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#VE75 – Engines at War – Commemorating 75 Years since VE Day – Austerity 2-8-0

Robert Riddles and The Austerity 2-8-0

Perhaps during these unsettled time’s, it is appropriate that we talk about The Austerity Locomotive. Of all of my husband’s collection of 7 ¼” gauge engines I often feel that “The Austerity” is his favourite.

Let us first consider this auspicious locomotive designer Robert Riddles a man of considerable talent and foresight. The WD (War Department) 2-8-0 Austerity was designed by Robert Riddles who was the first chief mechanical engineer for British Railways.
Riddles was born in 1892 and started his career at the Crewe works of the London and North Western Railway as an apprentice in 1909, whilst training in the Mechanics Institute classes he also attended a course in electrical engineering.

He completed his apprenticeship in 1913 and then joined the Royal Engineers in France to serve in the Great War. He was badly wounded in France but returned to the LNWR at Crewe to become “The Bricks and Mortar Assistant ” with responsibility for building the new erecting shop in 1920.

On completion of the erecting shop he was put in charge of a small production progress department, and was sent to Horwich to study the methods used by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. During this time Riddles gained a lot of experience which enabled him to make a significant input and have a major influence over the re-organization at ” The Crewe ” works between 1925 and 1927.

During 1923 The LNWR became part of The London, Midland and Scottish Railway, hence on completion of the re-organisation at Crewe, Riddles was sent to re-organize the ex-Midland works at Derby that had by now become part of The LMS Railway. In his task here he was aided by the then Derby works manager H.G. Ivatt.
Interestingly during the general strike in May 1926 Riddles volunteered as a train driver, taking trains between Crewe, Manchester and Carlisle, he later claimed that this experience was an invaluable aid to his design work later.

In 1933 Riddles moved to Euston becoming assistant to Sir William Stanier (Chief Mechanical Engineer). Prior to the Second World War he moved to Glasgow as Mechanical and Electrical Engineer for Scotland. This was the first time that the two engineering disciplines had been combined in one title.
It was in 1939 at the start of the Second World War, that Riddles moved to the Ministry of Supply, becoming Director of Transportation Equipment. It was here that he later designed The WD Austerity 2-8-0 and The WD Austerity 2-10-0.

The Austerity 2-8-0 was first developed as a heavy freight war steam locomotive. The need to move heavy freight efficiently and quickly during the war effort was at first met by the LMS class 8F (A version sharing many common components with the Black Five) designed by Sir William Stanier.
The need for a simpler, more cost-effective heavy freight locomotive, which was quicker and easier to build gave rise to the Austerity. During 1943 Riddles modified the original design of the 8F to prioritise lower production costs.

The Austerity has a boiler of much simpler construction being parallel rather than the tapered boiler of the 8F and a round topped firebox rather than the 8F Belpaire firebox
He redesigned the fire box from the complex structure of the copper Belpaire fire box in the 8F, to a round topped steel construction fire box, castings and forgings were replaced by fabrications, cutting costs and production times.

As an added consideration some of the 2-8-0’s that were bound for Europe, were fitted with an air compressor on the front of the engine to make the engines compatible with the continental rolling stock that depended on air brakes. After the war, and on their return to Britain, these compressors were removed, in most cases. Some exceptions being certain locomotives used on the Southern Railway (later to become Southern Region) which ran a mix of air and vacuum brakes in some areas. Some merry-go-round wagons used on bulk coal deliveries to power stations also required compressed air to operate their bottom doors.

A further modification was also made to allow the engine to pull freight on less robust rail track. Riddles Austerity design weighted the driving wheels to balance the load of the coupling rods and connecting rods in the vertical meridian only, ignoring the horizontal force of the piston rods, pistons and Connecting rods (reciprocating mass).
Accepted practice was to add a third of the reciprocating mass to the rotating balance weights on the wheels, this reduced the fore and aft hunting at speed but introduced hammer blow into the cycle vertically. This kept the balance weights equal to weight of the motion in the vertical plain only.

The weight of the balance weights on the wheels was therefore considerably reduced and the effects of ” wheel hammer,” as the extra compensating weight built into the wheel (positioned opposite the crank pin) pounds down on to the track at each rotation, like a heavy hammer hitting the track at every cycle.

There is of course a drawback to this concession the engine will have a tendency to “Hunt” surging forward and back ( rather like a car with kangarooing petrol) as the horizontal force is unbalanced, fortunately this only seemed to become an issue above the speed of 40 to 45 miles per hour. There are tales of driver and firemen hopping onto the tender plate until engine speed dropped and curtailed this phenomena, as heavy freight trains rarely if ever exceeded 40 mph this was not a big drawback.

