North British Railway: locomotive designs
Hurst designs
Edinburgh & Glasgow Rly
Wheatley designs
Drummond designs
Holmes designs
Reid designs

At present the primary source quoted herein is Thomas's North British Railway, but this is being gradually changed to reflect a broader perspective. Two very important sources (Everard and Purdom below) did not appear to receive adequate attention from Thomas: unfortunately, re-inspecting this series will require a bibliographical miracle. Campbell Highet (Scottish locomotive history) is essential reading for locomotive development on the major Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway and the contribution made by William Paton.

Ellis, C.H. The North British Railway. London: Ian Allan, 1955. 232pp. incl. plates.
In some respects usurped by John Thomas's North British, but Ellis had clearly read the series by Everard and Purdom.

Everard, S.  Cowlairs commentary. Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1942, 48, 3-6; 48-50; 94-6;125-7 156-8; 190-2 :

Everard, Stirling. Cowlairs commentary. Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev. 1943, 49, 20-1.
Wheatley 0-4-0 and 2-2-2 of 1867 and latter rebuilt as 2-2-2T inspection saloon and as 4-4-0 in 1874.
60-2: Wheatley 0-6-0 and 4-4-0 designs of 1867 and 2-4-0 design of 1873.
92-4: Drummond 0-6-0T and 4-4-0 designs.
124-5: Drummond 4-4-0T.
156-7: Drummond rebuild of  Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway 2-4-0.
1944, 50, 29-31: Holmes followed Drummond designs with 4-4-0 and 4-4-0T
51-2: Holmes designs directly based upon those of Caledonian Railway.
155-7: Drummond 0-6-0. The Reid 4-4-2 marked a complete break with the Drummond tradition.
191-2: Reid 4-4-0. Notes that NBR borrowed a HR Castle class 4-6-0

1944, 50, 29-31, 51-2, 155-7; 191-2: 1945, 51, 24-5; 59-61; 90-2; 152-3; 171-3. 47 illus. (line drawings s.el.)

Purdom, D.S.  Locomotive development on the N.B.R., from 1910 to the grouping. Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1940, 46, 242-5. illus.

Rutherford, Michael. The Drummond Age. Part One. (Railway Reflections No. 106). Backtrack, 2004, 18, 688-94.
This part begins by setting the scene. In his broad stroke manner Rutherford argues that locomotive development on the Edinburgh & Glasgow and North British Railways was influenced by R.&W. Hawthorn  of Newcastle (later and Leith) and Beyer Peacock in Manchester and by the development of the works at Cowlairs on the magnificently engineered Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway. Rutherford detects clusters of engineers and names the Drummonds (father and brother as well as Dugald), Stroudley, the Stirlings and Sturrock as well as Neilson and their draughtsmen.

Stephenson Locomotive Society. Locomotives of the North British Railway, 1846-1882. 1970. 106pp.

All of above were available to Thomas, but: none was cited in detail only "The Locomotive". Neither Everard nor Purdom  were mentioned, whereas Ellis mentioned both by name.

Hawthorn 0-4-2 & 2-2-2 locomotives

George Dow (The first railway across the Border) noted that the early Minute Books of the NBR together with those of R. & W. Hawthorn (incorrectly stated to be R.& H.) and research performed by W.E. Boyd enable it to be stated that sixteen passenger and ten freight locomotives were ordered and supplied for £1650 per locomotive.  According to Thomas (North British) these were ordered at the suggestion of John Miller, the Civil Engineer and were all of the 0-4-2 type with 5ft coupled wheels and 14 in x 21 in. cylinders. These locomotives were to cause considerable pain to the locomotive superintendents: Thornton, and his successors.

Thomas begins his book by noting that: the half-yearly meeting of the shareholders of the North British Railway Company held in Edinburgh on 17 March 1855 took place in an atmosphere of gloom. ... Richard Hodgson, the chairman, did not disguise the difficulties under which the line was labouring. 'Engine after engine gave up its breath,' he told the shareholders, 'crank axle after crank axle broke without warning, fireboxes originally weighing eighteen hundredweights were taken out weighing eight hundredweights. Drivers and guards, overworked like the engines, gave up their places and in fact the whole action of the railway became paralysed.' Hodgson did not exaggerate. Broken down locomotives and dilapidated wagons clogged the sidings at the company's St Margarets workshops. Every siding on the main line had had its quota of disabled rolling stock, until a director had the vehicles brought in to be hidden from the public gaze. At least fifteen engines were in English workshops undergoing heavy repairs.

Robert Thornton's influence

Further locomotives were ordered from Hawthorn following the appointment of Thornton: six express locomotives (£1700 each: 2-2-2 with 6ft driving wheels and 16 in x 18 in cylinders), and six mineral locomotives (£2050 each: 0-6-0 with 4ft 3 in driving wheels and 15 x 24 cylinders). These became Nos. 33-38 and 27-32, respectively. The following table shows the final acquistions from Hawthorn's:

Running Nos. wheel type driving wheel cylinders
39-46 2-4-0 passenger 4ft 9in 16 x 21
47-54 0-6-0 freight 4ft 3in 18 x 24
56/58-63 2-4-0 passenger
64-71 0-6-0 freight

Crampton 2-2-2-0 (11A Continental notation)

No. 55

Here one has the choice of accepting Thomas or Ellis: the former calls No. 55 The Queen, whilst the latter terms No. 57 The Queen. Herein Ellis wins (for the time ebing). No. 55  was a Crampton 2-2-2-0 supplied by E.B. Wilson. with 16½ x 20in outside cylinders and Gooch valve gear); Both Dow and Ellis (North British) claim that the Crampton was painted in Royal Stuart tartan, but Thomas questions this, although Rutherford appears to accept this delightful concept and Ellis quotes a source (Ellis page 17). Thomas notes that No. 55 was rebuilt several times. Ellis has a painting of the Crampton in its tartan livery facing page 77 in his Four main lines.


No. 57 The Queen

No. 57 (a 7ft 2-2-2 supplied by Hawthorn). and according to Thomas nicknamed Deersfoot, was found to be unstable and had frame problems. Thomas notes that No. 57 had disappeared by 1867. J. Maclean's Locomotives of the North Eastern Railway (pp. 17-18) claims that this locomotive was very similar to Plews, and that the NBR locomotive had achieved 70 mile/h.

William Hurst's contribution

LYR-type 0-4-2s

Under Hurst's instigation the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway had placed an order four goods engines of Ramsbottom design from Fairbairn of Manchester: when Hurst resigned the L&YR decided that they would be surplus to requirements and agreed to Hurst's suggestion that he should take the new engines with him to the North British. All were 0-4-2s with 17 in by 24 in cylinders with 5 ft coupled wheels, they became NBR 72-5.

Hurst undertook an intensive programme of heavy repairs and rebuilding, and reorganised and re-equipped St Margarets' works. An early task was the heavy rebuilding of Hawthorn No 7. The rebuilt engine ran trials to Dunbar on the morning of 14 February 1856, and on return was inspected at St Margarets by the locomotive committee. 'This,' they reported, 'may in every respect be considered a new engine of a description which would now with tender cost £2,500.' The rebuild with tender had cost only £1,100, taking into consideration £350 allowed on discarded parts used on other engines.

2-2-2WT Nos 31 & 32

These are significant in being the first locomotives to be constructed at St Margarets. They had 12 x 18 inch cylinders and 5ft driving wheels. They were employed on the Selkirk and Jedburgh branches and entered service in early 1857. Ellis (page 58) notes that these locomotives went with Wheatley to the Wigtownshire Railway: he also claims that the driving wheels were six inches greater in diameter.

Another pair of tanks followed from St Margarets in December 1857: Nos 20 and 22, replaced earlier engines with the same numbers, and were 0-4-2 single-framed well tanks with 12 in by 18 in inside cylinders, 4 ft 9 in coupled wheels, and 3 ft 6 in trailing wheels. {During his time as superintendent Hurst had fifteen tanks of his design and building at work on branch lines and on short trains. Of these Nos 20, 22, 29, 96, 97, and 104, had a wheelbase of 6 ft 6 in, plus 6 ft 6 in, while Nos 49, 98, 99, 103, 105-8, and 143, had a 7 ft 7 in plus 7 ft wheelbase}.

0-6-0 goods

It was not until 1859 that Hurst designed and built a big engine at St Margarets. This was his 0-6-0 goods, the first two of which were authorised on 14 January, and although many of the parts were contracted out the engines took a year to complete. Nos 76 and 77 had 15 in by 24 in cylinders, inside frames, and 5 ft driving wheels. More than a year passed before St Margarets managed to turn out two more of the class, this time with 15½ in by 24 in cylinders. All four engines had different wheelbases. With so much rebuilding and heavy repair work going on St Margarets could not handle large batches of new engines, and so in 1861, when six further goods and six express passenger engines were required, the order went to outside firms. Hawthorn of Leith built the goods engines, numbered 80 to 85 (these were similar to No 79). A further six 0-6-0 goods engines were ordered from Robert Stephenson & Co in July 1862, followed by an order for ten more of the class. Stephenson cut the price per engine of the second batch from £2,250 to £2,205, but the firm incurred the displeasure of the North British board by late delivery.


Cameron, Euan. Hurst: 90/341/382 class express engines. North British Rly Study Gp J., 2009 (105), 3-10. 5 col. drawings
2-4-0 Study Group classification E115. Followed Jenny Lind pattern, but fitted with progressively larger boilers:
Nos. 90-5 supplied by Neilson in 1861: WN 677-82 (tenders had separate Works numbers)
Nos. 341-6 supplied by Dubs: WN 32-7 in 1865
Nos. 382-93: Neilson WN 1290-3/1866; 1297-9/1867 and 1350-4/1867.
They wer rebuilt by Wheatley and by Holmes.
When S.W. Johnson waas demoted following the takeover of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway by the NBR Neilson WN 1294-6 and 1300-1 were diverted to the GER where they became Nos. 125-9.

The express engine order went to Neilson & Co. The express engines were intended to replace the Hawthorn singles of 1847: these were 2-4-0s,  numbered 90-95, with 16 in by 20 in inside cylinders, 6 ft coupled wheels, and 4 ft leading wheels. They displayed what had come to be regarded as typical Hurst locomotive architecture to good advantage: the engines carried Hurst's flared copper-capped chimney and a brass dome cover with a flared top, and the leading drivers had open splashers edged with a double band of brass beading while the trailing wheels had the rectangular panel splasher.

As a result of a complex deal involving copper prices, Dübs got orders for six passenger engines and thirty-six goods engines. The passenger engines (Nos 341-6) were 2-4-0s similar, in design to the Neilson express engines of 1861, though there were minor differences. The goods engines, Hurst's standard, were numbered 185-208 and 356-75; they weighed 37 tons 7 cwt and had 15½ in by 24 in cylinders. In the engines of the same class built by Stephensons the firebox was not flush with the boiler, but was slightly raised. They had Stephenson link motion and lever-actuated reversing gear. Norman Johnston Locomotives of the GNRI credits this design to S.W. Johnson: further locomotives of this type were supplied by Dübs to the Irish North Western Railway.

On 26 January 1858 No 37 blew up while shunting at Berwick, the engine being seriously damaged but the driver and fireman escaping injury. (No one thought of asking how a boiler could blow up and the men sitting almost on top of it go unscathed.) Hurst was 'satisfied blame did not attach to either driver or fireman, the explosion being one of those accidents which with every precaution will occasionally occur'.

Six months later, on 24 July 1858, No 66 blew up on the goods at Burnmouth. James Ritchie and James Crail, driver and fireman, were so seriously injured that they died next day. Five days later at St Margarets the locomotive committee viewed the remains of the locomotive which only a few weeks earlier they had inspected as it was about to leave the works after a major overhaul.

