Alan has an abiding interest in regional railway-oriented history and model-making, specialising in the North East of England.
Compare the market...
The top picture of an LMS designed Fairburn Class 4 2-6-4 passenger tank locomotive shows the current state of affairs in British outline out-of-the-box products for modellers who don't have skills with the soldering iron or wiring. Great Western, Southern, Great Central, Great Eastern and Midland pre-Grouping locos (pre-1923) are available in large numbers, GW and LMS modellers can claim the most. Hornby has recently concentrated on tender locomotive models (cf). Take a look at the page after you've scrolled down here.
If you model the North Eastern Region of the LNER or British Railways, aside from Wilson Worsdell's J72 you have Gresley, Thompson or Peppercorn engines en masse (mostly Gresley). Aside from the J72 0-6-0 there are no NER tank engine designs (N7 0-6-2 T, A6, A7 and A8 4-6-2 - rebuilt from H1 4-4-4). The most handsome loco classes are only available as kits, expensive if built to professional or even passable running standards. For a well-built A8 you can think of parting with little less than £200 these days. A good 'can' motor to fit some of the mid-size locomotives is the Portescap that comes in various sizes - at a price! They don't suit all models. I had a Class D20 with a Portescap motor that ran smooothly. Wheel-slip is a 'feature' of these motors, if you like realism to that level. On trains of six coaches out of York, for example, a D20 4-4-0 was likely to demonstrate wheel-slip admirably when 'lifting' from stationary (York's long, curved platforms were notorious for inducing wheel-slip, especially on longer passenger workings, even on the much larger V2 2-6-2.or any of the Pacifics).
Why the blind spot? Not everybody wants Southern, GW or Midland engines, and a great part of the LNER's industrial, commercial and passenger traffic was handled by the NER engines and more listed above,
A good source of NER tank engine designs in kit form is 51L through Wizard Models, based at PO Box 70, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire, DN18 5XY, web shop www.wizardmodels.co.uk
Pre-Grouping and LNER Steam Tank Locomotives inherited in 1948 by British Railways. All companies had them, the constituent companies of the LNER passed them on, Great Central, Great Eastern, Great Northern, Great North of Scotland, North British and North Eastern as well as from the Midland & Great Northern that had its works at Melton Constable in North Norfolk (not far from Sheringham).
No longer the only 'off-the-shelf' NER prototype (see also the Hornby Q6 in 'Tender Locomotives'), the Bachmann J72 0-6-0 tank engine
Cramped layouts, lack of space, no space for a turntable...?
You need a tank loco! In the course of railway and traffic development, several types of tank locomotive were built. The most straightforward were the kind with a plain tank on either side of the boiler, to feed water. Simple. Further variations presented saddle tanks that sat on the boiler (mainly industrial sites - collieries, quarries, works - used these); pannier tanks were a feature of the Great Western and London Transport, where the water tanks were held over the boiler by straps, like panniers on a packhorse or donkey; and well tank locomotives were built by many railway companies, where the water tank was slung under the boiler, such as the North Eastern Railway Bogie Tank Passenger (BTP), 0-4-4 WT.
One advantage a tank engine had over a tender engine was its size. Even the shortest tender engine was longer than a tank engine, and in the long run a turntable was advisable to turn them because they worked better running forwards with their train behind them and turning them also evened out wheel wear. True you saw tender engines run in reverse, but there was usually an operating reason for that. You see tender engines running in reverse on most preserved railways because they have no turntable and wheel-wear forces their owners to find somewhere they can 'turn' the engines, such as on a triangular junction. You can work out in your head how that works. Tank engines can also run on sharper curves in sidings, whether in exchange sidings or in depots and yards. In some collieries the curves between the main running lines and the sidings were too acute for tender engines and as they struggled around them their wheels squealed... painfully! It could make you cringe to have to listen to them. Also the tank engine wheels would be smaller, so they gripped better. Wheel slip cost money! All the time your engine struggles, slipping with its usually long train load down to the running lines she may lose her 'path', the time allotted in the schedule to get across a junction and on to the staiths. Therefore it is much more advisable to allocate a tank engine to the job. There were several classes built for the job. In the North East, for example there were two classes built for work in yards. The Class Y 4-6-2T (later LNER/BR A7) was used in exchange yards for hauling long rakes of wagons over sharp curves to running lines and Class X 4-8-0T (LNER/BR Class T1) for moving wagons around Teesside and Tyneside yards where their smaller wheels and adhesion proved useful in hauling long rakes of wagons to where the main line diagrammed locomotives would pick them up.