Riddles actually produced two very successful Austerity designs. As well as the 2-8-0 he also designed a 2-10-0, and the Hunslet Engine Company produced a third an 0-6-0 ST. All were designed to be cheap, easy to build and maintain and to burn indifferent coal.

They proved to be powerful for their size and could run-on poor-quality track. During the war these WD locomotives were used both in the UK and in Europe. It might be prudent to add at this point that these engines were designed and built during a crises with a service expectancy of only two years, however so many 2-8-0’s were produced that they had to be pressed back into freight service after the war due to shortages and the depleted state of the railways. Incredibly many Austerity’s remained in service until the end of steam, in normal use on British Mainline Railways

The individual railway companies knew that they would inherit The WD engines once the hostilities were over. They, of course, would have preferred to have the Stanier 8F’S but it was the Austerities that were built to aid the war effort.

It was the LNER which obtained the Austerity 2-8-0’s in large numbers after the war, reclassifying them 07. They of course went on to be inherited by British Railways after nationalization, and many of the 732 engines went on to give good service on slow heavy freight traffic almost to the end of steam.

In total 935 “2-8-0’s” were built making “The Austerity” one of the most produced classes of British Steam Locomotive. They were built at the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow and The Vulcan Foundry in Lancashire.

Sadly, they were withdrawn from service between 1959 and 1967. None of the 2-8-0’S were preserved, however one survivor of its type, originally built at the Vulcan Foundry in 1945, was returned to Britain from Sweden via The Netherlands in 1971.

As to Riddles himself he continued to influence the design and structure of the railways even influencing the appearance of the BR fleet. He believed like Ford that you could have any colour you liked as long as it was black. For the livery selection board he paraded a perfectly turned out LMS 5MT in LNWR black which stole the show. Riddles retired from BR in 1953 and died on 18th June 1983 aged 90 years.


Here is a link to a lovely image of the North British Locomotive Company drawing office staff lined up in front of a 2-8-0 completed locomotive.

Read more about Robert Riddles

Read more here:

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#VE75 – Engines at War – Commemorating 75 Years since VE Day – Austerity 2-10-0

Robert Riddles and the Austerity 2-10-0

At the start of WW2 in 1939 the Railways faced a huge challenge. For the best part of a century, railways had monopolised most of land based transport apart from the tram systems in larger cities, however, after the Great War Buses, Coaches and Lorries had encroached on the Railways business. At the start of WW2 with fuel rationing looming much of this traffic would return to the Railways. This would place a great burden on a system that at the time was under-resourced. This differed from the period immediately prior to the Great War when the Railways were prosperous. Unfortunately in 1938 The railways had not had time to recover and repair after the Great War and the regrouping of the Railways in 1923 into The Big Four, The London North Eastern Railway (LNER), The Southern Railway (SR), The Great Western Railway (GWR), The London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). All the Railways in 1938 had a backlog of maintenance and were in dire need of modernisation.

1938 had also been a grim year for the British economy and most of the Railway’s shareholders were ordinary working people, with very modest portfolios who had hung onto their shares during the lean years of worldwide depression.   Receiving little in the way of dividends but retaining their faith in the Railways as an institution that was central to the life of the nation. It was in this spirit of faith and support that the Railways entered the war years, with an expectation that they could rise to the challenge but reality woefully undercapitalized and behind in maintenance and overdue modernization. However, the British Railway men and women rose to the challenge.

The Railways estimated that they would need £5million to prepare them for war. The government offered £4million a pattern of underfunding that continued throughout the war.   On September 24th, 1938, the Railway Executive Committee (REC) was established, to run the Railways if war broke out, and answering directly to the Minister of Transport. This would effectively nationalise “The Railways” for the second time in the 20th Century. Chamberlain’s pleas for appeasement afforded The (REC) some extra time to prepare for war but in August of 1939 the Emergency Power Defence Act was passed handing the government powers to seize the assets of transportation providers to aid the war effort.


At this point however a fresh crisis loomed as the railway unions pressed for a pay rise with the threat of a strike. The threat was withdrawn after an emotional plea from Ernest Brown (Minster of Labour) who stated “We may need you to get the children to safety” and also he negotiated a small pay rise.