The resulting inquiry revealed the free and easy methods of the locomotive department. Nobody knew precisely No 66's boiler pressure, Hawthorn stating that the contract specified 80 lb per sq in, and that they usually tested boilers to 100 lb per sq in. The engine had two safety valves, one spring, the other under control of the driver, and Hurst admitted 'the difficulty of ascertaining if the second valve is in a state to work or blow off steam when necessary'. He recommended the fitting of two Salter valves under control of the driver.

Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway

Lowe, James W. British steam locomotive builders. Cambridge: Goose, 1975. 705pp.
Ottley 10510: "A comprehensive work embodying great detail." The section on Cowlairs Works is placed under the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway, although most development took place following amalgamation with the North British Railway. Lowe gives an excellent resume of all locomotive development thereat.

William Paton's policy

The appointment of William Paton in 1842 as Superintendent of Locomotives established a sound basis for the running of the E. & G. traffic. According to Thomas the locomotives were overworked and, in consequence, under-maintained, and were not too good to begin with so Paton had a difficult time trying to run his department efficiently.

Paton appears to have been content to purchase his motive power from such builders as Bury and Hawthorn until 1854, when the need for more powerful engines became evident. In that year Paton obtained two Sharp singles generally similar to six very successful engines bought six years previously, but with one marked difference which was very much in their favour . In the earlier 'Sharpies' the inside frames extended from the front buffer beam to the firebox only. This construction was not sufficiently rigid and in the later engines the inside frame was extended to the full length of the engine. This was a big improvement and credit for it must go to Sharp's designer, Charles Beyer, a man who, in addition to being a most able designer, also managed to incorporate a far greater degree of aesthetic beauty into his work than did many of his contemporaries. When Beyer left Sharp Roberts in 1855 to set up his own factory in partnership with Richard Peacock, Paton transferred his custom to the new firm.

Cowlairs incline bankers

In 1844 Paton (according to Sekon's Evolution of the steam locomotive in conjuction with John Miller: see also Fig 34A p. 98) produced a heavy tank locomotive for hauling trains up the Cowlairs incline, in an attempt to displace rope haulage: Hercules was a six coupled locomotive with wheels 4 ft. ½ in. diameter. The cylinders were 15½ x 25 in. The middle pair of coupled wheels was fitted with a handbrake operated from the footplate, and a type of steam brake was applied to the trailing wheels. To mitigate the effect of the greasy rails in the Cowlairs tunnel hot water jets were provided in front of the wheels and cold water jets behind them. On either side of the smokebox there were sandboxes operable by the fireman. A small amount of coke was carried in a box on the footplate. Water (200 gallons) sufficient for two return trips between Queen Street and Cowlairs, was contained in a small tank under the smokebox. The steeply inclined cylinders had the valve chest on top and drove on to the middle axle. Two safety valves were fitted, one on the dome and the other on the top of the firebox; these were of the spring balance type. The success of this, the first locomotive to be constructed in Cowlairs works, was demonstrated by it hauling a 54-ton train of 12 coaches up the incline at a speed of 15 mile/h. Later in the same year a second similar engine was built, named Samson: whilst generally similar to Hercules it had 16½ in. diameter cylinders and the safety valves were different. The latter were spring balance type as before, but one was mounted direct on the front ring of the boiler while the other was as before on top of the firebox. The wheels of Samson were 4 ft. 9in. diameter.

Two further similar locomotives: Millar (or was it Miller) and Hawthorne were built at Newcastle according to Sekon, but the locomotives were too heavy and damaged the track and cable working with wire ropes was restored on 4 March 1847.These were sold to the Stockton & Darlington Railway where they became 81 Miller and 82 Hawthorn..

Morrison, R.  discussion on Allan, Alexander. On increased brake power for stopping railway trains. Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1859, 10, 236. + Plate 45.
Had observed experiments on a steep incline of 1 in 40 on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, with a steam brake contrived by Mr. Paton which gave a very powerful retarding force when the brake was applied to the leading and trailing wheels of a large tank engine having all the wheels coupled, and the pressure was produced by a steam cylinder communicating direct with the boiler. The action of the break was very efficient, but he believed the principal objection to it was found to be the great shock caused by its sudden application, which often deranged the levers of the apparatus and occasioned an objectionable concussion to the train.

2-2-2 Benjamin Hick 1847
Nos. 42 & 43 Uranus and Neptune: sold to Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1855 becoming their Nos 93/4. Baxter British locomotive catalogue 5A

0-6-0 R.&W. Hawthorn: 1847
Cowlairs Incline locomotives (see above) WN 532/1847 40 Hawthorn and 522/1848 41 Miller: sold to Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1855 becoming their Nos 81/2. Baxter British locomotive catalogue 5A

0-4-2 Neilson 353/1855

Outside cylinder (16in x 22in) with 5ft coupled wheels intended for freight haulage (Sekon)

2-2-2WT Neilson 1850

Lowe notes that Wee Scotland and Little England were supplied with outside cylinders (10in x 15in) and 5ft diameter driving wheels. Sekon (Fig. 75, p. 184) shows Neilson 2-2-2WT No. 879 as modified to be an inspection engine with saloon: Sekon quotes similar dimensions.

Illustrated interviews. No. 33–Mr. Matthew Holmes. Locomotive Superintendent, North British Railway. Rly Mag., 1900, 7, 1-10.
This includes an illustration taken in 1859 at Cowlairs Junction of a Crampton-type 2-2-2WT which according to the caption was No. 58 Little Scotland.

Inspection engine, North British Railway. Locomotive Mag., 1905, 11, 113. illus.
Known as the Directors' engine, but used by General Manager. 2-2-2 outside-cylinder inspection saloon No. 1079 (originally No. 312 and for a time 879) built in about 1865 and rebuilt in 1882. Painted in yellow ochre (original standard colour of NBR). Driving wheels were 5ft diameter and cylinders were 13 x 18in. 1905 illustration still shows Crampton legacy.

2-2-2: Beyer Peacock: 1856-61
In 1856 Beyer Peacock & Co. built six  (eight according to SLS pp. 38-9) 2-2-2 express locomotives for the Edinburgh & Glasgow.Railway. The cylinders were 16 x 20 in. and the driving wheels 6 ft. 6 in. diameter; the wheelbase of 14ft. 6 in. was equally divided between the three axles. They had double frames, inside cylinders and domeless boilers.  The leading and trailing wheels were 3 ft. 6 in. diameter. Stephenson link motion controlled the valve events and well designed ports gave good admission and exhaust of steam. The steam ports were 1 3/8 in. x 13 in. and the exhaust ports 3 ½ x 13in. Laminated springs were fitted above the running plates. See plate 35 in Clark's.Railway locomotives 1860. Ahrons British steam railway locomotive page 113 and Fig. 136 (p. 134) . Illus. of ex No.1 as No. 1001 at Haymarket in 1900s Rly Arch., 2008 (18) 58 lower

2-4-0: Beyer Paecock: 1859/1861

The success of the Beyer Peacock singles led to further orders for 2-4-0 and 0-4-2 types. Nos. 40 and 41 arrived in November 1859 followed two years later by Nos. 4 and 7. These were 2-4-0s with 6 ft. coupled wheels. In other respects they were identical to the 2-2-2 engines, as were the:

0-4-2: Beyer Paecock: 1859/1861/1862

Ahrons British steam railway locomotive p. 157 noted that was an excellent design. They had 5ft driving wheels and outside bearings on the rear axle (to avoid over-heating). They had 16 x 22in cylinders and lasted in service for 45 years. The engines were numbered 89-92, 93-6.and 97-100.

2-4-0: 1865-7

Under Johnson's management three more of these 2-4-0s were built in 1865-7 and had domeless boilers and were allotted to passenger workings. These last engines were Nos. 235, 236 and 239. All these engines were rebuilt under Drummond or Holmes and lasted until 1910-11. The Beyer Peacock engines had domeless boilers as a rule and this was a new departure for the E. & G.R. as previously its engines had had domes mounted in several positions on the boiler or firebox, but when they were rebuilt, two by Wheatley and the rest by Drummond, they were given domed boilers pressed to 140psi.

Coal burning

Paton was interested in Clark's experiments in smoke abatement. Coke was an expensive fuel and the E. & G. and its neighbour, the Monklands Railways, were located on one of Scotland's richest coalfields. Paton considered using coal as fuel without the cost of processing it in the coke ovens at Falkirk. In 1850 Paton designed an unusual locomotive. It was an 0-4-0 mineral engine with a coal burning firebox. An arrangement was applied to this locomotive, the purpose of which was to secure  complete combustion of the coal. To enable this to be achieved a jet of steam was introduced into the firebox just above the fire level, the intention being that the hydrolysis of the steam would provide sufficient oxygen to complete the process of combustion. The firebox was a very long one for those days, seven feet, and it was very shallow. The boiler and tubes were short, being only about 8 ft. long. A very large dome was placed just behind the chimney. The cylinders were 15 x 22 in. and were secured on each side of the boiler, were steeply inclined, and drove the rear pair of coupled wheels. The experiment was not a success but it appears to have given Clark the germ of the idea from which he ultimately devised his own system of smoke prevention. At this time Clark had been engaged in a series of experiments to determine, amongst other things, the relative merits of inside and outside cylinder locomotives. Both Paton of the E. & G. and Sinclair of the Caledonian had co-operated to the extent of allowing Clark considerable freedom to carry out his experiments, and his findings were later published in Clark's Railway Machinery. Paton was unconvinced by Clark's arguments in favour of outside cylinder locomotives of the Allan or 'Old Crewe' type, and continued his policy of using inside cylinders and inside frames. He retired from the service in 1861 and was succeeded by William Steel Brown who came from the Great Northern Railway at Peterborough.

William Steel Brown (Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway: 1861-)

Brown was in need of a works manager and his erstwhile foreman fitter at Peterborough, William Stroudley, was appointed to the post. This appointment was to prove one of considerable significance in Scottish railway history since it gave Stroudley the scope he required for the introduction and development of some of his ideas in locomotive design, and to provide a very definite and characteristic school of thought which passed down through his assistants, notably the Drummond brothers, making him a third 'trend-setter'.

2-4-0: Stroudley/Brown

Brown had not been long in command at Cowlairs before he expressed an opinion that a main line railway should not be dependent on outside contractors for the construction of its new locomotives, and be content only to repair and maintain them, but that it should build its own, or a proportion of its own. Thus in 1862 a new series of 2-4-0s appeared on the E. & G. R, built this time in the Cowlairs works under Stroudley's supervision. In appearance they resembled the Hawthorn rather than the Beyer Peacock style, possibly as a result of Brown's long experience of Hawthorn locomotives on the GNR. At a board meeting held on May 30, 1864, the death of W. S. Brown was announced and in due course Samuel Waite Johnson was appointed to the vacant position.

William Stroudley was Works Manager at Cowlairs and it has been suggested by Ellis (North British Railway page 55 and otherwise (below)) that 2-4-0 Number 101 served as the prototype for the LBSCR 2-4-0s and was taken by Johnson to the GER: Allen (Great Eastern Railway p.92) states that five locomotives on order from Neilson for the NBR were diverted to the GER.

Hambleton, F.C. Stroudley's 2-4-0 locomotives. Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1941, 47, 261.
No. 206 Carisbrooke.

Edinburgh, Perth & Dundee Railway (originally Edinburgh & Northern Railway)

See Workshops (established in Burntisland)

According to N. Groves Great Northern locomotive history V. 1 Hawthorn supplied the railway with Crampton intermediate crankshaft locomotive/s in 1847.

William Wheatley

According to Thomas (North British) during the eight years he served the North British Wheatley built 185 locomotives to his own designs in twelve broadly standard classes, and ten more from bits and pieces of old engines. He acquired four from the Forth & Clyde, two from a coal-owner, and an odd one that had been ordered for the Edinburgh & Glasgow. Throughout his career he reboilered and rebuilt old stock to transform the North British locomotive scene. Wheatley was not a man for frills. Engines passing through the shops emerged minus Hurst's fancy brasswork and copper-capped chimneys. The Wheatley engine was workmanlike but austere. Among its distinguishing features were a plain stovepipe chimney, a meagre weatherboard giving scant protection to the footplatemen, and, often, a dome with the cover flared out at the top to form an 'inverted eggcup' housing the safety valves.

