Thomp­son’s last stand

Steam Railway (UK) - - News - SR

The emer­gence of 15 ‘A2/3’ class ‘Pacifics’ from Don­caster works in 1946 and 1947 sig­nalled the end of a brief but con­tro­ver­sial era for the LNER. Ed­ward Thomp­son was de­ter­mined to make his mark on the com­pany’s mo­tive power fleet, and some of the well es­tab­lished prac­tices cham­pi­oned by Sir Nigel Gres­ley were marginalised. Gone were the striking ‘P2’ 2-8-2s and in came a raft of new ‘A1’ and ‘A2’-clas­si­fied ‘Pacifics’. Some were new and some were re­builds, in­clud­ing the plun­der­ing of ‘A1’ No. 4470 Great North­ern for com­po­nent parts. In May 1946, the first of Thomp­son’s last de­sign of ‘Pacific’ emerged; ap­pro­pri­ately, No. 500 was named af­ter him to mark his re­tire­ment. How­ever, with the chief me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer’s pen now rest­ing in the hand of Arthur Pep­per­corn, it was swiftly de­creed that only half of the in­tended 30 ‘A2/3s’ should be con­structed, and that there would be sig­nif­i­cant al­ter­ations to any fu­ture builds. The re­main­ing 15 lo­co­mo­tives even­tu­ally emerged as the Pep­per­corn ‘A2’ class. One of those that made it through was No. 520 Owen Tu­dor (named af­ter the six-time winning race­horse). The three-cylin­der en­gine is pic­tured on one of the Up through roads of Don­caster sta­tion - just a span­ner’s throw from the place of its con­struc­tion: the ‘Plant’. Its new­ness ex­plains its splen­did ex­ter­nal con­di­tion, which was a rare sight in the 1940s. In­deed, the seven-week-old ‘A2/3’ still looks fresh off the pro­duc­tion line, and it may be that it was be­ing held back from front-line ser­vice when this scene was recorded on May 17 (can any reader cor­rob­o­rate this?). The pres­ence of a soli­tary lamp on the top smoke­box iron backs up that the­ory, de­not­ing a stop­ping pas­sen­ger train, which No. 520 may have been en­trusted with un­til be­ing let loose on the ex­presses for which it was in­tended At this time, the class was still suf­fer­ing teething trou­bles - chiefly reg­u­lar wa­ter car­ry­over into the steam pipe that sup­plied pres­sure to the in­jec­tors and ejec­tors. More nu­mer­ous, and un­doubt­edly more suc­cess­ful, were Thomp­son’s rugged and re­li­able ‘B1’ 4-6-0s, which con­tin­ued to be built through­out 1947, even af­ter pro­duc­tion of his ‘Pacifics’ was cur­tailed. The class to­talled 410 by the time the last was turned out in 1951. This par­tic­u­lar en­gine (in­set), York-al­lo­cated No. 1018 Gnu, was sim­i­larly new to the LNER and, with three let­ters, sported one of the short­est names of any stan­dard gauge Bri­tish main line steam lo­co­mo­tive ever built. There is no such sug­ges­tion of run­ning-in turns here how­ever, as Fe­bru­ary 1947-built Gnu pow­ers through ‘Donny’ with a south­bound express on the same sunny day that Owen Tu­dor was recorded.

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