All the railway locomotives built to service the war effort had economy and speed of build as a premium consideration. Theses engines were built to run on poorer fuel and substandard track when required. They needed to be built quickly and cheaply to meet the demands of the countries needs and the requirements of the armed forces at war.

You will find that there is a small essay already in the system about The WD Austerity 2-8-0. A fantastic locomotive designed to be economical to build and operate only throughout the duration of the war. In fact, these engines continued to give good service for many years after the end of hostilities, and in fact the end of British mainline steam. Two other British War Department Locomotives were specifically built for the war effort and operated during the war years.

All three Locomotive types were called Austerity one was a larger version of the 2-8-0, the Austerity 2-10-0, the subject of this article. There was also a smaller version, the Austerity 0-6-0 designed by “The Hunslet Engine Company” still immensely powerful for its’ size, but more suited to shorter trips and shunting. The Hunslet 0-6-0 is dealt with in the next article.

The WD Austerity 2-10-0 was the logical evolution of the Austerity 2-8-0. It spread its’ load over more wheels and for economy and to facilitate easy maintenance was built to have interchangeable parts with the 2-8-0. Its lighter axle load made it more suitable to run on secondary lines. The 2-10-0 was designed with a parallel boiler, a rocking grate and a larger round topped wide fire box which was positioned over the driving wheels. This arrangement was very common in the United States but unusual in Britain where wide fire boxes were only fitted if the locomotive had a trailing pony (Cartazzi truck), in 4-4-2- and 4-6-2-wheel configuration locomotives.


The WD Austerity 2-10-0’s were the first of this type to run in Britain and the first major 10 coupled engine design. They were proceeded only by three 0-10-0 locomotives. These were the Great Eastern Railway aptly named “Decapod”    and The Midland “Lickey Banker”  The 2-10-0 wheel arrangement was later employed by Riddles when he designed for British Rail, The BR Standard 9F (freight) engine, this also had a wide fire box distributed over the rear driving wheels.

The build of the Austerity 2-10-0’s was undertaken by The Northern British Locomotive company.   At first 100 2-10-0 Locomotives were introduced between 1943 and 1944 these were given the War Department numbers 3650-3749 (later revised to 73650-73749). A second consignment of 50 engines were introduced during 1945 their War Department numbers were 73750-73799. 20 of the first wave of production were shipped out to the Middle East, the remainder were all pressed into service with the British Army in France after D Day.

At the end of the war these locomotives were distributed to the Netherlands, Greece and 4 were sent to Syria. British Rail acquired 25 Austerity 2-10-0’s, (73774-73798 later changed again to 90750-90774). These engines were mainly operated by British Rail’s Scottish Region pulling heavy freight trains until they were withdrawn from service between 1961 and 1962. Two Austerity 2-10-0’s numbers 73651 and 73797 remained in War Department service, after the war years, at Longmoor Military Railway. In 1952 these proud engines were renumbered to 600 and 601 respectively they were also given names “Gordon” and “Kitchener”.

Images of Gordon:

Video of only known 7 ¼” gauge model of GER Decapod

Note: Images obtained under creative commons via Google.

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#VE75 – Engines at War – Commemorating 75 Years since VE Day – Hunslet Austerity 0-6-0

Hunslet Engine Company and the Austerity 0-6-0

The final of the three commissioned War Locomotives was not designed by Riddles.

At the outbreak of the second world war The War Department had already selected The LMS Jinty 3F 0-6-0 for its standard shunting locomotive, however Hunslet persuaded them that a simplified version of the Hunslet 50550 design would be far more suited to the task.

Having accepted this the first of these Austerity 0-6-0 Saddle Tank engines was completed at the Leeds works at the start of 1943. To meet the urgent demand Hunslet subcontracted some of the construction of these Loco’s to Andrew Barclay Sons and Co, W. G. Bagnall, Hudswell Clarke, Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns and The Vulcan Foundry to expedite delivery. A total of 377 were built for the War Department by 1944. A further two had been built for the collieries without the permission of the Ministry of Supply.

After D Day the 0-6-0’s were pressed into service in Europe and North Africa and of course were utilised on the docks, and at Military sites around Britain. They were classified as Austerity 0-6-0 ST 4F.

At the end of the war only about 100 0-6-0’s remained in the Military whilst the remainder ended up working in the Collieries and a few remained in Europe. The LNER obtained a fair number and added larger coal bunkers to increase, range and save re-bunkering stops. These were classified as Class J94, to this day around 70 Austerity 0-6-0 s with slight design variations, but basically the Hunslet design, still exist.

