For enthusiasts and researchers of the Great Eastern Railway

The Hill Era

B74 Class 0-4-0T 1913


B77 Class 0-4-0T 1914-1921

210, 226, 228, 229

LNER Class Y-4

The GER had a number of yards at wharves in the London area that could only be shunted by small four-wheeled locomotives, such as at Devonshire Street (Mile End), and the Pepper Warehouses branch at Canning Town. These had previously been worked by the Neilson/GER 'No. 209' class 0-4-0 saddle tanks, but in 1913 A.J. Hill produced a design for a thoroughly modern 0-4-0 side tank engine for these duties. One engine was built initially to order B74, and it represented a 'quantum leap' compared with the saddle tanks, being nominally more than twice as powerful, and yet on a wheelbase of only six feet. The engine had a Belpaire boiler pressed to 180 lbs. psi., outside cylinders and Walschaerts motion actuating ordinary slide valves.

Two more were built in 1914, but these had reduced height cabs and boiler mountings for working at Devonshire Street. This yard was approached via an incline which descended between the 'Through' and 'Local' lines, and then passed under them by means of a tight curve and low bridge. These two engines were 226 and 228, and were designated class B77. A final pair to this revised design were built in 1921 and numbered 210 and 229, the former being allocated to Stratford Works stock to replace the Manning, Wardle 0-4-0ST 'Works A'.

All five engines were designated class Y-4 under the LNER. One night in the late 1920s the engine shunting at Devonshire Street failed unexpectedly. The only available spare engine was No. 7227, the prototype, which could not be used because of its greater height. The night running foreman at Stratford used his initiative and sent a raiding party over to the works to 'steal' No. 7210, which was dispatched with all speed to Devonshire Street. The Works staff were understandably annoyed when they arrived next morning to find that their engine had gone! As a result, in 1931 No. 7227 had its cab and boiler mountings cut-down so that it was identical to the others.

The engines became 8125-8129 under the LNER 1946 renumbering scheme, and all five passed to British Railways in due course. In 1952 the works engine - by then numbered 68129 - became Departmental No. 33. The engines in capital stock were withdrawn in 1955-57, being replaced by new four-wheeled diesel shunters. The Works engine survived beyond the general withdrawal of GE steam locomotives in 1962, being retained for shunting during the decommissioning of the 'Old Works' at Stratford. It was withdrawn at the end of 1963 and cut up.

L77 Class 0-6-2T 1914-1924

LNER Class N7

990E-999E, 1000-1011

LNER Class N7/1 1925-1927

Between 409 and 465, 826 and 873, 907 and 988

LNER Class N7/2 1927-1928


LNER Class N-7/3 1927-1928


By 1914 the GER had introduced some modern concepts such as Belpaire boilers, superheating and piston valves on the main line express passenger and goods engines, and A.J. Hill then turned his attention to doing likewise for the locomotives for the suburban services. The result was the highly-successful 0-6-2Ts of the L77 class, two of which were constructed in late 1914/early 1915, numbered 1000 and 1001.

These featured cylinders with piston valves which - unusually for an inside-cylinder engine - were activated by Walschaerts motion. However, as each set of motion only required one eccentric, instead of two, this enabled the journals and bearing surfaces of the crank axle to be as wide as possible. The boilers had Belpaire fireboxes, and that of No. 1000 had a 12-element Robinson superheater, whilst No. 1001 was unsuperheated for comparison. The driving wheels were 4-ft. 10-ins. in diameter and a radial axle was provided at the rear, with 3-ft. 9-ins, diameter carrying wheels. No. 1000 was painted 'photographic grey' for official portraits, whilst 1001 was destined to be the only one of the class to carry the GER blue livery, as the plain 'wartime grey' livery was introduced shortly afterwards, and lasted until well beyond the grouping. No. 1000 retained its photographic finish until at least 1920.

The engines proved to be a success, but the intervention of the First World War meant that further engines could not be built until 1920, when Nos. 1002-1011 were constructed. Although the superheater on No. 1000 had proved its usefulness, it was probably as a result of materials and manpower shortages that the new engines were built without this benefit. A final ten were ordered at the very end of the GER's independent existence, and these were delivered as LNER Nos. 990E-999E in 1923-24, No. 999E proving to be the last locomotive to be constructed at Stratford Works. These ten engines were superheated, with 18-element superheaters, and had vacuum ejectors.

Under the LNER they became class N-7, and Nigel Gresley - the LNER CME - adopted the class as a standard design, in tandem with his own N-2 class designed for the GNR. Although very similar designs, the larger driving wheels of the N-2s were better-suited to the suburban work on the GN line, which had more widely-spaced stations, giving the opportunity for fast running. On the GE system, the closer spacing of the stations meant that rapid acceleration was of greater importance.

