The W.Worsdell J77 (NER Class 290) 0-6-0 Tank Engines

J77 No. 8417 (M.Peirson)

The North Eastern Railway's (NER) G6 0-4-4WT Bogie Tank Passenger ('BTP') locomotives were sturdy robust engines. With the introduction of the G5 0-4-4T (NER Class O) locomotives during the late 1890s, large numbers of G6 BTPs became surplus to requirements. Some of the G6 BTPs were withdrawn intact, and one locomotive was rebuilt as the X2 2-2-4T. However, many were rebuilt as 0-6-0T shunting locomotives. The first forty of these NER Class '290' (LNER J77) locomotives were rebuilt at York Works between 1899 and 1904. Rebuilding then moved to Darlington, with ten engines rebuilt in 1907-8 and ten in 1921. These later rebuilds occurred due to further surplus G6 BTPs becoming available after the introduction of the larger A6 4-6-2T (NER Class W), H1 4-4-4T (NER Class D), and A8 4-6-2T locomotives between 1907 and 1922.

The rear bogie was replaced by an extra coupled axle. The G6 BTP's strong frames were retained, although they had to be modified with a new shallow rear section for the new axle. Those locomotives that still had 16in diameter cylinders, had new 17in cylinders fitted. The earlier rebuilds kept their original cabs, but had new side tanks and a smaller bunker fitted. The later rebuilds had new cabs, bunkers, and side tanks fitted. The new cabs gave these later locomotives more of a W.Worsdell appearance, although all of the J77s kept their characteristic 'Fletcher' vertical valences on the running plates. The running plate and footplate were both lifted relative to the frame, to allow for the rebuilds' smaller driving wheels.

The G6 BTP were built with Westinghouse brakes. These were replaced with steam brakes on all but two of the J77s (Nos. 37 and 1437). These were removed in the late 1930s. Twelve of the J77s received vacuum brakes after 1945. This fitting was usually accompanied by the addition of carriage heating equipment.

The G6 BTP were built with wooden buffer beams, but these were replaced with steel buffer beams on the J77s. Similarly, the original Fletcher square-based, hollow-stemmed buffers were replaced with either the Worsdell tapered shank buffers or the hollow stemmed circular base buffers. LNER Group Standard buffers were later recorded on some of the vacuum-brake fitted J77s, but only after Nationalisation (1948).

Some of the G6 BTPs had already been rebuilt before being rebuilt as J77s. A few had new iron boilers fitted, but most of the rebuilds used new W.Worsdell steel boilers. In about 1908, a small number were given boilers taken from long-boilered goods engines. These boilers were shortened at the smoke-box end, resulting in a dome that was further forward than on the other locomotives of the class.

After Grouping (1923), the LNER initially used boilers from withdrawn G6 BTP locomotives to replace old boilers on the J77s. New boilers to Diagram 68 were eventually built, and in 1937 the design was modified to use a single plate barrel of 0.5625in thickness. This compares with the old design which had butt-joints and 0.5in thick plate. This modified boiler positioned the dome 1ft 9.25in further back. A total of 46 J77s would carry the modified boiler at one time or another.

The original Ramsbottom safety valves were not replaced with Ross pop types until the 1930s. The Ramsbottom casings were usually retained to avoid the visibility problems from escaping steam that were seen on other classes.

At Grouping (1923), the sixty J77s were scattered throughout the NER, acting as general shunters and marshalling mineral trains at the coal exporting harbours. Twenty one sheds had J77s, with the largest allocation (7) at Dairycoates. Possibly due to their rugged Fletcher qualities, the J77s were popular with both enginemen and enthusiasts.

During the 1920s, the LNER transferred some of the J77s to non-NER sheds. Ardsley, Doncaster, and Immingham all received single J77s in the mid-1920s. In 1931, Ardsley received a second J77 and New England received an allocation of two. The Ardsley J77s were used on the East & West Yorkshire Union lines (E&WYU).

By 1939, the Dairycoates allocation had been moved to Alexandra dock. Unlike many LNER classes, World War 2 did not lead to any substantial re-allocations of the J77s.

The first withdrawals started in 1933 due to insufficient work during the Depression. However, most survived into Nationalisation (1948). Most of the withdrawals occurred in the 1950s, as the new diesel shunters were introduced. One of the J77's last strongholds were the coal staithes at North Blyth and South Blyth, which were ideally suited to the J77's power to weight ratio. J77s continued to work these staithes until 1959. The last J77 to be withdrawn was No. 68408 which was retained as a reserve at South Blyth until February 1961.

Some of the J77s logged extremely long lives. No. 954 (BR No. 68392) lasted 86 years, of which the first 46 were as a G6 BTP. No. 354 (BR No. 68410) lasted 83 years, of which 23 years were as a G6 BTP.

Two J77s were sold in 1950 to the Ministry of Fuel and Power. No. 8396 was used at the Crofton Mill Screens and Swalwell Screens before being scrapped in 1955. No. 8416 was used at the Broomhill Opencast Screens, Skiers Spring Screens (Wentworth), Watnall Opencast site (Nottingham), and Upper Blaenavon Opencast site. It was finally transferred to Tirpentwys Site at Abersychan in 1958 before being scrapped in 1960 or 1961.

Technical Details

The following details refer to the 1921 rebuilds. The earlier rebuilds were slightly shorter (29ft 3.25in) and were slightly lighter with a full weight of 41t 15cwt, and a maximum axle loading of 14t 1cwt.

Cylinders (x2): (inside) 17x22in.
Motion: Stephenson
Valves: Slide
Boiler: Diameter (max): 4ft 3in
Length: 10ft 7in
Boiler Pressure: 160psi
Diagram No: 68
Heating Surface: Total: 1109 sq.ft.
Firebox: 84 sq.ft.
Tubes: 1025 sq.ft. (205x 1.75in dia.)
Grate Area: 12.8 sq.ft.
Wheels: 4ft 1.25in
Total Wheelbase: 16ft 2in
Tractive Effort: (at 85%) 17,560 lb
Length: 29ft 9.25in
Weight: 43t
Max. Axle Load: 14t 16cwt
Water Capacity: 700 gallons
Coal Capacity: 2t 5cwt


None of the J77s survived into preservation.


Stephen Barnfield sells a 4mm scale kit of the J77.


Thank you to Malcolm Peirson for the photograph of J77 No. 8417.