Elsewhere the mainstay of light freight or mineral movements was the 0-6-0T or 0-6-2T. Many pre-Grouping companies built 0-6-0T classes, such as NER Class E/E1 (LNER/BR J71/J72) as station pilots or even double-headed passenger train hauling, as with the LMS 'Jinty' and the SR 'Terrier'. GER/LNER and GNR/LNER 0-6-2T classes took commuter trains out from Liverpool Street to Shenfield or Enfield and Hatfield.
In the North East one Wilson Worsdell 4-6-0T class W was given a bigger coal bunker and rebuilt to 4-6-2T, later to be classified as A6 by the LNER/BR, just as Vincent Raven's H1 4-4-4T class was rebuilt to A8 4-6-2T under Gresley after GCR A5 trials on the Yorkshire coast proved the worthiness of 4-6-2T performance. The LNER now had four Pacific tank classes, three for passenger work (although the A6 was later allocated for branch goods - such as to Masham - and pilot work in the Hull area) and one for industrial use in addition to the T1. Elsewhere the old North Eastern Class O 0-4-4T proved its worth on branch passenger timings everywhere from Tyneside to North Yorkshire.
In model form, with the exception of the J72 0-6-0T, all the other NER/LNER classes are only available in kit form from DJH or Little Engines. The J72 was originally produced by Mainline, later by Bachmann Branchline. The numbering of the Mainline/Bachmann J72 follows that of the last batch built by BR in the early 1950s The Class E/J71 built by the NER in the late 1880's that was superseded by Class E1/72 is only available as a kit. The LNER V1/V3 class is currently out of production, awaiting re-tooling by Bachmann who brought out the first ones with split chassis; my own two have been renumbered to Middlesbrough allocations. Hornby recently first introduced the ex-LNER 2-6-4 Class L1 in BR green, then in the more common BR black mixed traffic livery. Other LNER classes, two ex-GNR 0-6-0 (J50 saddle tank and J52 'Ardsley' side tank) and one 0-6-2 tank with and without condenser pipes for the Kings Cross-Moorgate line were introduced decades ago by Hornby, Lima and Mainline respectively. Whilst the Lima J52 was presentable enough, the motion was oversized and the two outer wheels not linked to the middle driver. The J50 and N2 are still in production as far as I am aware, by Hornby.
Other companies' 0-6-0T's, like the MR/LMS 'Jinty' were made by Rovex and in turn Hornby who bought the Rovex patterns. GWR and Southern tank engine collectors are luckier, with a greater percentage of ready-to-run models. Again, GER modellers have to rely on the kit manufacturers.
Bachmann has brought our a wide range of tank locomotive classes with different running numbers. Firstly the LMS Fairburn, LMS Stanier and BR Standard 2-6-4T classes. Hornby has the Fowler 2-6-4T.
There is a wide range of GWR tank classes produced by both Bchmann and Hornby. One I had (before I curtailed by eclectic urges and concentrated on the LNER) was the Prairie tank, 2-6-2T from GMR. Remember them? Some of their patterns went to Mainline, Replica and Dapol. You might find one on e-Bay. It was a nice runner, with a fine motor. Not being familiar with GWR classes I will skip that area, as well as the Southern classes. Sorry. My area of expertise definitely has to be the LNER, and the NER region in particular.
Kits available for GCR/NER/LNER/BR locomotives are wide-ranging, and are as yet unavailable in ready-to-run form. Amongst the small companies who provide kits for this wide range are Alexander Models, 52F and Little Engines. For the discerning modeller, able to assemble chassis and body shells and bring these together with motors and gear boxes, the rewards are self-explanatory to judge from the images to the right.
