, eh? ... There were many who never looked back, who'd got bits of cinder in their eyes when they put their heads out of the window. I'm a member of several railway societies, shareholder in the North York Moors Railway (NYMR) and Wensleydale Railway, and I get a lump in my throat at the sight of 'our' engines (one of the societies I'm a member of is NELPG - see the page link near the top of my profile page), with four steam locomotives in the 'stable', one being worked on at Hopetown, Darlington in what had been the S&DR Carriage Works).

      It was grit, grime, soot and oil, and young lads of 14 left school before WWII to become cleaners on the long road through the levels to, maybe, shedmaster or locomotive inspector. They had to learn the rule book inside out, over 400 pages of it, pass their exams at each stage. It carried on until the 1960s and with dieselisation things got a bit cleaner. Many still miss it, and youngsters - some girls and grown women - join the ladder on preserved lines to become cleaners, firemen (stokers), drivers... Come and look for yourself one day on the NYMR.

      Ms Cookson penned an era few think back on with fondness, of means testing for the unemployed, union reps and company men brawling in the streets, two room slum houses with community taps (there were still some in Leeds when I went there in 1964 with fellow students to a print firm near Armley).

      It's great to look back, Pamela, at a safe distance, but it's like your frontier towns in the Wild West, with cattle stampedes, angry 'natives' and angrier sheriffs or marshals. Nice in the pictures, a bit dangerous on real life. Remember that film 'Westworld' with Yul Brynner where the robots got out of control?.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 months ago from Just Arizona Now

      Alan, what a fantastic article and selection of photos! I will show my husband this, too, as I know he will almost inhale it. I love the way this article and these photographs get the mind into such an imagination mode especially pertaining to days gone by, individuals and families of yesteryear, nameless to us, but real people who rode the trains; knew the excitement in a railroad station and a railroad car -- the sounds, the scents. Then to look at the faces of the workers in these photos of days-gone by. Real people who were loved, who worked hard and who were immersed in the culture of that era. P.S. I also saw Tyneside mentioned under one of your photos which, if memory serves me still, was often mentioned in English Catherine Cookson's novels. Great writing!

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