Robert A. Riddles
Robert A. Riddles was born on 23 May 1892 and entered an apprenticeship with the
London & North Western Railway (LNWR) in 1909,
before serving with the Royal Engineers in France for most of World War 1. He returned to the LNWR in
1919, and was promoted to the position of assistant to Stanier in 1933.
In this position, Riddles was responsible for much of the design work of Stanier's
famous Coronation Class Pacific. Riddles and Stanier developed a close
relationship, and there is little doubt that this was of a great benefit to LMS locomotive design during
During World War 2, Riddles headed the Directorate of Transport Equipment. One of this Directorate's tasks
was to design and supply railway locomotives for war service. Whilst at the Directorate, Riddles designed
three very able 'Austerity' designs: the Hunslet-based 0-6-0ST (LNER
J94), the WD 2-8-0 (LNER
O7), and the WD 2-10-0. These were designed to be cheap and
easy to build and maintain, and to burn indifferent coal. The 0-6-0ST also proved powerful for its size,
and particularly talented at hauling freight over poor quality track. All three designs were used
extensively in the UK and in Continental Europe. The LNER made great use of the
O7 both during and after hostilities.
With Nationalisation, Riddles was appointed Mechanical Engineer with the newly formed Railway Executive.
He envisaged that Britain's railways would use electric traction in the long term, with steam
traction in the intermediate. Hence, he set about designing and building a set of 12 standard locomotive designs,
usually referred to as the "BR Standards".
Officially these incorporated the best practices of all of the "Big Four" railway companies, but
their resemblance to LMS designs has often been noted. They were designed for simplicity, ease of
maintenance, and the
ability to burn poor quality coal. Although success varied from class to class, as a whole the BR Standards
were generally a success. The 9F "heavy freights" were particularly successful. Although capable of the
slow heavy freight haulage to be expected of Britain's most powerful steam engine, they were
also capable of 90mph running.
The Railway Executive was abolished in 1953 and Riddles took this opportunity to retire.
Not long afterwards, British Railways decided on a plan of rapid conversion to diesel traction.
Many of the planned orders for BR Standards were cancelled, with only 999 being built. Most were scrapped
with many decades of useful future life left in them.
Riddles died on 18th June 1983.