We also have 52F's Class A5 4-6-2 tank engine as originally built by Robinson for the Great Central Railway, taken over by the LNER after 1923 and distributed around the system under the auspices of Chief Mechanical Engineer Nigel Gresley. Some were allocated to North Eastern sheds that supplied locos for coastal workings between Darlington and Scarborough, as mentioned above and due to their performance the Raven Class D (LNER H1) were rebuilt as A8, this kit provided by Little Engines (201 Cheswick Drive, Gosforth, Newcastle on Tyne, NE3 5DS ph 07801 393 029). Another NER class in kit form is the Alexander Models' Class U, re-classified N10 by the LNER (www.excellent.freeuk.com/alexander/models.htm ). For your marshalling yard there is the Wilson Worsdell Class T1 4-8-0T, also from 52F. Cast a glance at this engine's handsome lines
Not really a tank engine - nor is it a tender engine so it stays here
British Railways inherited a great variety of tank locomotive classes from its regional constituents, often dating back to the late 19th Century. Nevertheless the nationalised company also built its own classes in the 2-6-2 and 2-6-4 wheel arrangements.to augment or replace engines no longer fit for service.
2-6-4 Classes on British Railways: Thompson LNER/BR Class L1 and BR Standard Class 4
You could also build a model industrial railway - lots of scope there for shunting...
There's a lot of scope in industrial railways, both in narrow gauge and standard gauge. This concept allows for a certain amount of passenger traffic.
There were rich iron ore deposits not only in the north of England - North Riding of Yorkshire and Cumberland that supplied Yorkshire and County Durham works - but also Leicestershire and Northamptonshire that supplied South Wales and Midland plants.
The National Coal Board on mainland Britain had its own wagon fleet - old wagon stock sold by the British Railways Board - and locomotives. The variety of steam, diesel and electric traction is rich, the mine sites spread between South Wales and Central Scotland via North Kent, South and West Yorkshire, East Lancashire, across Central and Southern County Durham and Southern Northumberland.
Steel works, oil installations, gas works, factories all had sidings and wagon fleets, locomotive stock and workshops to repair their fleets. Railway works such as Darlington, York, Gorton and Horwich near Manchester, Stratford in East London (where the Olympic site was built for 2012), Swindon and elsewhere, There were also locomotive builders such as Kitson and Peckett in Leeds, Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn at Newcastle and Hawthorn Leslie. All had their own wagons and locomotives, as did ship yards such as Harland & Wolff in Belfast, Doxford's at Sunderland, Smith's Dock and others on the Tees near Middlesbrough, the Clyde and Belfast shipyards, Cammell-Laird on Merseyside and so on.
The scope is limitless and so are your options. There are books and dvd's on all these.
And then you've got your Welsh and Isle of Man quarries, another narrow gauge system in Kent, the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch,Railway as well as the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway in Cumbria near the Lake District. The extent you want to go to is your choice. Visit model railway exhibitions, ask questions at clubs... Join a club!.
Industrial locomotives were everywhere, often grimy and unkempt, sometimes polished and laboriously maintained. Steel and power plants had them, the National Coal Board, ironstone mines, harbours, graving docks and so on. Robert Riddles designed a class of Austerity 0-6-0 saddle tank locomotive built with minor modifications at various locations long associated with industrial locomotive production, such as Hawthorn Leslie on Tyneside, and Kitsons of Leeds. Feast your eyes on the dvd or the book (or both), savour the 'atmosphere'. Enjoy
© 2012 Alan R Lancaster
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on March 26, 2012:
In the US tank locos were not used on longer runs probably due to distances covered on main line services. The tank locomotives on passenger services here were only used between neighbouring towns or from suburbs on commuter traffic. There are no records of tank locos taking mainline traffic. The furthest runs I know of were from Darlington to Scarborough by way of Middlesbrough and Whitby, about fifty+ miles on the moors/coast routes . The engines involved were ex-LNER Class A5 or A8 'Pacific' tanks, and ex-LMS Fairburn or Standard 2-6-4 wheel arrangements.
Davesworld from Cottage Grove, MN 55016 on March 24, 2012:
Here in the states the tank locomotive was for the most part relegated to yard work or factory switching. Probably due to the longer distances between cities, I suppose.