For enthusiasts and researchers of the Great Eastern Railway

T26 Class 2-4-0 1891-1902

LNER Class E-4

417-506, 1250-1259

7002 128GERS Collection 7002/128

The goods traffic of the GER was principally agricultural and thus seasonal, and the trains were relatively light, the merchandise was usually perishable, and faster locomotives than those used on mineral trains could be employed. By the 1880s the coastal resorts of East Anglia were growing in popularity, and more modern and powerful general mixed traffic locomotives were required than the existing Johnson ‘No. 1 class’ 2-4-0s (q.v.). This need Holden provided for by introducing the T26 class 2-4-0s of 1891. These were another version of his T19 express passenger locomotives, but with smaller 5-ft. 8-in. driving wheels. Indeed, in principal details – two-ring sloping grate boilers, spring rubbers, brake arrangements and so on they were the same as the contemporary T19s. They proved to be one of the GER’s most useful classes, and survived to become the last working 2-4-0s in Britain. Apart from general branch, main line and country trains, they were extensively used on excursions, specials, Royal Trains, troop trains and horse box specials to and from Newmarket. On this latter traffic the T26 class – on ‘Intermediates’, as they were known – came to be the GER’s most-travelled class, with examples known to have worked to places as widespread as Holyhead and Hastings. For all these special duties, more than half of the class were fitted with vacuum ejectors so as to be able to work rolling stock from any British railway company. The photograph shows No. 420, one of the first ten engines, in ‘photographic grey’.

798 1570GERS Collection 798/1570

In all, 100 of the T26 class were built down to 1902. To begin with, there were a number of small detail differences between the various batches built with regard to cylinder size, lubricators and so on, but essentially they were all identical. Indeed, by the time of the First World War, by which time they had all been reboilered with 160 lbs psi, and fitted with new cylinders, they were identical. This is No. 486 of 1894, seen in the locomotive sidings at York, having worked a special train from the GN&GE Joint Line. This example was one of those built with vacuum ejectors, although at this time there were no vacuum hoses fitted to the leading buffer beam – these were added a little later.

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After a gap of some six years a final ten new T26 2-4-0s were built in 1902. The number series of the earlier engines was continuous from 417 to 506, but these ten had to be given the new un-used numbers 1250-1259. This is the official portrait of 1253 and, as can be seen, by 1902 the fitting of vacuum connections to the front buffer beam was the norm. This particular photograph – which has only recently come to light – is interesting with regard to the locomotive’s tender. A batch of ten new S23 class 2640 gallon tenders was originally ordered, but was subsequently cancelled, and these engines entered traffic with the T46 class 2790 gallon ‘watercart’ tenders built originally for the 1880-1889 series of S46 class Claud Hamilton 4-4-0s (q.v.) when they were replaced by new tenders of larger capacity. Presumably these were not quite ready for fitting when 1253 posed for its photograph, and a second-hand S23 tender was commandeered for the purpose!

798 1396LCGB Ken Nunn H184/GERSHC 798/1396

This photograph shows one of the 1250-1259 series of T26 2-4-0s in traffic, fitted with the ‘watercart’ tender. A problem that made itself apparent on the T26 class was the design of the outside frames to the leading axle. This axle had inside and outside bearings, but there were no collars on the inside journals, whilst the outside axleboxes had one inch of un-controlled side-play in the horn-guides, the outside frames being intended to absorb the lateral shocks. The same pattern of bearings was also used on the T19 2-4-0s, D27 2-2-2s and the C32 class 2‑4-2Ts (q.v.). However, the greater tractive forces generated by the T26 caused cracks in the outside frames to develop to the rear of the axle, and most engines gained rectangular patches on the outside frames, as can be seen here. This problem was not unique to the T26s, for the T19s and D27s also suffered to a limited extent, whilst the heaver 2-4-2Ts and the ‘Humpty-Dumpty’ T19 rebuilds were all fitted with these patches. It might be mentioned here that the 1250-1259 series of engines were renumbered at the beginning of the T26 series as 407-416 in 1920, taking the numbers from the R24 class 0-6-0T shunters that were themselves renumbered 11‑20.

700 0840M&GN Circle/GERSHC 700/0840

This photograph shows T26 No. 446 ex-works during the First World War, and newly-painted in the grey livery. This was a Westinghouse-only engine, but has by this time been fitted with steam heating gear. It also has the later-pattern heavier smokebox door. Note that this engine has also acquired patches to its outside frames.

700 0847Real Photographs W2729/GERSHC 700/0847

This photograph of T26 2-4-0 No. 7483 illustrates some points regarding the liveries applied to GER locomotives. The picture dates from around 1925, for the engine has its new LNER number on the tender in ‘Train Control’ style, and number-plates on the cab side. However, it is also almost certainly still in blue livery – somewhat the worse for wear – for the GER crest is visible on the driving wheel splasher. This was one of the embellishments that were dispensed with when the wartime grey was introduced.

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Under the LNER the T26 2-4-0s became class E-4, and from the late 1920s withdrawal commenced as the economic situation deteriorated. However, those locomotives that survived long enough received cast chimneys, pop safety valves, steel cab roofs, vacuum ejectors if not already fitted, and coal guards on the tenders. In 1936 six engines were transferred to the Darlington area for trains over the Pennines to Tebay and Penrith. For duties on this exposed line the six locomotives were fitted with new side-window cabs, as shown here by No. 7408. This was one of the 1902 engines that had ‘watercart’ tenders originally, but by the date of the photograph it had been changed for a standard S23 type.

700 0915W. Stuart-Sellar/GERSHC 700/0915

The T26/E-4 class was down to only eighteen survivors by the outbreak of the Second World War. However, the engines proved indispensable on troop and munitions trains, and especially in connection with the East Anglian USAF bomber bases that were later established. Indeed, so useful were they that the six north-eastern exiles were recalled home to assist. All eighteen were taken over as BR property in 1948, and they proved to be irreplaceable for some years. This was because these survivors generally worked the cross country services, such as those between Colchester and Cambridge. These lines could only take locomotives with a light axle-loading, whilst an amount of running over the main lines was involved at each end of the journey. The Y14/J-15 0-6-0s could have been (and sometimes were) used on these turns, but the 2-4-0s could be relied upon to run fast enough to avoid delaying other main line trains. It was not until the first BR diesel multiple units, which could perform these duties, appeared in 1954 that scrapping of the E-4s could be re-commenced, by which time they were the last 2‑4‑0s running in Britain. This picture shows No. 62785 (ex-GER 490) in its final condition, and fitted with a tender weather-board.

807 0073GERS Collection 807/0073

No. 62785 proved to be the last of these 2-4-0s in service, not being withdrawn until the end of 1959. It was decided that it was worthy of preserving, and was beautifully restored to GER condition as No. 490 at Stratford Works (although it must be admitted there are a few mistakes in some of the detail fittings and livery, but this is splitting hairs!). The engine was placed on display in the BTC Transport Museum at Clapham, as shown in the photograph. In subsequently moved to the new National Railway Museum in York, and is currently on loan for display at Bressingham Gardens.