Wheatley's policy was geared strictly to current North British requirements. The company had a thriving business in the coal-fields and industrial areas, and the demand was for simple reliable goods engines and shunters. The passenger service was complex but it did not call for engines capable of high speed and a high power output. The principal trains between Edinburgh and Berwick were hauled by North Eastern engines. The two main passenger routes, Edinburgh–Glasgow and Granton–Tayport, were well served by Hurst engines and others. The result was that out of the 185 engines Wheatley built, 152 were for goods traffic.

Wheatley 0-6-0 "standard goods"

The most common of the Wheatley engines was his standard goods (Everard and Thomas (North British), eighty-eight of which were built between 1867 and 1875—sixty-two at Cowlairs, twelve by Neilson, and fourteen by Dübs. The first six engines were running less than five months after Wheatley's arrival at Cowlairs, a fact which gave rise to the suggestion that the design was completed by S.W. Johnson before his departure from Cowlairs in June 1866. The engines certainly exhibited certain Johnson characteristics; they had the typical Johnson chimney, small dome, weatherboard and sidesheets, and a large brass safety valve over the firebox. Norman Johnston's Locomotives of the GNRI notes that further Dübs Wheatley Standard Goods were supplied to the Irish North Western Railway..

'Standard' was a cursory title for the goods engines. All were 0-6-0s but detail varied from batch to batch and even from engine to engine. The Dübs engines had copper-capped, bell-topped chimneys. The Cowlairs engines had the Wheatley stovepipe, though No 70 appeared with a Johnson chimney and a very old tender. The wheel diameters were given variously as 5 ft and 5 ft 2 in and the number of spokes in each wheel varied from ten to sixteen. The shape of weatherboard and sidesheets showed considerable variation, as did the arrangement of the splashers. They were a hardy longlived class and some lasted into LNER days when the survivors were classed as J31. See RCTS History Part 5. Wheatley could not have imagined when he first saw No 381 in 1868 that the same engine, as smartly groomed as the day it came out of Neilson's, would represent the North British at the 1925 S&DR Centenary at Darlington (illustrated in RCTS History).

Fifty-seven mineral engines were produced at Cowlairs between 1867 and 1873; thirty-eight of them were 0-6-0s with 4 ft coupled wheels for heavy duty, and nine were saddle tanks which combined short-haul coal working with shunting duties.

Wheatley 4-4-0s

The most celebrated engines of the Wheatley period (Thomas (North British) were the six bogies. Nos 224 and 264 (the former achieved notoriety by going down with the first Tay Bridge) were turned out from Cowlairs in June 1871 and were the first British 4-4-0s with inside frames and inside cylinders. The driving wheels were 6 ft 6 in and the cylinders 17 in by 24 inches. The unusually small bogie wheels (2 ft 9 in) had solid centres. The engines had their designer's austere look, but in spite of that the Wheatley trim of pea green lined out in black and white gave them a pleasing appearance. They were employed mainly in Fife. Ellis (North British) covers the design at some length as does Middlemass in his book on the Scottish 4-4-0.

Four slightly heavier 4-4-0s (Nos 420 to 423) were built in 1873. They were very similar to the earlier bogies. The most noticeable difference was that their domes were set on the boiler midway between the centre line of the leading drivers and the rear bogie axle, whereas the earlier engines carried their domes on the firebox. The 420 class solid bogie wheels were slightly bigger (3 ft 4 in) and the coupled wheelbase was two inches longer than that of the earlier engines. The 1873 engines did their best work on the Waverley route until shortly after the opening of the route to Midland trains; thereafter they were used on Edinburgh and Glasgow fast trains.


Among Wheatley's passenger engines Thomas (North British) were two inside-framed 2-4-0s built in 1869 and six 2-4-0s built in 1873. The earlier engines had 6 ft 6 in driving wheels and 17 in by 24 in cylinders, while the later engines had 6 ft wheels and 16 in by 22 in cylinders. Although the former were withdrawn prior to the Grouping, the latter became LNER Class E7 (see RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 4).

Wheatley 0-4-0

The first engines built by Wheatley at Cowlairs, Nos 357 and 358 (Thomas (North British), were 0-4-0 tender engines with 5 ft 3 in coupled wheels and 15 in by 24 in cylinders; and they had unusually deep buffer beams which carried an extra pair of buffers for dealing with colliery wagons. Covered in Everard. Usually these worked together in docks and other places where the layout demanded light engines capable of taking sharp curves. No 358 went to the scrapheap in 1926 bearing an LNER number plate. It had worked the Moffat Mills branch from Kipps shed until December 1925 and was the last active 0-4-0 tender engine in Britain. See RCTS History (Part 6C).


In 1874 six light shunters (Thomas (North British) were built at Cowlairs for the specialised task of placing loads on the Forth and Tay wagon ferries. They were 0-6-0 saddle tanks with 13 by 18 in cylinders and 3 ft 6 in wheels. Two each were stationed at Granton and Burntisland, and one each at Broughty Ferry and Tayport.


Leith dock traffic was handled by a pair of 0-4-0 saddle tanks (Nos 18 and 331) built at Cowlairs in 1872 (Thomas North British).

Drummond designs

Dugald Drummond designs were evident on three of the post-grouping railways. Although John Thomas called Drummond a rugged Scotsman, he took office on 1 February 1875, a visitor from Sussex three years later could have been forgiven for thinking that an Englishman was in charge—William Stroudley. Wheatley green had given place to Stroudley yellow, and North British engines now had regional names like LB&SCR engines. Some of the Edinburgh and Glasgow expresses did the journey in 70 minutes with two stops behind a 2-2-2 with 7 ft driving wheels and 17 in by 24 in cylinders that looked very like Stroudley's Grosvenor. And all over the system there were 0-6-0 goods engines that might have taken for Stroudley 0-6-0s of 1871.

Class D

Cameron, Euan. Drummond & Holmes 17" goods. North British Study Group J., 2010 (108) 15-23.


476 (Abbotsford) class: Drummond: 1876
The first of Drummond's 4-4-0 express engines (see Everard) to appear were Nos 476-479, Carlisle, Edinburgh, Meirose, and Abbotsford. They began a great dynasty of steam locomotives that for ever would be associated with his name. The engines combined the Drummond qualities of rugged simplicity and beauty of design. They had 6 ft 6 in driving wheels, 18 in by 26 in cylinders, and the combined weight of engine and tender was 76 tons 5 cwt. The designer gave them a smart cutaway cab. Four more of the class (Nos 486-489). Aberdeen, Montrose, Galashiels, and Hawick, came from Neilson's in 1878 and Cowlairs completed the final four (Nos 490-493), St Boswells, Daihousie, Newcastleton, and Netherby, in the same year.

Thomas (North British Vol. 1) stated that Drummond had put a lot of thought into the production of his new engine. It had to be good, for it had to perform on what was probably the toughest high-speed line (KPJ: it was never a high speed line) in the world. 'All material throughout to be the best of its respective kind', Drummond wrote in his instructions to Neilson. The railway world watched with interest what was happening in the North British locomotive department. Already Drummond had attracted attention with the goods engines. 'Drummond emerges as a locomotive engineer in his own right,' said Engineering. When the new passenger engines came out in 1876 they gave the technical press something to talk about. They could climb and they could run. They ran the 98 miles from Edinburgh to Carlisle nonstop in 2 hours and 10 minutes, with trains of 117 tons, burning only 28 lb of coal a mile. 'A wonderfully good result,' commented Engineering.

Cameron, Euan. Drummond's "Abbotsford" class. North British Study Group J., 2009 (106) 12-20. 3 diagrs. (s. els.), 4 col. illus.
Notes that this introduced the Drummond 4-4-0 with irs style of cab and sloping grate which developed into the T9 class on the LSWR.

0-6-0T: 1875-

NBR branch lines were powered with twenty-five 0-6-0 tanks (Everard) that looked like Brighton Terriers; these were built by Drummond between 1875 and 1878 and had 4 ft 6 in wheels and 15 in by 22 in inside cylinders. The fast trains from Glasgow down to Helensburgh were hauled by some of the six 0-4-4 tanks that so closely resembled a Brighton Sydenham of 1873. These engines carried the names Helensburgh. Gareloch, Dumbarton, Cardross, Craigendoran, and Roseneath. When they were moved to Fife in 1879 the Brighton tradition of changing engine names to suit their environment was followed and they became respectively, Kirkcaldy, Ladybank, Markinch, Dundee, Lochee, and Burntisland.

Drummond did not follow Stroudley blindly. Brighton engines were fitted with feed pumps and used exhaust steam to heat tender water. The first Drummond North British engines used the same system, but following a series of experiments at Cowlairs he concluded that feed-water equipment was not worth the expense of installation and extra maintenance.

Tank engines, North British Railway. Locomotive Mag., 1906, 12, 39. illus.
0-6-0T designed by Dugald Drummond and introduced from 1875. Similar to Stroudley Terriers: 4ft 6in coupled wheels, 15 x 22in cylinders, 14ft2 grate area, total heating surface 701 ft2, boiler pressure 140 psi.

No. Name Built
20 Haddmgton 1877
22 Langhohn 1877
96 Arbroath 1878
97 Bounington 1878
106 Tayport 1878
107 Leuchars 1878
108 St. Andrews 1878
151 Guardbridge 1877
158 North Berwick 1877
161 Buckhaven 1877
162 Loch Leven. 1877
165 Boness 1875
166 Bothwell. 1875
240 Polton 1878
241 Bervie 1876
274 Dalkeith 1877
284 Grahamston 1875
295 Carnoust1e 1877
297 Leith 1876
313 Musselburgh 1878

Three weeks after the inauguration of the through Waverley route expresses from the Midland Drummond urged that six powerful engines be constructed to work the traffic, 'the present engines being unable to maintain the speed up the inclines at Falahill and Hawick without the aid of a pilot engine and it was remitted to him to ascertain the expense of converting four of the goods engines being built by Messrs Neilson & Co with passenger engines for the traffic'.

Brake Trials

Waverley Station was like Liverpool Street in that shunting was accompanied by the panting of brake pumps and was indicative of the Westinghouse brake. John Thomas (North British) makes much of those which took place with Drummond's involvement: "The North British took no part in the Newark brake trials of 1875, but on 13 April 1876 the board ordered the fitting of the Westinghouse brake on four engines for working the through Midland traffic due to start in less than three weeks. In September 1876 George Westinghouse and Mr Yeoman, the European representative of the American Smith Vacuum Brake, separately approached John Monteith Douglas at his London office and sought his help in interesting the North British on their behalf. Drummond arranged for competitive brake trials to take place on the Edinburgh-Glasgow main line.

Two almost identical trains were fitted up at Cowlairs, one with the Westinghouse brake, the other with the Smith brake. The trials were fixed for 12 December and Drummond made it a gala occasion, a galaxy of railway stars from both sides of the Border being invited to ride in the contesting trains. C.M. Needham and C.J. Allport represented the Midland, the North Eastern sent Haswell and Gooch, while Barton Wright and Armstrong were observers for the L & Y and GWR. The Scottish representatives were Smithells and George Brittain of the Caledonian, Cowan for the Great North of Scotland, Robertson the traffic manager of the Highland, and James Stirling of the G&SW.

The trials had a stimulating curtain-raiser. On 10 December a passenger train broke in two in the Calton tunnel and the rear half ran away—an impossibility with continuous brakes. The morning of the trials was damp and misty and the rails were greasy. The Westinghouse train set off first to run from Edinburgh to Cowlairs and back. The train was put through a programme of routine and emergency stops. At 60 mph it was brought to a stand in 29½ seconds 'and that without the least feeling of shock on the part of those occupying the carriages'. On the return trip there were sixteen stops. When the guard applied the brake with steam on and the train running at 40 mph the stopping time was 40½ seconds. An application made simultaneously by the driver and guard stopped the train in 19¾ seconds. In all cases the brake began to act between a quarter and three quarters of a second after application. George Westinghouse had reason to be pleased with himself when the test train pulled in at Waverley station.