Fifty new engines were built in 1925-27, thirty by the ex-GCR works at Gorton, and twenty by Robert Stephenson & Co. These were designated class N-7/1, and differed from the GE engines mainly in having boilers constructed in only one ring, with 'pop' safety valves, and reductions made to the height of the boiler mountings and cabs to bring them within the 'Metrogauge' of the 'Widened Lines' between Kings Cross and Moorgate. These engines were also left-hand drive, and dual-fitted with Westinghouse brakes and vacuum ejectors.

Another thirty were built in 1927-28, ten at Gorton, and twenty by Beardmore & Co. These were known as class N-7/2, and had long-travel valve gear, pony trucks with smaller wheels in place of the radial axles, higher bunkers, altered cab windows and other minor modifications. The Beardmore engines differed from the Gorton examples in having steam brakes and vacuum ejectors.

The final 32 engines were built at Doncaster Works in 1927-28 as class N-7/3, these having LNER-type round firebox boilers, as well as being dual Westinghouse/vacuum fitted, as on the earlier engines.

By 1931, all of the saturated ex-GER engines had been superheated. Between 1940 and 1949 the ex-GER locomotives were rebuilt with the same round-topped boilers as the N-7/3s, and were reclassified N-7/4 as a result. Similarly, the N-7/1s and N 7/2s were also rebuilt from 1943 onwards. Both varieties were initially reclassified N-7/3, but the rebuilds from N-7/1 with short-travel valve gear were later classified N-7/5. All of the N-7/1s were rebuilt, but two of the N-7/2s were scrapped in original condition in the mid-1950s. Unlike most other ex-GER classes, the original twelve N-7s 8000-8011 remained Westinghouse-only throughout their careers. In 1944 these engines were also temporarily renumbered 7978-7989 to allow two new diesel shunters to carry the numbers 8000 and 8001. Under the LNER general renumbering carried out from 1946 the N-7s were all renumbered into the series 9600-9733.

Between 1933 and 1940 twelve of the steam/vacuum braked N-7/2s were transferred to the GE section and fitted with Westinghouse brakes. The remaining eight were later fitted with vacuum-operated push-pull apparatus in 1949-51, and in 1951-57 three of the LNER-built Westinghouse-braked engines were similarly-equipped.

Initially, the LNER-built N-7s were used at a number of locations in the LNER area, but by the 1930s all were in London: the Westinghouse engines were on the GE section and the twenty vacuum-braked engines on the GN. Odd locomotives began to spread to the country areas following the introduction of the new L-1 class 2-6-4Ts, but the majority of the GE section engines remained on the suburban services until electrified in 1960. Thereafter, a few were retained at Stratford for the North Woolwich line. Scrapping had commenced in 1957, and the Stratford examples were the last to go, in September 1962. No. 69621 was originally No. 999E, the last engine to be built at Stratford, and it was purchased for preservation and eventually restored to working order at the East Anglian Railway Museum.

D81 Class 0-6-0 1920-1923

LNER Class J-20


The true goods engine equivalent of the S69 class 4-6-0 appeared in 1920 as the D81 class 0-6-0s, and twenty-five were constructed down to 1923. The front end of the new locomotives was similar to that of the T77 class, but the rear wheelbase was lengthened to 10-ft. 0-ins. to accommodate the larger S69 boiler, complete with Robinson superheater. Because of their greater weight, the D81s were able to use the full 180lbs. pressure, and once again, the GER had nominally the most powerful 0-6-0s in Britain. On this occasion, they were not eclipsed until O.V.S. Bullied's Q1 class for the Southern Railway in 1942.

The D81s became LNER class J-20, and in 1925 No. 8280 was the first British locomotive to be fitted with Lentz oscillating cam poppet valves. Its initial success led to the ten B-12 4-6-0s built by the LNER being similarly-equipped. However, as with the B-12s, the gear ultimately proved expensive to maintain, and it was removed from 8280 in 1937. When the B-12/3 rebuilds were introduced in 1932, consideration was given to fitting the J-20s with the new round-topped boiler. However, the longer fire box would have made the 0-6-0s difficult to fire, and so the idea was dropped. In 1941 new boilers were required for the J-20s and the unrebuilt B 12s in Scotland, and an LNER round-topped firebox design was produced, of the same basic size as the originals. Between 1943 and 1956 all of the J-20s were rebuilt with this boiler, being reclassified J-20/1 as a result.

The locomotives spent most of their career on the coal traffic south of March, although one worked in the Sheffield area in 1925, and in the early 1950s four were stationed at Hornsey on the GN line for cross-London goods traffic. Withdrawal took place between 1959 and 1962.