Locomotive History of the NER

At formation, the NER inherited a range of different locomotives, typical of British locomotives of the 1850s. The NER's first Locomotive Superintendent was Edward Fletcher, who is noted for producing strong locomotives that were larger and more powerful than anything seen on the neighbouring railways. Fletcher favoured 0-6-0s for freight locomotives, and 2-4-0s for passenger locomotives. His designs were varied and lacked any real standardisation.

The Stockton & Darlington (S&D) operations were only slowly merged with those of the NER. This resulted in the NER effectively having two locomotive policies and locomotive superintendents for a period of time. William Bouch continued to operate the ex-S&D Shildon Works until his death in 1876. Bouch favoured the "long boiler" design of 0-6-0. This had its origins in the 1830s, and consisted of a long boiler over an 0-6-0 chassis, with small firebox and smokebox on each end. This was considered an out-dated design by most of Britain's railways in the 1870s due to the small size of firebox relative to the large boiler. However it proved ably suited to colliery trip workings on the NER. These workings were short and usually included numerious stops at signals,etc. These stops allowed steam pressure to be built up, whilst actual running was not sufficient to exhaust boiler pressure. When operated like this, long boiler locomotives prove to be quite efficient in their coal consumption. These locomotives were long lived with one example of a Bouch '1001' Class long boiler surviving to Grouping in 1923.

NER management recognised that Fletcher's lack of standardisation was proving inefficient, and hired Alexander McDonnell as the new Locomotive Superintendent when Fletcher retired in 1883. McDonnell's short-lived tenure was a controversial chapter in NER history. He started a grand standardisation plan as instructed, but failed to gain the trust of the NER locomotive men. His Class '38' 4-4-0 was similar to a Fletcher design but proved to be under-powered. There is some debate as to whether this was due to poor valve and motion design, or whether it was because the NER crews failed to give them a 'fair chance'. The design was also criticised for cosmetic reasons such as the shape of the chimney. Class '59' 0-6-0 (LNER J22) suffered from many of the same criticisms, but these criticisms subsided after McDonnell resigned in 1884. Despite this turmoil, many would later consider the Class '59's to be the best NER goods locomotives of the period, and McDonnell left the NER works in a good position to handle future developments and consolidation.

After the stop-gap Tennant E5 2-4-0 express passenger design, the NER recruited T.W.Worsdell to be the Locomotive Superintendent from 1886 to 1890. T.W.Worsdell continued McDonnell's reforms with greater standardisation and modernisation. T.W.Worsdell's designs are noted for the use of a standard range of boiler designs, the widespread use of Joy valve gear, and the use of two-cylinder compounds. His designs also introduced substantial cabs, and were generally much neater than the locomotives of Fletcher.

T.W.Worsdell retired in 1890 and was succeeded by his younger brother, Wilson Worsdell. W.Worsdell was a big proponent of a big engine policy, possibly due to a short appointment with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1870. His C6 Atlantic was one of the most powerful engines in Britain at the time, and he was the first to introduce the 4-6-0 wheel arrangement to Britain. W.Worsdell is also recorded as being good at delegating. This allowed Walter M. Smith to flourish. Smith's experiments with piston valves are responsible for the early adoption of piston valves by the NER. He also produced Britain's only really successful compound locomotive design. This had three cylinders with one central high pressure cylinder and two low pressure cylinders. Although used by the NER, this system demonstrated its true potential with the famous Midland Railway compounds.

W.Worsdell retired in 1910, and Sir Vincent Raven became Chief Mechanical Engineer. Raven continued the big engine policy, producing his excellent Class Z (LNER C7) Atlantic, and one of Britain's first Pacifics (LNER A2). Raven was also a proponent of electrification, and continued the NER's pioneering electrification programme with the Shildon-Newport electrification, and a propsal to electrify a stretch of the East Coast Main Line.

By Grouping in 1923, the NER had a fleet of good, strong locomotives that included some of the fastest and most powerful locomotives in Britain at that time. Some of these designs would still be in service in the 1960s, after the last LNER-designed locomotives had been withdrawn.