The guests alighted and stood waiting on the platform for the Smith train, which was due to leave for Glasgow at 1 pm. It failed to turn up—the pumps had failed. The Smith pump equipment was carried in a borrowed GNR van, the pumps being operated by a connection to an axle of the van. Westinghouse agreed to have his train ready again on any day named by Smith.

The second trial was held on 22 December. Some of the distinguished guests had left Edinburgh, but there were some newcomers among the passengers, notably David Jones of the Highland, and a Mr Hardie, a locomotive superintendent from Vienna. This time the Smith train took the field first, but not before half an hour had been lost adjusting gearing. The following were some of the results of the test stops:

Westinghouse Smith Vacuum
Speed Distance Time Distance Time
40 mph 550 yd 16 secs 800 yd 23 secs
49½ mph 798 yd 19 secs 1,170 yd 27½ secs
54 mph 952 yd 21 secs 1,310 yd 28 secs
55 mph 910 yd 21 secs 1,375 yd 28 secs

At the conclusion of the trials Drummond thanked the Americans for having offered their brakes for test, and assured them that the trains would be run in normal service for six months and their performances assessed. But less than three weeks later, at his instigation, the board 'resolved that arrangements be forth with made with Mr Westinghouse to have his brake fitted in passenger engines, carriages and other coaching stock'. Engineering acclaimed Drummond's decision:

We confess that, having in view the extreme sluggishness that characterises the managements of railways in this country we were unprepared for such prompt action on the part of the North British, and it is therefore to the credit of Mr Drummond and his directors that, having satisfied themselves that the automatic (Westinghouse) is not only thoroughly efficient, but the best brake at present known they have acted immediately upon this knowledge and adopted it for their line.

DRUMMOND CONSOLIDATES (from Thomas North British V.2)

Thomas enthuses: By 1880 the splendid engines of Dugald Drummond dominated the NBR scene. Whether express bogie, branch line tank or six-coupled goods the Drummond product performed superbly. And some of the old Wheatleys had been given a new lease of life. No contemporary railway owed more to its locomotive superintendent than the NBR owed to Dugald Drummond.

The fall of the Tay Bridge had an effect on locomotive policy. Had the bridge survived it is likely that the directors would have called for a new express engine for the prestige Burntisland-Aberdeen trains, in which case the 4-4-0 which subsequently made Drummond's name on the Caledonian might well have appeared on the NBR


R class (4ft 6in): 1875-8 (J82)
Confusingly classified by NBR with same designation as 4-4-0T. Very similar to Stroudley Terriers. SLS pp. 91-2 and RCTS Locomotives of the LNER. Part 8B. Illus.: No. 297 at North Leith in 1904. Rly Arch., 2008 (18) 57 upper.


Drummond produced two classes of 4-4-0T: one with 6ft coupled wheels (NBR class P) and another with 5ft coupled wheels (NBR class R)

P class: 1879 (LNER D50 class)
Three locomotives were constructed to operate the Helensburgh commuter expresses: Nos. 494 Craigendoran; 495 Roseneath and 496 Helensburgh. The engines were extremely neat with 16in by 24in cylinders, 5ft in diameter coupled wheels and solid bogie wheels of 2ft 6in. C.H. Ellis illustrated and wrote about one of these neat 4-4-0Ts (on a Helensburgh train) in Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev. 1944, 50, 32. Also included a cross section as Figure 166 in his Chapter the Development of railway engineering in Singer. They are covered in Part 7 of the RCTS Locomotives of the LNER.

R class: 1880-4 (LNER D51 class)
These 5ft locomotives were very small with grate areas of only 13.75ft2 and 16 x 22in cylinders. They originally had names of places, but as with many locomotives of this type the names were liable to change. The last was not withdrawn until 1933:.for 50 years or more they performed duties in places as far apart as Morpeth and St Combs (the latter following the Grouping). They were ideal motive power for lightly constructed branches to places like Gifford and Lauder They are covered in Part 7 of the RCTS Locomotives of the LNER...

0-4-0ST (Drummond/Neilson)

On 30 March 1882 Drummond was asked to produce two engines for Leith and Stobcross docks 'to be built as early as possible at Cowlairs works unless it should be found that two can be purchased for delivery in two months'. On 20 April it was announced that Neilson & Co had undertaken to deliver two such engines at £1,275 each within two months. See also Class G..


Although only one new design appeared from Cowlairs in the last two years of Drummond's reign there was plenty for the locomotive superintendent to do. The works were extended and partly re-equipped. It was the hope of the directors that Cowlairs would be made capable of coping with all new building and repairs both of locomotives and rolling stock. Between 1880 and 1882 a further 50 of Drummond's 17in 0-6-0s were built at the works and a steady programme of carriage and wagon renewal was carried out.

Holmes' designs


Class D (LNER J33)
Thomas North British Vol. 2: "More than a year passed before the first Holmes design appeared. Seven of his 17in 0-6-0 goods were turned out in the latter half of 1883". They were similar to Drummond's 17in engines  (also Class D) although the hand of Holmes could be discerned in them. A new design of tender dispensed with Drummond's outside bearings, slotted frames and underhung springs, and the toolbox had disappeared from the traditional Drummond position at the rear of the tender. The Ramsbottom safety valves of the former regime had given way to independent lock-up valves arranged in pairs in beaded-brass columns fitted on the dome. Ramsbottom valves had been removed hastily from all NBR engines following a disastrous boiler explosion which demolished No 465 at Dunbar a few months after Holmes took office Hewison (Locomotive boiler explosions) analysed this accident at length. It was never proved that the valves were at fault but Cowlairs' mistrust of them was such that engines were called in and lock-ups fitted as soon as they became available.

In 1884 eleven more engines of the class came into service. One, No 150, instead of having the usual Drummond square cab had a rounded, Stirling-type cab. Four engines of the batch (582-5) were fited with the Westinghouse brake for passenger working. In 1885 a further 11 engines appeared and of these six had round cabs and eight the Westinghouse brake. The round cab appeared to offer less protection than the square cab, but the drivers swore that it was less draughty than the Drummond cab. The cab became standard, the final six engines of the batch (which totalled 36) were fitted with it and with the Westinghouse brake.

Class C (LNER J36): 1888
First batch built at Cowlairs: 18 x 26 in cylinders, 5ft driving wheels. Built until 1900, mostly at Cowlairs, but two batches of fifteen bought from outside: one from Neilson, and one from Sharp Stewart.. Many lasted almost until the end of steam. Thomas noted that 168 engines of the class were built and that they were uncomplicated, reliable locomotives, wonderful revenue earners not only for the NB but for the LNER and BR. They had the same grate area as the 17 in engines, but the heating surface was increased from 1,059sq ft to 1,235.13sq ft. The tractive effort of the earlier engine was 16,000lb and that of the new engine 17,2201b. The weight of engine and tender of the 18in design was 72ton 4cwt, that of the 17in design 70ton 8cwt. The engines were to be seen all over the system doing all sorts of work from mineral to passenger.

Dunbar, Alan G. and Glen, I.A. Fifty years with Scottish steam.  1982.
Experienced class as Parkhead chargehand fitter where type was liked by him probably because of its similarity to the Caledonian Jumbos: Maintenance was simple and the locomotives were rugged.. Only problem was the replacement of the closed slide bars by the open type during WW2 which led to problems; and locomotives fitted with spark arrestors failed to steam..
Railway Correspondence & Travel Society. Locomotives of the LNER. Part 5. Tender engines—classes J1 to J37.


592 class (Holmes)
The first express passenger engine to be added to NBR stock for 10 years appeared from Cowlairs in 1886. It was the Holmes 592 Class 4-4-0 (see Everard). The Drummond lineage was obvious, but so also were the Holmes innovations. The engine had the now standard round cab and Holmes tender. Whereas in the Drummond engines the frames above footplate level were cut off flush with the smoke box, in the Holmes engine they were carried forward to join the buffer beam in a graceful curve. The chimney had a more decided taper. The new engine appeared in Drummond colours, but it carried no name. The regional names favoured by Drummond were said to have been causing confusion among passengers who mistook them for destination boards. However, the Holmes engines were provided with moveable destination boards which were curved to the contour of the smoke box and exhibited the destination in white block letters against a brick red background. The Drummond 18in by 26in cylinders were retained, but Holmes gave No 592 7ft driving wheels in place of the 6ft 6in wheels of the Drummond passenger engine. Boiler pressure was 150psi. Holmes did not like the Drummond sloping grate so he introduced a flat grate.

Six of the new engines were built in 1886 and a further six in 1888. The first of the class appeared just in time to feature at the Edinburgh International Exhibition of Science, Industry and Art. This was the first major exhibition to be held in Scotland and the first at which locomotives had been exhibited. The NBR engine took its place in the industrial pavilion along with Drummond's No 124, the soon to be famous No 123, and the Highland Railway 4-4-0 Bruce. The site of the exhibition at the Meadows was some what remote from a railhead, and at the close of the show No 592 hauled the two Caledonian engines and two carriages through the streets of Edinburgh to the Caledonian depot at Lothian Road. This feat was accomplished by James Bell, chief engineer of the North British, and a team of 30 men who kept lifting and relaying a length of sleepered track on the roadway as the procession progressed. The journey took two days. No 529 and its sisters were employed on the Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee fast services.

Illustrated interviews. No. 33–Mr. Matthew Holmes. Locomotive Superintendent, North British Railway. Rly Mag., 1900, 7, 1-10.
592 class No. 602 illustrated at Stirling having hauled a special for the Prince of Wales: carrying Royal Train headboard and flags.

633 class

This second Holmes bogie express engine appeared in 1890. Everard (Loco. Rly Carr. Wagon Rev., 1944, 50, 51) declares that this design was directly based on those of the Caledonian Railway. Twelve engines were turned out from Cowlairs in anticipation of an increase in traffic following the opening of the Forth Bridge. They differed in several respects from the first Holmes express engine. The boiler pressure was reduced to 140psi (from 150psi) giving a reduction in tractive effort from "12,7901b to 12,8601b" (according to Thomas). The total heating surface, however, was increased from 1,126sq ft to 1,262sq ft. The 7ft driving wheel gave place to wheels of 6ft 6in in the new engine. Twelve additional engines of the class were built at Cowlairs in 1894 and 1895. These had a boiler pressure of 150psi and a tractive effort of 13,800lb. Nos 633-5 and 642 were allocated to Perth when new; 262-3, 312, 401 and 211-2 went to Aberdeen, 213-16 to St Margarets and 217-8 to Carlisle. The St Margarets engines were among those which took over from the NER engines on the Edinburgh to Berwick run in 1897. These were rebuilt from 1918 into M class and became LNER D31.

West Highland bogies (N class)

Dow (The story of the West Highland line) emphasises that the line was worked as an integral part of the NBR, but that Holmes designed a special 4-4-0 for the opening of the line. The RCTS history notes that these did not enjoy the same reputation as the other Holmes' 4-4-0s and suffered from a lack of adhesion and were alleged to be capable of slipping on Portobello sands. Presumably the demands of the Civil Engineer had led to this excessively low adhesion factor. Twenty-four engines of the class were built at Cowlairs between 1893 and 1896.

729 class

The 729 class was introduced in 1898. This was a more powerful version of the Holmes main line express engine and exhibited most of Holmes' features The cylinders were 18¼in by 26in, the boiler pressure was raised to 175psi. and the total heating surface was 1,350sq ft and tractive effort 16,400lb. Engine and tender weighed 86ton 5cwt.