They are extremely popular on preserved lines being powerful, a modern design for a steam engine and relatively easy to maintain. To a certain extent batch production of certain spare parts has been undertaken, thus helping to keep costs in check, this being an economic proposition because of the large survival rate of this design, indeed a credit to Hunslet.

It is safe to say that these great locomotives served their country well throughout and beyond the war years, and on until the end of Steam, even though some were not initially designed to be in service after the war.

List of some preserved Austerity 0-6-0’s: 

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#VE75 – Engines at War – Commemorating 75 Years since VE Day – Oliver Bulleid

Q1 0-6-0 Tender Locomotive.

As well as the 4-6-2 Pacific’s, both Merchant Navy and the lighter West Country (Battle of Britain) Pacific class, Bulleid also designed an 0-6-0 tender locomotive for the war effort. This was classed the Q1 and was primarily a freight engine introduced early in 1942.   The complete production of each class was as follows Merchant Navy class 40, Light Pacific’s 110, and the Q1’s 40.

Bulleid employed as many innovative ideas in this locomotive as he had in the two 4-6-2 Spam Can Pacific class designs. As in all these war time engines a lot of the design features were heavily influenced by the conditions at the time. Speed of build, ease of repair and above all economy in both construction and running costs.

The Q1 is a rather ungainly looking 0-6-0 Tender Engine, having no running plates and great chunky Box form ( Bulleid Firth Brown ) Wheels, shared with the Pacific’s, that to me seem to be more noticeable than on the Pacific engines. It is an Austerity Locomotive and was a development, or evolved if you like, from the Original British 0-6-0 Q class tender Freight Engine, which was, at the time, the most modern freight locomotive on the railways. The Q class was the last engine designed by Richard Maunsell (Oliver Bulleid’s predecessor at the SR ). Unfortunately, added to the Q1’s other ungainly assets, the arrangement of the boiler cladding is not a clean line and adds to the locomotive’s ungainliness. Over the years it has acquired a large number of rather unkind nicknames including “Ugly Duckling”, “Biscuit Tin”, “Biscuit Barrel”, “Clockworks”, “Coffee Pot” (I thought that name was reserved for engines with vertical boilers) and the final insult “Frankenstein’s”.

On the other hand, the great beauty of the Q1’s is that they were capable of hauling loads that would normally require a much larger engine. Bulleid developed this amazing locomotive because at the outbreak of war in 1939 the Southern Railway was pushed into the front line of the strategic war effort due to its proximity to Europe. The SR needed to offer high route availability and a much greater haulage capacity.

Bulleid designed the Q1 to require a minimum amount of raw material in the build, with all the superfluous features (frills) stripped away. Function was rated above appearance and style. Bulleid, in designing the Q1, was mindful of the Austerity regime that all war time engines need to conform to, and to this end he designed his locomotives to fit through the coach washers, so that at a time when man power was at a premium, the engines as well as the coaches could be washed automatically.

The boiler lagging was made of a glass fibre insulation material known as “Ida glass”, which was cheap and plentiful at the time, but could not support any weight so a separate casing had to be built and boiler rings adapted to lend the Ida glass support. Unlike his Pacific’s, a copper rather than a steel fire box, was utilized. The wheels were a smaller 5 ft 1” diameter adaption of the Bulleid Firth Brown (BFB) type used on the Pacific’s. The Q1 had only two cylinders unlike the Pacific’s three, with Stephenson link outside admission piston valves, having a travel in full gear of 6 ½”, and a steam lap of 1 5/8”. It was provided with a five-nozzle blast pipe. The boiler design was based on that of The Lord Nelson Class Locomotive and the fire box utilized the same throat plate as did its back plate. The boiler barrel measured 10ft 6 inches in length and a diameter of 5 ft at the front widening to 5ft 9 inches at the back. It sported a grate of 27sqft and a heating surface, consisting of 209 tubes with 21 flues, totalling 1,302sqft. That combined with the fire box of 170sqft gave a total evaporating heating surface of 1,472sqft. This all incorporated a superheating surface of 218sqft very Impressive!

In 1942 The first 20 of these impressive locomotives were built in the Brighton works followed by a further 20 constructed at Ashford. Powerful and exceptionally light the Q1’s formed the backbone of the Southern Railway heavy freight capability over a wide variety of routes. In totality the engine weighed just slightly over 90tons making it accessible to 97% of all the Southern Railway routes. Bulleid had designed the most powerful 0-6-0 Tender steam locomotive ever to run on Britain’s railways.

