LMS 8F Class 2-8-0 No.8624
Back in the 1930s, the railways remained the principal means of transporting large quantities of goods of all types from coal, raw materials, manufactured products and foodstuffs.  Around that time, the LMS Railway badly needed a more modern design of heavy freight locomotive capable of pulling up to 1000 ton trains – in today’s terms, each train keeping some 40 large lorries off the roads.

In 1932, the LMS Railway recruited William Arthur Stanier (who was later knighted in 1943) from the Great Western Railway to undertake the task of modernizing the companies locomotive stock.  It was not long before Stanier produced his 8F heavy goods engine, which was to be one of the most successful locomotive designs of all time.  The class operated all over the LMS railway system and after the railways Nationalisation in 1948, the locomotives operated over most of the railways throughout Britain.

Stanier 8Fs were no strangers to the Great Central Railway (GCR), having worked many heavy freight trains on the London Extension from Nottingham to London in the latter years of the line’s operation.  But the affinity with the GCR goes much further than that.  Whilst the GCR O4 (see No.63601) was chosen by the War Department for large scale production in the First World War, the Stanier 8F was similarly chosen for the same role in the Second World War.  So we have the unique prospect before us in that we can compare, side by side, the heavy goods locomotives from two different eras as No.63601 of 1911 and No.48624 of 1943 stand together on the GCR.

The Stanier locomotives were first introduced in 1935, when a batch twelve engines, with domeless boilers, was built at the Crewe works of the LMS.  These were originally classified 7F, but an improved domed boiler was rapidly introduced and the class became the now recognised 8F.  Such was the success of the class on the LMS that the design was chosen by the War Department for large scale production in the Second World War.  Engines were built at many locomotive works around the UK and large numbers went overseas immediately for service in many theatres of war.  Eventually 852 members of the class were built and with such a large number there were many detail differences.

No 48624 is unique in 8F preservation in that it is the only surviving Southern Railway built example, being part of a Railway Executive Committee order completed in 1943 at Ashford Works.  The locomotive spent its entire working life allocated to Willesden Shed and is not thought to have led to harsh a life, evidenced by the lack of the normal main frame repair around the Main Driving Wheel seen on almost all other preserved 8F’s, although the locomotive’s steel tyres are very close to requiring replacement.  The locomotive was withdrawal from traffic in 1965 with a suspected fractured internal main steam pipe and then lay slowly rusting in Barry scrap yard in South Wales, before being rescued in 1981.

The locomotives tender is not the one it went into Barry with, as the Barry scrap man sold the original one on elsewhere, so the locomotive was purchased without one.  The tender you see today is from Black 5 No 44888, which was withdrawn in 1968 after it attended the Derby Works open day.  The locomotive was then scrapped, but the tender remained with British Railways and went, coincidently, to Willesden Shed for use as a water carrier.  It was then purchased by the Severn Valley Railway as a spare, before the 48624 group acquired it.  However, the number the tender currently carries is that of the tender the locomotive last carried in British Rail service.

After 28 years of hard work (virtually all of which was carried out in the open air!) by dedicated volunteers, (there are Brass plaques on the Smokebox Saddle to commemorate all the people who worked on the restoration) the locomotive returned to traffic in May 2009 at Peak Rail, before arriving at the GCR in March 2011.  The locomotive arrived in a British Railways Crimson livery, the locomotive being painted all black during the whole of its previous working life.

48624 has since returned to an authentic British Railways black livery and has been a regular performer in the GCR fleet, and has also been a popular visitor to other heritage railways on loan.

The locomotive received an extension to its boiler certificate in 2018, and ran until the end of July 2019 before being withdrawn for overhaul.


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