North British Railway express locomotive No. 729. Rly Mag., 1901, 8, col. plate facing page 97
Holmes 4-4-0 in bronze livery. Alf Cooke printer

317 class

Experience during the summer of 1901 showed that the brand new 633 Class could not cope single handed with the greatly increased loads on the Aberdeen and Waverley routes. Accordingly Holmes was asked to produce a suitable engine. His drawings were submitted to the Board on 21 November 1901 when the following minute was recorded: The general manager submitted drawings of proposed new express passenger engines, and recommended that 12 of these be built to replace engines wearing out, also that the excess cost (£800 per engine be debited to capital. This was agreed to, the engines to be fitted with 19in cylinders, and the locomotive superintendent was instructed to report to next meeting as to the practicability of a more powerful type of engine.

Holmes presented his revised design to the board on 13 March 1902 and twelve engines were authorised. This, the 317 Class, was Holmes' last design. Ellis states that they were identical to the McIntosh 900 class (Dunalastair III). They were the first NBR engines to have steel boilers and carry a pressure of 200psi. The 19in by 26in cylinders had piston valves. The cab was of the square design that was to become standard on future NBR classes. There has been speculation over the reason for the departure from the well-established round cab. Holmes was in failing health and W.P. Reid had been appointed to assist him; it has been suggested that Reid put forward or himself designed the square cab. However, Reid was not appointed until December 1902, nine months after the engines had been authorised, and they must have been in an advanced state of construction when he arrived at Cowlairs. Moreover, Reid was specifically appointed outdoor assistant. He was not a design man. If anyone other than Holmes altered the design or suggested an alteration the most likely person to do so would have been Robert Chalmers. The twelve engines were completed in 1903. Nos 317-22 went to Aberdeen, 325-6 to St Margarets and 327-32 to Carlisle. Holmes did not survive to see his final class in action.

New type of locomotive designed for hauling the express trains of the North British Railway. Rly Mag., 1903, 13, 81.
4-4-0 No. 317: caption does not state that this was a Holmes design although RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 4 makes this clear that this was so and calls it Holmes's magnus opus and the 317 or K class.


795 class (Class D) (LNER J83) 
In the 1940s and 50s these forty locomotives gave the impression of being everywhere on former NBR lines. Holmes designed the 795 series for heavy shunting duties and short haul freight. The engines weighed 45ton 5cwt, and had 4ft 6in driving wheels and 17in by 26in cylinders. Thomas states that when an order for twenty was placed with Neilson Reid early in 1900 the firm, which appeared to be short of work at the time offered to build twenty additional tanks 'or ordinary goods engines' at attractive rates. They also undertook to speed up delivery of all forty engines. The offer was rejected, but in 1901 the NBR ordered a further twenty from Sharp Stewart.

North British six-coupled tank goods engine, No. 801 Rly Mag., 1900, 7,. 429
NBR have under construction forty tank engines of the class which you saw passing Piershill Station. They are intended for working short distance goods and mineral trains. Cylinders, 17in. by 26in.; wheels, 4ft. 6in. diameter; 1501b. steam pressure. NBR duplicate engines formerly numbered from 801 upwards, but, as the company has been adding considerably to its stock of locomotives during the last few years, 801 has now. been reached with the regular stock, and the duplicate engines' are numbered from 1001 on.
RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 8B


Class P (Holmes and Drummond versions shared same class on NBR)

Nos. 586-91 were constructed in 1886 and 90-5 in 1889. They resembled Drummond's 88 Class after Drummond had rebuilt them in 1881. They had the same size of cylinder (17in by 24in) but the driving wheels of the Holmes engine were 6ft 6in compared with the 5ft 9in of the Drummond engine. These were the only passenger tanks built by Holmes and the last to be built for the NB for 23 years. Six were added to the class in 1888 and all were employed on local services, especially in the Glasgow area.


Class G (LNER Y9)

The RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 9B firmly states that these locomotives were identical to the Neilson standard products acquired by Drummond in 1882. Between 1887 and 1891 Holmes produced 36 0-4-0 saddle tanks for light shunting duties in dock, colliery and factory sidings. The engines were only 24ft 4in long over buffers and the centre line of the boiler a mere 5ft 4¼in above rail level. The engine weighed 28ton 15cwt. The outside inclined cylinders were 14in by 20in. The cab consisted of a canopy supported on four pillars, fronted by a skimpy facing plate and flanked by small side bunkers. The engines had dumb buffers and sometimes were attached to dumb-buffered tenders . They were destined to spend their working lives moving at speeds of 5mph or less. It was quite a sight to see them waddling back to their depots after a day's work at a reckless 10mph. Illus. two in Pouteau series Rly Arch., 2008 (18) pp. 59 lower and 60 lower.

Absorbed lines

Glasgow, Bothwell & Hamilton Railway

Incorporated in 1874: opened from Hamilton to Shettleston in 1877. Owned four Dübs 0-6-0T which became NBR 502-5 and were rebuilt with Holmes 140psi boilers. (Ellis)

Campbell, Robert D. Muck, brass and Glasgow's railways. Part One. Backtrack, 2006, 20, 424-8.
Illus. of No. 505 ex No. 1.

Reid designs

There was an echo of Drummond at Cowlairs only a few weeks after Reid took office. One of the locomotives on show at the Glasgow exhibition of 1901 had been a T9 4-4-0 of the LSWR fitted with the designer's patent water tube boiler. The Drummond boiler was the subject of comment in the technical press and the performance of engines fitted with it was watched with interest by railway managements. On 30 July 1903 the general manager of the NB submitted a plan and specification of the Drummond boiler 'fitted with cross water tubes, casings and doors', explaining to the board that the boiler was said to result in a saving of fuel. He was authorised to obtain tenders for the boiler from the North British Locomotive, Kitson's, Yorkshire Engine Company, and Robert Stephenson. At the same time Reid was told to make enquiries about the reported efficiency of the boiler. The tenders and Reid's report were available at the locomotive committee meeting of 27 August. Reid's report was inconclusive, and the general manager was instructed to delay purchase until the efficiency of the boilers had been established. That was the nearest the NB came to employing Drummond water tube boilers.

With the death of Wieland in April 1905 the grip of the ruling clique was loosened. The new chairman, the Earl of Dalkeith, knew that all was not well in the locomotive department and he placed in charge of the locomotive committee a director who was singularly fitted for the post. He was Dr John Inglis whom we have encountered already in this narrative as head of the ship building and engineering firm of A. & J. Inglis. The change in the fortunes of the department was dramatic.

Thomas claimed that so chaotic had things become that no one at Cowlairs could say with certainty how many engines the company owned, or in what condition they were in. Inglis ordered a census to be taken of locomotives and rolling stock. The task occupied five months and the result disclosed that there were 847 engines on the active list and 80 on the duplicate list. There were 664 tenders on the books but only 647 could be found. Inglis ordered another census of rolling stock and when this failed to produce the missing tenders he concluded that the company records were wrong. Investigations revealed that many years previously when 17 tender engines had been replaced with tank engines the books had not been altered. The records listed 3,760 carriages but the census accounted for only 3,492. A second count located most of the missing vehicles, but the following had vanished without trace:

No Description Year built Value
806 3rd class 1884 £452 11s 4d
530 Brake 3rd 1872 £275 15s 11d
576 Brake 3rd 1872 £275 15s 11d
130 Passenger van 1872 £229 15s 11d
45 Carriage truck 1868 £55 17s 0d

The first four vehicles were written off and the carriage truck was replaced from revenue.

During the census 44 engines were found to be unfit for the work on which they were engaged. Inglis devised a system of regular inspection which ensured that the mechanical condition of all old engines would be known. Each half year Reid was required to furnish a certificate for every engine over 35 years old and every boiler 25 years old.


B class (LNER J35): Reid: 1906

In his pursuance of his dictum of 'more power for a modem train' Dr Inglis induced the company to build goods engines which would do for the increasingly heavier goods trains what the Atlantics were expected to do for the passenger trains. Two classes were turned out in 1906. The first design was for a powerful 0-6-0 and ten of the class were built by the North British Locomotive Co and delivered just before the first of the Atlantics, two more coming from Cowlairs before the end of the year. The engines weighed 66ton 15cwt. They had 18½in by 26in cylinders, 5ft driving wheels, and boiler pressure of 180psi. The engines remained the standard goods class until the introduction of the first superheated goods in 1913. A total of 78 was built, 54 being fitted with the Westinghouse brake for passenger working.
New locomotives, North British Railway. Locomotive Mag., 1906, 12, 130. 2 illus.
Tweny large 0-6-0s: ten built at Cowlairs and ten at North British Locomotive Co. at the Atlas Works. These had 18½ x 26in cylinders, piston valves, 5ft coupled wheels and 5ft diameter boilers with 1605ft2 total heating surface and 19.8ft2 grate area. Working pressure 180 psi. No. 329 illustraated. Ten NBL locomotives numbered 849-858.

S class

Following the application of supeheaters to the Scott class, the next logical step was the designing of a powerful superheated goods engine. This was the S Class 0-6-0, the first of which was completed at Cowlairs in 1914. It had 5ft driving wheels, a boiler pressure of 160psi and a tractive effort of 25,211lb. The engines were put on long distance goods, notably Cadder to Aberdeen and Carlisle to Dundee.

Although the book is nominally about the North British Atlantics, it probably tells the curious reader more about the relatively lowly position of the Locomotive Superintendent, William Paton Reid, and the relationship between him and David Deuchars, Superintendent of the Line, and William Jackson, the General Manager. It also demonstrates the close involvement of at least one of the Board Members, Dr John Inglis of the Glasgow family shipbuilding and engineering firm in the affairs of locomotive acquisition and control. Thomas is able to show, through his close examination of the company's outgoing correspondence, that Jackson was a martinet who was highly intolerant of what he regarded as inefficiency.

The book is also interesting for its accouunt of the involvement of officers from other railways in the assessment of the locomotives which the Civil Engineer, James Bell, had adjudged to be unstable and damaging to the track. Both H.A. Ivatt and Vincent Raven were brought in as consultants to assess the locomotives. The former suggested modifications, which had little to do with stability and these were ignored, presumably because of cost. The latter who was then an assistant to Wilson Worsdell was involved in extensive tests, including dynamometer car tests, which led to a highly laudatory report for which he received 200 guineas, twice what Ivatt received (but whether this was a personal fee is not stated). This, in turn, tells the reader more about the impressive Mr Raven who was clearly held in very high esteem even before he became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the North Eastern. The tests over Shap against an LNWR 4-6-0 of the Experiment class are also mentioned where the Atlantic returned an enormous coal consumption of 71 pounds per mile.

Although Thomas received the accolade of some of his books being reprinted as paperbacks, this title is not especially readable and is not helped by the relatively long, and somewhat tedious quotations from contemporary correspondence held at the Scottish Record Office, such as: "With reference to what took place at our meeting on Saturday I will be glad if you will let me have estimates of the costs of the three types of engine...". Jackson requested Reid to send him detailed costs of the three types of engine, preferably with a citation to where it was in the file inspected, might have been more helpful. Thomas had a similar tendency to use an excessive number of words: "the provision of secondary passenger and goods engines and rolling stock on an unprecedented scale" which could have been expressed more concisely. Albeit, this is at the core of the interesting part of the book as Inglis was attempting to persuade the Company to invest in locomotives and rolling stock. The North British was noted for the meagreness of its expenditure. Thomas does not even question whether Inglis was acting on behalf, either directly or indirectly, of his fellow members of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce.

One of the extraordinary aspects of the book is the failure by the author to state exactly what the "block trains" were; this is especially important as the locomotives were constructed to haul these trains on the Edinburgh-Aberdeen route, with through coaches being added/detached at Dalmeny. One has to turn to Ellis for an explanation: "Though the North British Aberdeen block trains had not the elegance of the Caledonian "Grampian Corridor" coaches, they were comfortable and convenient, and ran very well... In one very important respect they were superior to the Caledonian carriages and that was in the plumbing..." Ellis gives quite extensive details of these trains, although like Thomas he fails to include a photograph of one of them. Posed illustrations of the Grampian Corridor are relatively common.

