1948 and all that

No. 76079 is now in her 60th year, built at Horwich, she entered service, in February 1957, at Sutton Oak, she was withdrawn, from Springs Branch, a little over 10 years later.  Nearly all of the locomotives, built under the auspices of British Railways, had equally short working lives and many see this as a criminal waste of men, money, and materials.

One school of thought was that building new types of steam locomotives was wasteful, they added to the number of spares depots had to carry, and would, inevitably, have teething troubles. In this view instead of adding new types, more engines of already succesful classes should have been built. British Railways did, to some extent, do this and Black 5s, B1s , even ancient designs, such as the J72s, continued to be built after the formation of BR, as did quite a few other classes such as the Bulleid and Peppercorn Pacifics and Brighton Works built Fairburn tanks.

This leaves us with a couple of questions, why were the Standard classes built and why did they have such short working lives? There are no short answers to either question and issues ranging from keeping employment high to worries over the security of oil supplies played their parts in the decision to keep building more steam locomotives, though not necessesarily new designs.

The decision to build new classes of locomotives, rather than more of the existing ones, does seem to be influenced by Riddles’ desire to be the ‘last steam giant’, in the mould of Stanier or Bulleid. Given the history of competition between the pre-Grouping companies, and, in turn,  the Big Four, trying to bring them together under one banner must have been akin to dealing with a sack of ferrets, and then there was the GWR – for whom the only way was Swindon’s. They painted some of their ‘Standards’ green! One came to Nine Elms, No.73029, and I worked on her quite a few times on stoppers to Basingstoke and on boat trains to Southampton docks.

If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:




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