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Standard 4 Tank Engines Andrew Suckling
When British Railways reviewed their locomotive stock following nationalisation
of the railways in 1948, one problem facing them was a lack of large, modern
tank engines in many parts of the country. The GWR had a fleet of its "Large
"Prairie" tanks (5199 and 4141 being examples of this type) and the LMS had a
number of 2-6-4 tank engine types, but the situation elsewhere was not so good.
Things were particularly bad on the Southern Railway and in Scotland where large
numbers of pre-World War I classes were still in use. BR therefore put a large
tank engine in their programme, and the Standard Class 4 tank engines - or 80000
class - was the result.
The Standard Class 4 tank locos were designed at Brighton Works. The design was
basically a development of the LMS Fairburn 2-6-4 tank engine. The LMS design
was modified to improve the route availability of the design, and the most
obvious modification was the curved profile given to the side tanks, compared to
the straight sides of the LMS design. It was also necessary to reduce the size
of the cylinders, and the boiler pressure was increased to compensate for this.
The class was intended to have a working life of 40 years, and was primarily
intended for commuter and suburban services, and for secondary passenger
British Railways built a total of 155 Class 4 tank engines in 1951-1956. An
order for a further 15 engines that were to have been built in 1957 was
cancelled, because of the impending dieselisation of the railways. The last five
to be built, 80150-80154, would have been cancelled as well, but their
construction was too far advanced by the time BR decided they didn't want them
Most of the class were built at Brighton Works, although 15 engines
(80000-80009, 80054-8) were built at Derby Works, and 10 engines (80106-80115)
were built at Doncaster Works. One curious feature is that the first engine of
the class to be completed was not 80000 as you might expect. Construction of the
80000-80009 batch at Derby Works was delayed, so the first of the class to be
finished was 80010 which emerged from Brighton works in the summer of 1951.
80072 was built at Brighton Works in 1953, at an official cost of £17,324. (As a
comparison, we expect to spend ten times that amount in the restoration.)
The Standard 4 tank was a very successful design, and no significant changes
were made to the class, although some minor modifications were made. The class
was initially built with fluted coupling rods which, although they seemed fine
on the 80000s, gave problems on other BR standard classes, and from 80079 plain
section coupling rods were fitted. One other noticeable change is that the tank
vent (this is the periscope-like structure that sticks out of the top of the
side tank) was, on the early members of the class, placed very close to the cab
window on the driver's side. This made for bad visibility, and there was the
risk that water might overflow with enough force to break the cab window. From
80059 the vent was moved further forward.
When the class was first introduced they were allocated to all areas of Britain
apart from the Western Region. Probably one of the best-known uses of the 80000s
was on the London, Tilbury and Southend line, where they worked the commuter
trains to and from Fenchurch Street station. 80072 was used on these duties,
being allocated to Plaistow shed in East London upon delivery from Brighton
Works. In January 1954 80072 was transferred to Tilbury shed, where she stayed
for the next eight years.
80072 remained at Tilbury until the LTS system was completely electrified in
June 1962. Most of the steam engines were transferred away immediately, but
80072 and a few others remained in London for a month or so and were used to
shunt empty carriages to/from Liverpool Street Station. They were also used on
the local services to North Woolwich. However, in July 1962 80072 was
transferred to South Wales, to Swansea (East Dock) shed. About half a dozen
Standard 4 tanks were allocated here at that time. They worked services in West
Wales and were also used over the Central Wales Line to Craven Arms and
Shrewsbury. They were very popular with their crews, who apparently considered
them to be the ideal engines for working the demanding Central Wales line.
80072 did not stay long at Swansea, however, being transferred to Leamington Spa
in September 1963, to replace No. 75000, a 4-6-0 BR Standard Class 4 tender
locomotive. 80072 was intended to be used on parcels trains and shunting duties,
but was actually used on a much wider range of work. Duties at Leamington
included, in addition to parcels traffic to Birmingham and Nuneaton, passenger
trains to/from Birmingham Snow Hill station, and freight workings such as
iron-ore trains from the Oxfordshire iron-ore mines. Later, 80072 was also used
on car trains. There are a couple of published colour photographs of 80072 taken
during this time, one showing 80072 working a Leamington - Birmingham Snow
Hill commuter service, and one on an iron-ore working near Banbury.
On paper 80072 was transferred to Shrewsbury in June 1965, but it is doubtful
that 80072 ever went into service there. At this time large numbers of steam
engines were being made surplus by the combination of line closures under the
Beeching plan and deliveries of new diesels; it was common for steam engines
that had become spare at one engine shed to be officially transferred elsewhere
but for the engine never to work from its new shed. 80072 was officially
withdrawn on 24 July 1965, brought by Woodham Brothers and sent to Barry
Scrapyard in 1966. After 22 years there, 80072 was bought by Elaine and Ray
Treadwell, who subsequently sold 80072 to us.
When lines were closed or modernised in the early 1960s, older classes were
withdrawn in preference to the 80000s and, apart from one engine written off
following collision damage, the class remained intact until 1964. Withdrawals
started in mid-1964, and the last 11 members of the class were withdrawn on 9
July 1967 when steam finished on the Southern Region. This was not actually
quite the end of the 80000s in British Railways' service, since 80002 was used
to heat carriages in Glasgow until 1969.
80002 also became the first Standard 4 Tank engine to be preserved. It was
bought by the Keighley & Worth Valley Railways in 1969, direct from its carriage
heating duties in Glasgow. Since then, another fourteen 80000s have been
preserved, and these are based at railways throughout Great Britain. The 80000s
have proved to be ideal engines for preserved railways, being economical to run
while having plenty of haulage capacity, and there is every reason to expect
that 80072 will be well-suited to the Llangollen Railway.
If you interested in reading more about the 80000s, one book to consider is
Volume 3 of the Railway Correspondence & Travel Society's series on the BR
Standard classes, which deals with the three BR Standard tank engine classes.
This book has provided the details of allocations and modifications in this
The following three photographs show 80079 on the Llangollen Railway at Berwyn.
No problems with copyright here because they were taken by Bob Jones. How long
will it be before we will all be taking photographs like these but of 80072.
With your help - not long.
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