Late actions

Gradually the locomotive department got the better of its problems. Long-cancelled prestige trains re-appeared in the timetable and new engines were built to haul them. Superheating of the older engines, which had been restricted during WW1, was accelerated. In the final three years a vigorous pro gramme of new building was pursued. In 1920 five Scotts and 12 Glens were built and in 1921 two new Atlantics, No 509 Duke of Rothesay and No 510 The Lord Provost, and six 4-4-2 tanks appeared. Goods engines added to stock in 1920 were 12 S Class and a further ten 0-6-2 tanks. In 1921 19 S Class were built bringing the total up to 104.

The S Class were versatile performers, but their failure to handle the heaviest Dunfermline-Aberdeen coal trains single-handed irked the board. Their maximum load on the run was 27. With trains exceeding that number of wagons pilot assistance was required from Townhill to Crossgates, Thornton to Lochmuir and Leuchars to Wormit, and the train had to be double-headed beyond Dundee. All in all it was a cumbersome and expensive operation. A special board meeting resolved 'that the steam pressure of the big goods engines working the Aberdeen coal traffic be increased to 180 pounds and the full load be increased by 5 wagons, no new pilot assistance being given except from Dundee to Camperdown Junction'. A month later the board, taking a more realistic view, conceded that the coal trains could be double-headed as required as far as Kinnaber Junction, but not beyond that point. Double-headed trains exceeding 30 wagons were divided at Kinnaber and run over the Caledonian as two trains.


In two books, John Thomas tells the story of difficult relationship between the Locomotive Superintendent, J.P. Reid, and his superiors, especially the Civil Engineer and the General Manager. Furthermore, Dr John Inglis, head of the engineering and shipbuilding firm of that ilk, and Board member, had a major influence on locomotive design. Volume. 2 of The North British Railway shows how the Atlantic design was developed at the North British Locomotive Co. and shared many common features with those of the Robinson Atlantics which had emerged from NBL shortly before the NBR order. In Thomas' The North British Atlantics

Contemporary literature
Aberdeen service North British Ry. Locomotive Mag., 1906, 12, 109. diagr. (s. el.)
Diagram courtesy Railway Gazette. Block trains.  Edinburgh portion consisted of one composite, two third class and a luggage brake van. Glasgow portion: composite, one third and luggage brake which was attached at Dundee. Vehicles were 58ft 4in long corridor type with gangways. Ten Atlantics were available built by North British Locomotive Co. at their Hyde Park Works. These had 6ft 9in coupled wheels; 20 x 28in cylinders and 200 psi boiler pressure.
New locomotives, North British Railway. Locomotive Mag., 1906, 12, 130. 2 illus.
Further detail

The construction of new passenger locomotives had barely kept pace with the increase in traffic. The Holmes engines had been built in small batches and their total number was insufficient to cope with the heavy summer demands for power. Too much reliance had to be placed on older engines and on rebuilds. Inglis held that a rebuild was no match for a new engine and that money was being squandered on a rebuilding programme. He insisted that only a bold policy of new construction would retrieve the company's fortunes and, not without difficulty, he brought the board round to his way of thinking.

In the autumn of 1905 Cowlairs began casting about for ideas for a new engine. The NBR liked what was currently happening on the Midland and the first design produced was for a Smith compound that was openly referred to as 'the Midland express engine'. The construction of fourteen such engines was authorised, but the decision was cancelled a fortnight later. Inglis visited Crewe and Eastleigh in search of ideas while Jackson sought inspiration from the North Eastern. Inglis meanwhile got information on the financing of a locomotive building programme from J. F. Mcintosh of the Caledonian.

The design eventually accepted was for a very large Atlantic and fourteen of these engines were built at the Hyde Park works of the North British Locomotive Company in 1906. They were massive, impressive machines. Their huge boilers and the necessarily squat mountings gave them a hunched appearance—an appearance of power. Engine and tender weighed 119 ton 16cwt. The outside cylinders were 20in by 28in, the driving wheels were 6ft 9in. The boiler pressure was 190psi. The tender carried 7 tons of coal and 4240gal of water. Features new to the NBR were the steam reverser, drop grate, Belpaire firebox and the large, double-windowed cab.

There has been much speculation about the origin of the Atlantic design. 'Pure Great Central' is the epithet most commonly applied to it, one account going so far as to say that NBL, which had just completed a batch of GC Atlantics, used the GCR drawings as a basis of the NBR design. The similarity of the NBR to the GCR Atlantic is obvious, but there is no official record of the GCR locomotive department having been consulted by Cowlairs. There is clear documentary evidence that the drawings were prepared at Cowlairs and that NBL had no hand in the design. It is, however, known that Robinson of the GCR was a close personal friend of the Chalmers family (not mentioned in biography of Robinson by Jackson). When Robinson and Robert and Walter Chalmers met the talk would be of locomotives, and it is reasonable to assume that the Chalmers father and son team would be influenced by first hand information about Atlantic design and performance imparted by the locomotive superintendent of the GC. That private contact might well explain the apparent GC influence in NB design. In 1908 when Cowlairs produced an 0-8-0 design the result was surprisingly like a GC 0-8-0 (LNER Q4).

The Atlantics were intended to eliminate expensive double-heading on the Waverley route and on the Edinburgh-Aberdeen line, but from the start they ran into trouble. The engines were delivered late and the peak of the 1906 summer traffic was over before they came into service. There was not a turntable on the system that could accommodate them, and that led to operational difficulties. The engines did not reach Aberdeen at all in the first six months of their career.

On the very first Sunday on which an Atlantic was available the engine was sent to the Arbroath-Montrose section of the Aberdeen route for permanent way tests. James Bell, the civil engineer, concluded that all the bridges in the section would have to be strengthened or rebuilt to make them safe for the Atlantics. Bell was suspicious of the Atlantics, his feeling towards them perhaps being influenced by the fact that he had not been shown the drawings. When his district inspectors began to report finding broken rails and spread track in the wake of Atlantic-hauled trains a classic civil engineer versus locomotive superintendent confrontation flared up. Bell demanded the withdrawal of the engines from the Waverley route and the imposition of a top speed limit of 55 mph over the whole system, and the board yielded to his demands. When Cowlairs failed to solve the problem of the rough-riding engines Ivatt was called in as a consultant, and when his recommendations were rejected by the board Vincent Raven was consulted. The NER assistant locomotive superintendent conducted a series of tests with the NB Atlantics including a trial run with one of the class on an East Coast express from Edinburgh to Newcastle and back using the NER dynamometer car. He suggested certain alterations, none of them major, and some were put into effect by the NB board.

The travail of the Atlantics lasted for nearly two years. Then the storm in Mr Bell's cup suddenly subsided. David Deuchars, the man whose job it was to run the trains on time, found that the engines were doing good work. Indeed, he was of the opinion that he could do with more Atlantics and he told the board so. Before a decision was taken the board sponsored comparative tests between an Atlantic and Midland and North Eastern compounds on the Waverley route, and between an Atlantic and an LNWR Experiment Class over Shap. The NB directors saw nothing in the results of these tests to convince them that their faith in the Atlantics was misplaced. Six engines were added to the class in 1911 and a further two in 1921. They proved to be splendid per formers, especially after they were superheated, and for many years after the NB had ceased to exist as a separate company they hauled the heaviest trains over some of the most difficult routes in the country.


By the summer of 1922 the writing was on the wall for the North British. But even at that late hour the old feud between the NB and the NE over the employment of NE engines on 'the East Coast expresses north of Berwick flared again. In the troubled 1890s the NB did not have an engine to compete with the con temporary NE engines but in the 1920s the NB Atlantics offered a formidable challenge to the most powerful NE Atlantics. The NB wanted its Atlantics to share in the East Coast through workings. A hint of the old bitterness appeared in a report by Grassick to his general manager that summer:

You are aware that the most powerful North Eastern engines work ing into Edinburgh haul a load of 350 tons up the Grantshouse bank, and as you know failures to take even that load are not infrequent. In practice the load of the East Coast trains out of Edinburgh is frequently in excess of 350 tons and piloting up the bank is regularly resorted to and on occasion duplication is necessary.

As a preliminary to staking a claim for a share of the, main line traffic Grassick staged an Atlantic test from Edinburgh to Berwick and back on 30 August 1922. The engine was The Lord Provost and the driver Samuel Bruce. The test train, 780ft long and weighing 380 tons was brought to a deliberate stand at Innerwick advance starter, but the engine had no difficulty in getting away again on the rising gradient. Its average speed up the bank was 29mph. Grassick reported, 'We are confident that it [the engine] can quite easily haul a loaded train of 380 tons over the road as scheduled and without losing time unless weather conditions are most adverse'.

Grassick stated (J. Instn Loco Engrs, 1921, 12 Paper 114) that class consumed 6 pints of lubricating oil per hundred miles and 1½ pints of cylinder oil per hundred miles (either superheated oir saturated locomotives).

Thomas, John The North British Atlantics. 1972.
Warren, Alan. Four locomotive biographies in David St John Thomas The romance of Scotland's railways. Nairn. 1993.
No. 875 Midlothian: Warren describes the locomotive as "truly massive". This locomotive was built at NBL in 1906 and withdrawn at the end of 1937. William Whitelaw appears to have considered that it should have been preserved and in April 1938 work on dismantling ceased and it was fitted with the boiler ofrf No. 9876 Waverley and re-entered traffic in June 1938. In November 1939 it returned to Cowlairs and was cut up.

4-4-0 Intermediate: Reid 1906 class K (LNER D32)

Thomas noted that the class B 0-6-0 freight locomotive was joined by another goods type: the 4-4-0 Intermediate Class. This design was intended for the light, fast fish trains from Aberdeen and proved in practice to be an excellent mixed traffic engine. It worked trains of all types except the heaviest goods and passenger traffic. The cylinders were 19in by 26in, the driving wheels 6ft and the boiler pressure 160psi. Twelve of the class were built at Cowlairs in 1906 although the last four did not enter traffic until January 1907. The RCTS Locomotives of the LNER Part 4 notes that the design formed the basis for all future NBR 4-4-0 designs.

Intermediates (second series)

While NBL was building the Scott Class Cowlairs had a 6ft version of the engine in hand. In most respects these engines—the Intermediate Class—were similar to the Scotts. The main differences, apart from the driving wheel diameter, were the boiler pressure which was 180psi, and the tractive effort which was 19,800. The engines did not carry names. Twelve Intermediates were delivered between October 1909 and January 1910.

Between April and June 1910 a Scott and an Intermediate took part in exhaustive comparative trials between Edinburgh and Perth and, after studying the subsequent report, the board authorised the construction of six additional Scotts. NBL was offered the contract at not more than £3,000 per engine, but the company refused to build them at that price. Cowlairs built the engines within the stipulated price. This episode marked the beginning of a break in the NBR's four-year continuous relationship with the Glasgow builders. Henceforward tenders from England were taken seriously.

The Board appeared to have lingering doubts about building a 4-6-0, for an Intermediate (No. 867) was tested against Highland Railway Skibo Castle Class 4-6-0 between Blair Atholl and Dalwhinnie on the Highland line and between Perth and Kinross Junction. The tests convinced the directors of the wisdom of pursuing their 4-4-0 policy.

Atkins, [C.] Philip
The Scottish 4-6-0 classes. London: Ian Allan, 1976. 123pp.
Written before Author became Librarian at NRM and it shows as the bibliography is poorly constructed, and there is one infuriating incomplete reference. Ottley 9542.

J class (Scott)/LNER classes D29 & D30
The J class introduced superheating to the NBR, but construction had been authorised before superheating was applied. Thomas (North British v.2) is highly muddled on what was (in classificatory terms a somewaht complex class or classes) and Ellis, who clearly read Everard, is more lucid. They had their origins in the 317 class, but with heavier frames and larger boilers. Both classes were subject to further boiler development after the Grouping.

