Posted on Leave a comment

#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.

Posted on Leave a comment

#VE75 – The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway and the war effort.

What links Chitty Bang Bang, a Cartoon Dog, and the World’s Smallest Armoured Train?

The Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway is a 15” gauge light railway in Kent.   Fondly known as Kent’s Mainline in Miniature. Originally constructed back in the 1920’s it was the brainchild of Captain J.E.P. Howey and Count Louis Zborowski.

Captain Howey was a racing driver millionaire, land owner and former army officer. Count Zborowski was an eminently well-known racing driver famous for owning and racing the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Mercedes. They became friends through their love of racing.

The Count was very keen to build a fully operational 15” gauge railway and Howey was inspired by Zborowski’s vision. Despite a failed attempt to purchase The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in The Lake District, the Count went ahead and ordered two Pacific 4-6-2 Locomotives (Green Goddess and Northern Chief). These engines were to be designed by Henry Greenly and built in Colchester by Davey, Paxman and Company. Sadly, before they were delivered Count Zborowski was killed whilst racing at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix. He died on 19th October 1924 at only 29 years of age.

Captain Howey was left with two 15” gauge locomotives and no track to run them on. He commissioned Henry Greenly to help him find a site for his railway and it was Greenly who suggested Romney Marsh.

So it was that the first stage of the railway was finally opened on 16 July 1927 when Hercules (Mountain class 4-8-2 ) hauled the inaugural train from Hythe to New Romney. Captain Jack Howey always held the idea of extending the line and finally in 1928 double tracks carried the trains on to Dungeness via Greatstone forming a fantastic mainline ride of 13½ miles. After its opening people flocked to ride on the smallest mainline railway in the world.

Sadly, the war years took their toll on this railway, but also brought it great honour as you will see later in this text. The line was requisitioned by the War Department and was used extensively to transport materials, goods and personnel during the construction of P.L.U.T.O. (Pipeline Under The Ocean)

Operation P.L.U.T.O. was the construction and laying of an undersea pipeline between England and France. British engineers, oil companies and the British armed forces worked together to construct an undersea pipeline to support Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy during June 1944. P.L.U.T.O. Could also be said to suit the phrase Petroleum Under The Ocean as well as, Pipe Line Under The Ocean.   Either way it spells Pluto the name of the comic dog that featured in early Disney cartoons.

The pipeline concept was originally thought up by Arthur Hartley (Chief engineer with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company). Allied forces on the European continent required huge amounts of fuel to mobilize their armies. Transporting the oil by tanker was impractical, weather conditions often slowed the supply, and tankers were very vulnerable to attack by German submarines, also a great number of tankers were already utilized for the war in the Pacific.

To solve this supply issue Geoffrey William Lloyd (Secretary for petroleum) met with Admiral Mountbatton (Chief of combined operations) during 1942 and they adopted Hartley’s idea of using adapted submarine telephone cabling to transport oil under the English Channel to Normandy.

Dumbo, another Disney cartoon character was the name given to the laid pipeline that ran across Romney Marsh to Dungeness and from there under the sea to France. On the Marsh where the pipeline crossed water ditches, it ran above ground encased in concrete, this can still be seen in parts today.

As well as playing a fundamental roll in furnishing the Pipe line P.L.U.T.O, during the war years the railway also boasted the World’s smallest armoured train. An armoured train is, as it sounds, an armour-plated loco pulling armoured wagons.

The inaugural locomotive Hercules was converted in 1940 by the Army to form part of the Miniature Armoured Train. The conversion involved fitting the locomotive Hercules with heavy armour plating and then putting her between two converted armour-plated hopper wagons. Normally, on full size railways, each armoured wagon would carry a QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss gun (originally a navel short barrelled quick fire gun), a Vickers machine gun (a solid reliable armour piercing gun) or a Lewis gun (a lighter smaller version of the Vickers).

Of course on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch the train was too small to carry such large artillery so instead it’s armoured wagons were equipped with two Boys anti-tank machine guns and four old Lewis guns that were later replaced with Bren (light machine guns). The train was manned by the 6th Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry and was credited with shooting down a Messerschmitt BF109, a Heinkel HE111 and a Dornier DO17. An honour indeed for a 15” gauge light railway.

Many of the Locomotives now operating on The Romney Hythe and Dymchurch are replicas of full-size engines utilised during the second world war. Indeed, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle of Briton in 1990 a replica plywood suit of armour was constructed for Hercules working from old photographs.  One of the armoured wagons was also recreated for the famous armoured train to run on Military Railway Day during September 1990.

In the future I need to delve further into our war history and the locomotives on this smallest of mainline railways. (Images sourced under Creative Commons),_Hythe_and_Dymchurch_Railway

Posted on Leave a comment

#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: