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A Bewilderment of Boilers

Part One

The initial title of these articles was to have been BATCHES OF BOILERS which would have matched up quite nicely with the eighty eight type A4 boilers, to diagram 107, which were built in thirteen batches between 1935 and 1959. However as with all things L.N.E.R. its not all straight forward, and things got no better, as will be seen, once British Railways entered the bureaucratic arena.

The first batch of four were built in 1935 against Engine Order No. 338 and were given serial nos. 8905 to 8909 inclusive.

The next batch were ten boilers for Engine Order 340 which were given the serial nos. 8945 to 8954 inclusive.

Next were seven boilers for Engine Order 341, given the serial nos. 8955 to 8961 inclusive.

Followed by three boilers for Engine Order 341A, given the serial nos. 9018 to 9020 inclusive.

Then came ten boilers for Engine Order 342, given the serial nos. 9021 to 9030 inclusive.

Finally came one boiler for Engine Order 343, given the serial no. 9031.

The above six batches of boilers covered the construction of the thirty five Class A4 Engines. As the construction of the engines was coming to a close a batch of five spare boilers was ordered, early in 1938, to help speed up the overhaul of engines at the Works and were given the serial nos. 9125 to 9129 inclusive.

In August1943 a drawing was prepared with a view to fitting a steel inner firebox to the boilers of the A4 and V2 Class engines, to help the war effort by freeing up the Copper then in use in these fireboxes. Nothing came of this scheme, but a further three spare A4 boilers were ordered, in that year, and given the serial nos.9487 to 9489 inclusive.

With the dawn of the British Railways era, ten more spare A4 boilers were ordered in 1948, but probably not built until 1950, these being given the serial nos. 29310 to 29319.

About 1950 in line with the British Railways policy of renumbering everything, the forty two remaining boilers with four digit numbers, (no. 8954 having been destroyed in the war. see later) were allotted forty (!!!) new serial nos. from 29270 to 29309 inclusive. This is where the "bewildering part" comes in. One has to assume that some of the older boilers were possibly ready for the scrap heap, hence the difference in the number of serial numbers. However the real confusion comes when the boilers are renumbered, not in original numerical order as one would think , but in a random fashion, seemingly as and when a boiler came to hand, be it on a locomotive, or taken for reuse from the stockpile it got whatever was the next available number, ( i.e. 9027 became 29279, whilst 8950 became 29293, more later).

In 1951 a further batch of ten spare boilers were delivered, and were given the serial nos.29310 to 29319 inclusive. 1953 saw another batch of five spare boilers delivered with the serial nos. 29320 to 29324 inclusive. Then in 1957 five more spare boilers, given serial nos.29325 to 29329 inclusive. After the haphazard renumbering, sanity looked to have returned with the with the consecutive numbering of the last three batches,well nearly.

Twenty five more spare boilers were delivered during the period 1959 to 1961, these were split into two batches of ten and fifteen respectively. The first batch of ten, delivered 1959 to 1960 were given serial nos. 29330to 29339 inclusive. The following batch of fifteen were curiously given the serial nos. 27960 to 27974 inclusive, not a great deal of help when trying to trace the logical history of these boilers. One has to wonder why it was necessary to provide 25 Spare Boilers at this time, as will be seen later , some of them only had a very short working life, but like a lot of other things in life, it was probably a good idea at the time.

With such an array of boilers , it is almost on par with the football pools, perm any 35 engines with any of eighty eight boilers. Unfortunately it never got to that ideal state, some engines were scrapped , some boilers were scrapped, and some boilers were used on other engines ( Classes A1/1 and A3), some boilers had multiple uses, some boilers were lucky to get one use.

The following Lifetime List of the Class A4 Engines, which spans two administrations, and three, and in some cases four renumbering schemes, will show the following. Running Numbers, Name(s), Date into Traffic , Date Condemned, number of New Boilers, number of Second Hand Boilers, and Total number of Boilers.

2509- 14- 60014, SILVER LINK, 7/9/1935 to29/12/1962 , 3 New , 9 S/Hand, Total 12 Boilers

2510- 15- 60015, QUICKSILVER,21/9/1935 to 25/4/1963, 2 New, 8 S/Hand ,Total 10 Boilers

2511- 16- 60016, SILVER KING, 5/11/1935 to 19/3/1965, 4 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 13 Boilers

2512- 17- 60017, SILVER FOX, 18/12/1935 to20/10/1963, 3 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 12 Boilers

4482-23-60023, GOLDEN EAGLE, 22/12/1936 to30/10/1964, 2 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers

4483-585-24-60024, KINGFISHER, 26/12/1936 to 5/9/1966, 2 New, 8 S/Hand, Total 10 Boilers

4484- (586?)-25-60025, FALCON, 23/1/1937 to20/10/1963, 2 New, 8 S/Hand, Total 10 Boilers

4485-26-60026, KESTREL,(MILES BEEVOR),20/2/1937 to 21/12/1965,4 New, 7 S/Hand, Total 11Boilers

4486-588-27-E27-60027, MERLIN,13/3/1937 to 3/9/1965, 2 New, 10 S/Hand, Total 12 Boilers

4487-28-60028, SEA EAGLE, (WALTER K. WHIGHAM),20/3/1937 to29/12/196, 3 New, 8 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers

4488-9-60009,UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA, (OSPREY ?), 29/6/1937 to 1/6/1966, 3 New, 10 S/Hand, Total 13 Boilers

4489-10-60010, DOMINION OF CANADA, 4/5/1937 to 29/5/1965, 2 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers

4490-11-60011,EMPIRE OF INDIA, 25/6/1937 to 11/5/1964, 2 New, 8 S/Hand, Total 10 Boilers

4491-12-60012, COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA, 22/6/1937 to 20/8/1964, 3 New, 7 S/Hand, Total 10 Boilers

4492-13-60013, DOMINION OF NEW ZEALAND,27/6/1937 to 18/4/1963, 2 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers

4493-29-60029, WOODCOCK, 27/7/1937 to20/10/1963, 2 New, 10 S/Hand, Total 12 Boilers

4494-3-60003, OSPREY, (ANDREW K, McCOSH),12/8/1937 to29/12/1962, 2 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers.

4495-30-60030, GREAT SNIPE, (GOLDEN FLEECE), 30/8/1937 to 29/12/1962, 2 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers.

4496-8-60008, GOLDEN SHUTTLE, (DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER), 4/9/1937 to 20/7/1963, 3 New, 8 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers.

4497-31-60031, GOLDEN PLOVER, 2/10/1937 to 29/10/1965, 1 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 10 Boilers.

4498-7-60007, SIR NIGEL GRESLEY,30/10/1937 to 1/2/1966, 4 New, 8 S/Hand, Total 12 Boilers.

4462-4-E4-60004, GREAT SNIPE, (WILLIAM WHITELAW), 10/12/1937 to17/7/1966, 3 New, 7 S/Hand, Total 10 Boilers

4463-18-60018, SPARROW HAWK, 27/11/1937 to 19/6/63, 1 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 10 Boilers

4464-19-60019, BITTERN, 18/12/1937 to 5/9/1966, 3 New, 11 S/Hand, Total 14 Boilers.

4465-20-60020, GUILLEMOT, 8/1/1938 to 20/3/1964, 3 New, 6 S/Hand, Total 9 Boilers.

4466-605-6-60006, HERRING GULL, (SIR RALPH WEDGWOOD), 26/1/1938 to 3/9/1965, 2 New, 8 S/Hand, Total 10 Boilers.

4467-21- E21-60021, WILD SWAN, 19/2/1938 to 20/10/1963, 2 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers.

4468-22-E22-60022, MALLARD, 3/3/1938 to 25/4/1963, 2 New, 10 S/Hand, Total 12 Boilers.

4469, GADWALL, (SIR RALPH WEDGWOOD), 30/3/1938 to 29/4/1942 (Destroyed in Air Raid on York), 1 New, 1 S/Hand, Total 2 Boilers.

4499-2-60002, POCHARD, (SIR MURROUGH WILSON), 12/4/1938 to 4/5/1964, 1 New, 10 S/Hand, Total 12 Boilers.

4500-1-60001, GARGANEY, (SIR RONALD MATTHEWS), 26/4/1938 to12/10/1964, 1 New, 10 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers.

4900-32-60032, GANNET, 17/5/1938 to 20/10/1963, 2 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers.

4901-5-60005, CAPERCAILLE, (CHARLES H. NEWTON), (SIR CHARLES NEWTON), 8/6/1938 to 12/3/1964, 2 New, 9 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers.

4902-33-60033, SEAGULL, 28/6/1938 to 29/12/1962, 3 New, 8 S/Hand, Total 11 Boilers.

4903-34-60034, PEREGRINE, (LORD FARINGDON), 1/7/1938 to 24/8/1966, 2 New, 10 S/Hand, Total 12 Boilers.

From the above it could be deduced that the boilers were fairly intensively used, with the total number of boiler changes at 378, from a manufacturing total of 88, gives an average of something like 4.3 uses per boiler, oh if it were so simple.

For example take the history of the first boiler constructed for the A4's, No. 8905 and believed renumbered in 1952 to No. 29301, and compare it with the history of Spare Boiler No. 27973.

No. 8905 (29301) into service 7/9/1935 , withdrawn 26/12/1964, a total lifespan of 29 years 3 months, with 10 uses giving a working life of 24 years 5 months, and an out of use/ repair/ spare time of 4 years 10 months.

No. 29301 did not make it onto an A4, got its first and only use on A3 No. 60109 Hermit on 27/1/1961 and was withdrawn with the engine on 29/12/1962, a total life and work span of 1 year 11 months.

I must stress that the information for Boiler No. 8905 may be inaccurate, as I have not been able so far to cross check if the boiler was actually renumbered and carried on in service as I have shown. If anyone has any information that confirms or disputes my assumption, I shall be pleased to hear from them, and also any information on the renumbering of any of the other boilers.

Researched and written by Mel Haigh,
Education Officer, Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust Ltd.
First published in Chime 131, Spring 2004
Continue to Part Two
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