Between July and September the North British Locomotive Co delivered six of the large new passenger 4-4-0s. They weighed 105ton 16cwt with tender, had 19in by 26in cylinders and 6ft 6in driving wheels. The boiler pressure was 190psi and the tractive effort 18,4341b. One engine was named Sir WaIter Scott and the other five were given colourful, romantic names of characters in Scott's Waverley novels. The engines took up service on the Waverley and Edinburgh-Perth routes.

The last of the engines ordered or begun in 1909 were nearing completion when the company embarked on its first experiment in superheating. On 9 February 1911 Schmidt superheaters were ordered for two Scotts then under construction, No 400 The Dugal Cratur and No 303 Hal O' the Wynd. A month later, on 9 March, an agreement was signed with the New Superheater Co Ltd for the supply of fittings for the test of a Phoenix superheater. The apparatus was installed in No 887 Redgauntlet, the engine being fitted with an extended smokebox to receive it. On 8 August 1912 it was reported that 'agreement with the New Superheater Company Limited has turned out unsatisfactorily'. Meanwhile tests had been made with the Robinson superheater as a result of which 'the Superheater Corporation Ltd offered to grant a licence to the North British to fit Robinson superheaters to engines built or caused to be built by them to 21 December 1915 at a royalty of £40 each on condition that the company fit no other superheater and with a reduction to £35 each if 40 engines are fitted'. in 1913 the board confidently ordered a batch of superheated Scotts

Glen K class (LNER D34)

The superheater trials on the NBR as on other railways proved highly successful and in 1913 the Board ordered a batch of superheated Intermediates. These engines were ordered as Intermediates and referred to in official correspondence as such but by being given the names of West Highland glens they became known as the Glen Class. They proved to be excellent engines for the West Highland line, although they worked successfully all over the system.

Loco, Rly Carr Wagon Rev., 1913, 19, 248-9,

Railway Correspondence & Travel Society. Locomotives of the LNER. Part 4. Tender engines—classes D25 to E4. 1968.


Class A (LNER N14 and N15): 1909-

These NBL built 0-6-2 tanks had 18in by 26in cylinders and 4ft 6in driving wheels. The first were fitted with a slip coupling operated from the cab by a rope and pulley arrangement, and spent their working lives banking trains on Cowlairs incline. The 0-6-2 tank eventually formed a class 114-strong and were seen on shunting and mineral duties all over the sytem. They were used in Fife working coal trains in pairs. The last were constructed after the Grouping in 1924 and they lasted almost to the end of steam..

New tank locomotives, North British Ry. Loco. Mag., 1909, 15, 233. 2 illus.
Built to the requirements of W.P. Reid by the North British Locomotive Co.: 0-4-4T with 5ft 9in coupled wheels (No. 239 illustrated) and 0-6-2T with 4ft 6in coupled wheels for use on Cowlairs Incline (No. 853 illustrated)

Railway Correspondence & Travel Society. Locomotives of the LNER. Part 9A. Tender engines—classes D25 to E4. 1977.


In the first three years of Reid's reign only one new design came from Cowlairs. It had been initiated by Holmes although the completed drawings were not submitted until 11 February 1904. The engine was a close-coupled 0-6-0 dock tank with 15in by 22in outside cylinders, 3ft 9in driving wheels and a boiler pressure of  130psi. Six were completed at Cowlairs between December 1904 and January 1905. Reid had estimated their cost at £1,500 each; the actual cost was £1,771 35 4d. Six more engines were put in hand in January 1905 and by 1912 the class numbered 35, all of which had been built at Cowlairs.


In 1911 Cowlairs produced a design for a 4-4-2 passenger tank and an order for 30 was placed with the Yorkshire Engine Co. the first being delivered in December. The class had the usual 18in by 26in cylinders, 5ft 9in driving wheels and boiler pressure of 175 psi. They were the first NBR tanks to be dual fitted with vacuum as well as Westinghouse brake equipment. Highet notes that the first eleven had their Westinghouse pumps fitted on the front of the right-hand side tank, the remainder had it attached to the side of the smokebox. At first they were put on the semi-fast trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Bathgate but because of their small tank capacity (1,900gal) they were soon withdrawn from that service. They did their best work between Glasgow and the Clyde coast and Loch Lomond. The drivers complained that they were forced to drive in a standing position because the tanks extended back into the cab at full height.


M Class (LNER G9): Reid: 1909
The twelve 0-4-4 passenger tanks delivered by NBL in September 1909 resembled the Holmes tanks, but they had larger boilers. The driving wheels were 5ft 9in, the cylinders 18in by 26in. Grassick stated (J. Instn Loco Engrs, 1921, 12 Paper 114) that class consumed 3 pints of lubricating oil per hundred miles and one pint of cylinder oil per hundred miles.

New tank locomotives, North British Ry. Loco. Mag., 1909, 15, 233. 2 illus.
Built to the requirements of W.P. Reid by the North British Locomotive Co.: 0-4-4T with 5ft 9in coupled wheels (No. 239 illustrated) and 0-6-2T with 4ft 6in coupled wheels for use on Cowlairs Incline (No. 853 illustrated)

World War I

The building programme was accelerated through WW1 to meet the inordinate demands. Before the Armistice was signed 54 superheated goods had been added to stock, along with 12 0-6-0 tanks, 10 Scotts and 15 of a superheated version of the 4-4-2 tank. New building barely kept pace with traffic demands. As the war dragged on passenger trains were slashed from the timetable to release engines for goods traffic. At one point the operating superintendent was allocated a meagre supply of coal and told to plan his passenger service round it. The company suffered from the lack of mineral engines powerful enough to take the heaviest coal trains—the S Class was a disappointment in this respect, and the consequent double-heading made inroads into engine power. In 1917 an NER 0-8-0 was tried on Glenfarg bank but it was 'resolved that no reason had been shown for building eight-coupled engines'.


The war left the NB devitalised; the struggle had been too much for it. Scores of old engines which in the ordinary course would have been scrapped, but had been kept going somehow, breathed their last in the first months of peace. Arrears of maintenance even on the newest stock got out of hand. Not since the bad old days of the 1880s had the locomotive department been in such dire straits. Wartime controls were still in force when on 20 December 1919 James Calder (who had succeeded Jackson as general manager) wrote to Sir Herbert Walker of the Railway Executive Committee:

I regret being under the necessity of reverting to the subject, but we are in such straits for engine power at the present time that I have no alternative but to make a representation to you in the matter. I may say that on Saturday last there was no less than 22.05 per cent of our locomotives on the non-effective list, while a large number of our engines which are in service should really be in the workshops undergoing repair.

So acute was the situation that between 12 October and 14 December the company had to run 685 Sunday specials simply because engines were not available on weekdays.

The desperation of railway managements for engine power was highlighted by a fracas that broke out between the NB and the Highland over the return of two engines which the Highland had borrowed during the war. When the NB demanded the return of the engines the Highland claimed that its service would collapse if it complied with the demand. A letter from William Park of the Highland to Calder on 9 September 1919 strikingly illuminates the contemporary scene:

I have received your letter of 6th inst. and am sorry I am unable to state precisely when we will be in a position to hand over the two North British engines which are at present serving on the High land Railway to your locomotive superintendent at Perth.

As you are aware the position of this company in the matter of Government traffic is altogether exceptional and while we appreciate your present difficulty and are very desirous of rendering every help in our power the fact is that if we were to send your engines home the goods and mineral traffic on the line would very soon get into a state of chaos. I have been pressing Sir Herbert Walker to have a number of engines from one or more of the other railways sent to us in order to release yours, and his reply is to the effect that he will endeavour to get us an early allocation of engines from the Government pool if we desire it. The W.D. engines are altogether unfit for service on the Highland Railway and Sir Herbert's offer of engines from the Government pool is, therefore, of no use. Before we can release the NB engines it is essential that the Railway Executive Committee should furnish us with substitutes or alternatively agree to free and release the High land Railway Company of the responsibility for traffic delays, etc.

It seems to me that engines and other rolling stock on the British railways should be allocated among the various companies accord ing to their needs without regard to ownership.

Calder was unimpressed by Park's plea. He replied pre-emptorily, 'As we are urgently in need of the engines in question I have written to the Railway Executive Committee stating the attitude you have taken up and asking that you be instructed to hand over immediately the engines to this company.' Two days later Calder was again writing to Park, 'I am obliged by your letter of ioth inst. and note that the two NBR engines proved most useful to your company. The engines duly arrived at our Cowlairs depot.'

The company tried to cope with the situation by establishing a nightshift at Cowlairs but the tradesmen were handicapped by old run-down machinery, some of which had been in use since E & G Railway days. Engines were sent for repair to any outside contractor who would take them. Among the firms which accepted NB engines were W.G. Armstrong Whitworth, Messrs Vickers, J. F. Wake of Darlington and NBL. But the contractors were inun dated with orders from railway companies and even the biggest firms could take only a few engines at a time. In January 1920 the board was grateful to receive the following letter from Vickers:

I have pleasure in informing you that we are now in a position to receive a few more of your locomotives for repair and shall be glad if you can make arrangements to send us a further 6. It is not necessary to send all these locomotives at one time; in fact it would be preferable to send them along in twos at intervals convenient to yourselves.

Private locomotive users along the line were also in difficulties over locomotive failures and firms asked the NB to repair their locomotives or provide replacements for engines that were beyond repair. When lending an engine to Bo'ness Distillery in January 1920 Calder warned the firm, 'The engine is in disrepair and may require to be withdrawn within a week'. Wagons too were in short supply, and complaints from traders were numerous. On 18 December 1919 the Dykehead Ganister & Firebrick Company complained that its position had become intolerable with only three or four empties being supplied daily when it needed a minimum of io to carry on its business. Messrs Stern & Co of Bonnybridge wired, 'Works stopped for want of empties. Only 15 received during last 3 days'.

The locomotive shortage was aggravated by an acute shortage of coal. The average monthly delivery to the NB fell from 18,954 tons in 1913 to 11,207 tons in 1919, and a high proportion of the coal supplied was of a quality that would not have been accepted before the war. Complaints to the Coal Commissioner, the war time functionary who still regulated supply, as often as not met with no reply. In December 1919 the NB presented the Commissioner with a formidable list of 33 collieries which had supplied bad coal. The locomotive department claimed that this coal had resulted in no fewer than 124 engine failures during October and November.

By mid-December stocks had dwindled well below safety level, and with the prospect of a week's closure of the Scottish pits over the New Year holidays, Hugh Inglis of the locomotive department was sent to England to search for coal. But the English railways were no better off than the NB and they were faced with a backlog of deliveries following the Christmas holidays. Calder made an urgent appeal to the Edinburgh office of the Coal Control and was given authority to requisition all loaded coal wagons lying in colliery sidings on the system and consigned to works known to be closed for the holidays.

In January 1920 the Ministry of Transport, fearing trouble in the mines, ordered all railway companies to raise their stocks of locomotive coal to the equivalent of six weeks supply. For the NB this meant 98,400 tons. Existing stocks totalled 42,105 tons, and the figure was dropping alarmingly. When Calder inquired of the Coal Controller what steps he should take to meet the require ments of the Ministry of Transport he got no reply. Two telegrams likewise produced neither reply nor acknowledgment. The company remained enmeshed in red tape until the labour situation looked really ugly, when the Government authorised the NB to seize any coal train on the system irrespective of to whom it was consigned.

Hurried experiments were made with oil fuel but these were no more successful on the NB than they were on other systems. The Scarab apparatus fitted on No 859 showed some promise, but all other oil fuel experiments had been abandoned by August 1921. Three months later the locomotive department intimated that No 859 was being refitted for coal burning adding, 'This will permit two incline engines, badly in need of general overhaul, being sent into shops.

