For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

D81 Class 0-6-0 1920-1923

LNER Class J-20


7005 048C.L. Turner/GERSHC 7005/48

When the S69 class express passenger class were introduced in 1911, a straight goods engine version was not produced immediately. Instead a hybrid 0-6-0 was produced in the E72/T77 classes, employing the S69 pattern of piston valve cylinders and motion mated to the boiler and chassis of the F48/G58 classes (q.v.). The final batch of T77 0-6-0s were ordered as ten engines, but this was later reduced to five, as it had been decided that the time had come for ‘straight’ 0-6-0 version of the S69s. Thus, the first of five new engines to Letter Account D81 was completed in April 1920. This was numbered 1270, and after testing, the remaining four engines – 1271-1274 – followed in December. The front section of the frames from buffer beam to driving axle was similar to the T77s, but the rear wheelbase was increased to ten feet, with a longer rear overhang to accommodate the boiler. Being some seven tons heavier, the boilers worked at the full pressure of 180 lbs. psi, and once again the GER had nominally the most powerful 0-6-0s in Britain. A further twenty were built beginning in September 1922, the last three appearing in January 1923, immediately after the grouping, when the D81s became LNER class J-20. The photograph shows one of the 1922 engines, No. 1289 at March depot, where most of the class were based for the coal traffic. These engines differed slightly from the first five in having fewer boiler tubes, but more-noticeable was the ‘piano lid’ shape of the frames below the smokebox front – the upper edge was square on Nos. 1270-1274.The coupling rods on the D81class had an increased throw of twelve inches, although the driving wheels were of the usual 4-ft. 11-ins. diameter. The coupling rod pin of the driving axle was larger than the others, whilst the trailing axle was intended to have had side-traverse. This intention gave rise to the curious higher section of the footplating between the driving and trailing axle, to give clearance for the larger bushed end of the coupling rod on the driving axle, and the specially bushed end for the side traversing trailing axle. In the event, the design was altered at a late stage to have a plain rear axle and rods, but the raised section remained. It was required over the driving axle in any case, due to the larger coupling rod bush and its increased throw.

7080 024GERS Collection 7080/24

The J-20s underwent few modifications in the LNER period, amounting to the fitting of coal guards to the tenders, replacement of the cab roofs by steel ones with a sliding ventilator and the replacement of the safety valves with the ‘pop’ type. Vacuum ejectors had been fitted to all engines from new. This photograph shows No. 8276 at March Depot in the mid-1930s.

7080 019Simpson/GERSHC 7080/19

When the B-12 (ex-S69) 4-6-0s were rebuilt as class B-12/3 it was originally intended to fit the same round-topped boilers to the J-20s. However, these boilers had an even-longer firebox than the original Belpaire type, and with the shorter cabs of the J-20s they would have been awkward to fire – special longer fire-irons were already necessary on the 4-6-0s and the J-20s, even with the original boilers. The rebuilding of the B-12/3s released plenty of serviceable Belpaire boilers for use on the J-20s and un-rebuilt 4-6-0s in Scotland, and it was not until 1941 that new boilers were required. Thirty were produced with round-topped fireboxes as on the B‑12/3s, but of the same size as the originals. Nine of these were sent to Scotland for the B‑12/4 rebuilds (q.v.), and the remainder were used to reboiler the J-20s. As an incidental matter of interest, the LNER was somewhat inconsistent in its classification of the locomotive stock. When the J-19s had been rebuilt the engines in original condition became ‘part one’ – J‑19/1 –and the rebuilds ‘part two’ – J-19/2. In the case of the J-20s, the un-rebuilt locomotives remained as plain J-20, and the rebuilds were ‘part one’, the J-20/1 class. The rebuilding of the J-20s was carried out at a leisurely pace, and was not completed until after the last of the B‑12/4 class were withdrawn in the early 1950s, when their boilers were returned to Stratford for re-use on the J-20s. The class became numbers 4675-4699 under the LNER renumbering scheme of 1946, and they were withdrawn from the end of 1959 onwards. Four remained at work in September 1962 when steam power came to end on the GE section. Throughout their lives, the J-20s mainly worked on the coal traffic, although odd engines were used on other duties in their later years. Shown in the photograph is 64676, formerly GER 1271, and one of the first five engines with the square-top to the front end frames. It is seen ‘in the company of strangers’ at Old Oak Common shed on the Western Region, having worked a cross-London freight train in the late 1950s.