Sadly, only one Q1 has survived into preservation. The very first of its class the 33001 C1 has been preserved and can be seen at The National Railway Museum in York. It is presented in its original SR livery with its original number. Before the Q1 was installed in York in 2004, she worked on the Bluebell line in East Sussex. As a point of interest for our younger readers, The Locomotive “Neville” featured in the Thomas and Friends children’s television series is based on a Q1 Number 33010.  Video of Q1 on turntable at NRM.

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#VE75 – Engines at War – Commemorating 75 Years since VE Day – Oliver Bulleid

Heavy and Light Pacific’s

Oliver Vaughan Snell Bulleid – 19/09/1882 – 25/04/1970. Born in Invercargill, New Zeeland to immigrant British parents. We felt that as this is the 50th anniversary of Bulleid’s death it would be appropriate to explore some of this noted engineers’ achievements during the second world war.

At the outbreak of The Second World War Oliver Bulleid had been employed as Chief Mechanical Engineer for The Southern Railway (SR) since 1937. During his time with SR he developed many well-known locomotives. It was during 1938 that Bullied gained approval to build the Merchant Navy and West Country class of modern 4-6-2 Pacific locomotives.

Bullied had worked and trained under Gresley, and for a time had travelled Europe whist he worked with the Board of Trade. Bulleid drew on these experiences when he was drawing up the designs for the new 4-6-2. He employed all of the most up to date equipment in these engines, incorporating partially welded boiler’s and fire box’s, forgoing the traditional original rivet design.

He also employed Thermic Syphon’s. These are heat exchange elements incorporated into the fire box and combustion chambers of the steam boilers, because these elements are directly exposed to the radiant heat of combustion they have a high evaporation capacity relative to their size, and if arranged vertically they also provide very good water circulation by means of this thermo-syphon effect, circulating the water by passive heat exchange based on natural convection ( a method employed today in solar water heaters ). This provided the 4-6-2 locomotives with a complex but compact and lightweight means of increasing boiler capacity.

Bulleid believed that it was better that the working parts of a steam locomotive were not exposed to the open air and elements. He wanted to draw steam locomotive design closer to the internal combustion engines which enclosed working parts and pumped lubricants to enable smooth running.

To this end he designed and patented the radial chain driven valve motion, which he immersed in an oil bath. Unfortunately design errors in the casing for this caused leaks to form over time, this was problematic if the valve gear was not maintained properly and was of course an extra difficulty under war conditions. Bulleid aimed for a boiler pressure of 280 lb the highest ever used in England, the barrel of the boiler was tapered but on the base side only. All SR Locomotives designed by Bulleid are fitted with B.F.B ( Bulleid Firth Brown ) a complex form of disc wheel which gave an even tyre support. In America similar wheels are known as Boxpok wheels, however these are of segment construction unlike the BFB which is one solid casting. Instead of spokes the wheels have contoured solid struts throughout the wheel, rendering them shatter proof, extraordinarily strong and easy on track ware. These wheels did not completely eliminate the need for balance weights on the wheels however combined with the setup of the Bulleid valve gear, and 3 cylinder layout it did eliminate wheel hammer blow. Later, when some of the locomotives were retro fitted with Walschaerts valve gear, balance weights had to be added to the 4-6-2 engine wheels.   They also featured multi-jet exhausts.

The whole simple locomotive was streamlined and encased and was fondly named the “Spam Can” after its resemblance to the oblong can of “SPAM” luncheon meat.

The first Merchant Navy Pacific 4-6-2’s were introduced in early 1941 and as the first ten emerged from the Eastleigh works, they were named after well-known shipping lines. The very first was Merchant Navy 21C1 Channel Packet after this a further 39 were built, the last one being Pacific 35030 Elder Dempster Lines.   A remarkably similar but slightly smaller lighter version Pacific as also designed utilizing the same mechanical principals, but with a higher route availability, enabling them to be used on lighter track as found on some secondary routes. The complete class of this lighter type of locomotive amounted to 110 and they too were classified not as passenger locomotives but mixed traffic motive power. Many the class bore the names of the West Country towns and cities in the area’s they served; hence the Class were referred to as the West Countries. Later, some were named after wartime aerodromes, squadron’s or famous war leaders, for example “Biggin Hill”, “Squadron” and of course “Winston Churchill” which hauled his funeral train. These so named members of the class became a sub-class The Battle of Britain Class.

Bulleid also designed the SR Q1 an SR Austerity type 0-6-0 tender engine (A truly Ugly engine) for the War Effort.