Proposed designs

The introduction to the section on the Atlantics noted that some consideration had been given to building a NBR version of the Midland compound. The cut-back in expenditure in the building programme for 1908 led to a proposed 0-8-0 mineral engine not being developed, nor were proposals for a large 4-6-0 for the Waverley route and a smaller engine of the same wheel arrangement for the West Highland.

Proposed eight-coupled locomotive/Glenfarg tests

Grassick, J.P. The locomotive from a footplate point of view. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1922, 12, 51-67. Disc. 67-104; 311- (Paper 114)
Grassick worked for the NBR, but in the manner of the time described the Glenfarg tests without actually specifying the railways concerned, but it is quite obvious where and what took place! A.C. Stamer (discussion page 99 et seq) was present at the Glenfarg tests and explains why the T3 out-performed the GWR 28XX due to its more even torque and its greater adhesive weight. The NBR 0-6-0 was completely out-classed.
Nock, O.S. British locomotives of the 20th century. Volume 1. 1900-1930. 1984.
On page 86 Nock wrote that the Chairman [of the NBR], William Whitelaw, always seemed to enjoy the prospect of comparative trials, arranged with the LNWR for a one-day trial between Carlisle and Preston of the NBR Atlantic and a Precursor class locomotive: this may also account for the borrowings of a GWR 2-8-0 and the NER T3 0-8-0 for tests on Glenfarg bank and may be relevant to the later Castle/A1 trials.

Thomas noted that "With most of its post-war worries overcome the company sought to satisfy its long-felt need for a powerful mineral engine. There was in Cowlairs drawing office a general arrangement drawing No 2662 dated 16 May 1908 showing Reid's design for a large 0-8-0 tender engine. It used the Atlantic boiler and its outside cylinders were 19½in by 26in. The proposed engine's cab, like that of the Atlantic, had two windows on each side. Its estimated weight was 70 tons. It would have been an impressive and powerful engine, but Cowlairs showed no inclination to put the design into production.

Maj Stemp, traffic superintendent of the NBR, was seaking an eight-coupled engine in 1920 and was particularly attracted by the performance of the GWR 'E Group' 2-8-0s on the heavy gradients in the West of England. The NB's most powerful goods engine had to be double-headed when its load reached 28 wagons. From charts supplied by his GWR opposite number, Mr Nicholls, Stemp saw that the GWR 2-8-0 regularly took 28 loaded wagons over the 9 miles 22 chains between Lostwithiel and Doublebois, where the ruling gradient was 1 in 58, in 29 minutes. The same class hauled Welsh coal trains of 38 wagons over 1 in 90 gradients with regularity and apparent ease. The NBR opened negotiations with the GWR on 14 December 1920. At first it seemed that there would be difficulty in obtaining a route between the engine's home territory and the Border because of gauge problems, but the difficulty was quickly overcome and on 19 December Charles Aldington, general manager of the GWR, informed Calder that he had given instructions for 2-8-0 No 2846 to be prepared for the journey to Scotland. He wrote again on 1 January 1921 to say that Churchward himself would accompany the engine.

The test was fixed for 12 January, the location being the 6 miles 53 chains between Bridge of Earn and Glenfarg where a NER 0-8-0 had been tested in 1916. The GWR engine was handed over to the NB at Berwick on 10 January and at 6.15 that evening was lodged in Haymarket shed. On the morning of the test Calder received the following letter from Aldington:

My chairman and I are keenly interested in the tests and hope they will be satisfactory in all respects. As you know Mr Nicholls and one or two other Great Western representatives will be present, but I am sorry that it is not possible for Mr Churchward or his deputy to visit Scotland just now.

Conditions could not have been worse when the special train conveying NB and GW officers and observers from other companies reached Bridge of Earn. The test stretch was blanketed in snow and a near blizzard was blowing. The NBR entrant was first at the post. With 23 loaded 16-tonners and two goods brake vans (437 ton 8cwt exclusive of the brake vans) the 0-6-0 set off but stuck only a short distance up the bank. The train had to be hauled back to Bridge of Earn. The NBR engine retired from the contest; it was quite unequal to the task allotted to it.

In the second test No 2846 in the charge of the GW crew and with a load of 29 wagons and two brake vans (552 ton 4cwt exclusive of the vans) started away easily and, without faltering, reached Glenfarg in its scheduled time of 25min. For the third test five wagons were added to the load bringing it up to 643ton 9cwt. Again the GW engine got away easily but about two miles from the start it encountered hard packed snow on the rails. It began to slip badly and was forced to a stand from which it failed to recover.

Three days after the tests Calder wrote to Aldington: Mr Nicholls will no doubt have informed you of the results of the tests. I may say that these were carried out under pretty extreme weather conditions, but they proved the superiority of your company's locomotive over ours, and will of no doubt be of great assistance to us in connection with designing engines in the future for the hauling of mineral traffic over heavy gradients. I should just like again to thank you very cordially for your kindness in giving us the loan of your locomotive.

On the following day the NB general manager called for a joint report on the tests from Stemp, Fraser (the civil engineer), Chalmers and Grassick, but it was not until 14 April that the report was forthcoming.

The NB officers generally had a high opinion of the visiting engine. They blamed its failure to complete the third test on the abnormal weather conditions and expressed their confidence in its ability to keep time with 30 loaded wagons on any NB main line under any weather conditions. They thought the GW engine could take 38 wagons of coal from Dunfermline to Aberdeen without assistance and in so doing save the company £7 6s 9d per train.

Fraser had reservations. He thought that NB track would not stand up to the regular running of such a heavy engine. He proposed a top speed limit of 25 mph with severe restrictions at many selected points. It would be impossible, he pointed out, to run the engine through the platform roads at Dundee and use would have to be made of the loops.

Chalmers, too, had reservations, particularly on the question of maintenance. He wrote:
There should be no particular difficulty in designing an engine of the power required within the limits specified but so far as repairs and renewals are concerned it is difficult to estimate such as a locomotive of the Great Western type with its enormously high boiler pressure might mean very heavy boiler repairs and consequently high maintenance cost. From the experience we have had on our own heavy engines we estimate that the increase would be not less than 30 per cent. If designing an engine however, of similar tractive power it would be feasible to considerably modify the boiler pressure without involving a greater loading effect than that produced by the engine on the test.
Stemp summed up:
From an operating point of view the adoption of a type of engine similar in tractive power to that of the Great Western engine making the test would certainly be most advantageous if, later on, the use of such an engine could be allowed on other important main lines as well as on the Aberdeen section. It would eliminate altogether the use of the banking pilots which, taken all over would mean a very considerable saving in engine power.

One of the outside observers of the tests was Maj H. A. Watson, general superintendent of the NER. He was not entirely displeased at the failure of the GW engine on the third test, and he had no sooner returned to York when he was writing to Stemp:I am pleased to tell you that we have tested one of our 0-8-0 three-cylinder freight locomotives with a load of 700 tons on a five-mile bank of 1 in 70 and it lifted the load quite satisfactorijy. In fact it made up a minute compared with the standard running for the regular mineral service over the same section of line. In view of this Sir Vincent Raven will be very pleased to send the locomotive to be tested on Glenfarg bank if Mr Whitelaw so desires. I may say that on formula the tractive force of our locomotive is 36,000lb compared with the Great Western's 33,000 so it ought to accomplish what the Great Western engine failed to do.

The engine which Watson was offering was Raven's T3 of 1919, a three-cylinder version of the T2 which had been tested on the NB in 1916 with unimpressive results. William 'Whitelaw, now chairman of the NB, agreed to the tests provided that the locomotive department considered there was a possibility of the NE engine giving better results than the GW 2-8-0. The chief mechanical engineer opted for the tests, but negotiations with the NE had hardly begun when Fraser registered a strong protest. He wrote to Calder:
I have looked into the matter carefully and find that for certain spans the effect produced by the North Eastern engine is much in excess of the effect produced by our present Atlantic type. This is to a lesser extent with the GW engine and I have come to the conclusion that it is not desirable to allow a heavier type than the latter for use between Dunfermline engine shed and Kinnaber Junction.
Three days later Fraser had an interview with Whitelaw as a result of which he modified his views. On 24 February he informed Calder:
I am quite agreeable to this engine being brought over our system for the purpose of a test on the Glenfarg bank, but I would not agree to the engine being adopted on the company's system for general work. I shall be very much obliged if you will give me plenty of notice of when the engine would be brought over the company's system as I would require to have a man in attendance to give instructions as to restrictions over certain bridges.
Because of the 1921 coal strike the tests were postponed and did not in fact take place until Sunday 28 August. On the previous Wednesday an NE driver had a look at Glenfarg from the footplate of an NB engine and on the following day he returned to Darlington to work the test engine, No 903, to Edinburgh. Maj Watson and Mr Stamer, assistant CME, were in the NE party.

The test engine left Haymarket for Bridge of Earn at 9 am on the Sunday and the first test run began at 12.9½. There was no question of pitting the visitor against an NB engine; it was a solo performance with No 903 hauling increasing loads on successive trips, four of which had been planned. On the first trip the engine reached Glenfarg in 33 min (2 min late) with a load of 617ton 5cwt. At the second attempt the climb was accomplished on schedule with 703 tons and on the third run with the load increased to 754ton 16cwt schedule was again maintained. That must have been an exhilarating day at Glenfarg. The NB officials concluded that there was no point in running a fourth test and the party returned to Edinburgh. In his report on the day's proceedings Stemp said:

The engine proved itself to be superior to the Great Western locomotive for it accomplished all that that company's locomotive failed to do. It was, to say the least of it, really a magnificent performance, and far beyond our expectations. There is no ques tion of the superiority of the North Eastern three-cylinder type of engine over anything that has been previously tested.

It was estimated that by using T3 locomotives on the Aberdeen coal trains the savings would be £10 9s 9d per train or £2,250 18s 9d per year. But Fraser flatly refused to accept an engine of the class for regular work and Whitelaw bowed to his decision. However, an NER T2 0-8-0 was sent to Scotland and put to work on the Aberdeen trains.

The quest for an eight-coupled engine was not yet over. For nearly 20 years there had been a Great Central influence at Cowlairs, so it came as no surprise when plans were announced for the testing of a GC 2-8-0 on the NB. But before the tests could be carried out the company had been overwhelmed by the amalgamation. No 1185 came to Scotland in July 1923. Unlike its English predecessors it was not required to run the gauntlet of Glenfarg but was put at once on revenue service with the Aberdeen coal trains alongside the T2 already working in the link.

On its first run No 1185 got away easily from Thornton with a train specially strengthened to 40 wagons and weighing 689ton gcwt plus a 20ton brake van. It took the gradients along the route in its stride and delivered its load in Aberdeen on time. After a series of test runs in revenue service the verdict was that the GC engine was superior to both NE classes in performance and main tenance costs. Stemp reported:

This type of engine is really what is required for working our long distance mineral trains and would also be very useful in the Western district for working iron ore trains from Stobcross and Yoker to the iron works at Coatbridge and Coltness. For working long distance mineral trains we have no hesitation in stating that the Great Central type of engine is the best that has yet been tested on the North British area.

Of the 125 RODs purchased by the LNER from the War Depart ment 10 went to Scotland and all were in service by 30 August 1924. At last eight-coupled engines were running on NB metals, although their tenders bore the legend LNER.

Absorbed lines

0-4-0WT: ex-Elgin Railway
NBR Nos. 163 and 164: Hawthorn (Leith) 66 January and February 1852
Hawthorn locomotive: no photograph traced, but one of type photographed in ownership of Summerlee Iron Co. of Coatbridge p. 123

0-4-0ST: ex-Elgin Colliery
NBR No. 165: Neilson 462 September 1858

0-4-0ST: ex-West of Fife Railway
NBR Nos. 166 and 167 Neilson 447 March 1858 and 483 October 1859

Brotchie, A.W.
Early railways of West Fife: an industrial and social commentary, Catrine: Stenlake, 2007.
Joint author: Harry Jack.


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