For enthusiasts and researchers of the Great Eastern Railway

C53 Class 0-6-0T 1903-1921

LNER Class J-70

125-131, 135-139

7032 51GERS Collection 7032/51 

Class C53 of 1903 was an up-dating of Worsdell’s 0-4-0 tram engine design with greater power. Although the boiler was practically the same as before, it was of heavier construction, being designed for a working pressure of 180 lbs. psi. A six-coupled wheelbase was necessary to keep the axle-loading down and, with a total wheelbase two inches greater than the 0-4-0s the cylinders had to be outside the frames, together with the valve gear. Walschaerts motion was used, and these engines were among the earliest British locomotives to use it. Indeed, these humble tram engines were only the second locomotive type to have what was to become the standard cylinder layout for British steam locomotives – outside cylinders and valves, driven by outside Walschaerts gear. The general layout of the C53 class was otherwise similar to that of the 0-4-0Ts. They were only eight inches longer overall, and with the side-skirts and cowcatchers fitted the two types were difficult to tell apart. The photograph shows No. 138 as built in 1908. Two engines had originally been built in 1903, followed by three in 1908, one more in 1910, three in 1914 and a final three in 1921.


7032 21GERS Collection 7032/21 

This photograph shows No. 136 – one of the first two of the C53 class –with the slide skirts and cowcatchers removed, and shows the compact arrangement of the cylinders and motion.


7005 293LCGB Ken Nunn 3009/GERSHC 7005/293 

This photograph shows No. 126, one of the last batch of three built in 1921. The wooden bodies of the tram engines were maintained by the Carriage & Wagon Department, and the bodywork was usually painted in the ‘teak’ brown colour used on carriage stock when the finish became too old for re-varnishing. Indeed, the earliest of the 0-4-0T locomotives appear to have had varnished teak bodies when new, although this finish would not have lasted long in the sulphurous atmosphere inside the running sheds! In 1921 the GER changed its carriage livery from varnished teak to crimson lake, and there is strong evidence that the 1921-built engines – such as the one seen here – had crimson bodies when new. Otherwise, the engine is in the ‘wartime’ grey livery, with the tank sides and ends painted plain grey. One of the regulations for the locomotives operating on street tramways was that they should avoid the use of bright colours, and in the blue period, the buffer beams of the tram engines were blue, with only the buffer-stocks in vermilion. As can be seen, in the grey period the buffer-beams also appear to be grey, and probably the buffer stocks as well.


759 087GERS Collection 759/087 

Under the LNER the C53 tram engines became class J-70. This photograph shows one of the 0-6-0T tram engines in its natural habitat, in the docks at Ipswich. Although fitted with cow-catchers, the engine appears to be operating illegally, for the side-skirts are removed.


7069 054F.W. Day/GERSHC 7069/054 

The first withdrawal of the J-70 tram engines was of No. 7138 in 1942, and thus is was not included in the renumbering scheme which was drawn-up in 1943, although not implemented until the after the War was over, in 1946. Under this scheme the eleven survivors became 8216-8226. All passed to British Railways in 1948, but 8218 (ex-7137) was withdrawn in 1949 without re-numbering. This is No. 68220 (ex-GER130) at Stratford Works following overhaul. Note that in the BR period the tram engines were not fitted with the usual smokebox numberplates, and had their numbers painted above the buffer beam, as shown. The last survivor was withdrawn in 1955 and was set aside at Stratford Works for preservation. However it was later cut up – seemingly in error. It was this incident that resulted in the formation of the Consultative Panel for the Preservation of Historical Transport Relics, and it is due largely to their efforts that so many significant locomotives and rolling stock form part of the National Collection today. Indeed, the late W.O. ‘Bill’ Skeat, who became the first vice-President of the GERS Society was a founder member of the panel, and the first locomotive that they were involved in saving for posterity was the GER 2-4-0 No. 490.


7018 359W. Porter/GERSHC 7018/359 

This photograph shows one of the 0-4-0 tram engines with a six-coupled example beyond, and serves to show how similar in size and appearance the two classes were, especially when fitted with side skirts. The main distinguishing feature were the footsteps cut into the tank side on the 0-6-0Ts, which are absent on the 0-4-0Ts.