For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

Locomotive Classifications

As far as is known, the Eastern Counties Railway identified individual locomotive types by the running number of the first locomotive of the type to be built; "No. 43 Class", for example. However, in its early years the ECR had a habit of frequently renumbering its locomotive stock, generally in order that the newest locomotives should carry the lowest numbers.

The Sinclair Period

In the early 1850s the ECR's Locomotive Superintendent J.V. Gooch decided that his first new design - the small 2-4-2WTs of 1851 - should be known as "Class A". These were followed by the slightly larger engines, "Class B", and finally some 2-2-2 tender engines, "Class C". At this point, Gooch was succeeded by Robert Sinclair, who continued in office after the GER was formed in 1862. Sinclair evidently approved of Gooch's system, but resolved to start from the other end of the alphabet and to work backwards. Thus, his 5-ft. 1-ins. 2-4-0s of 1858 were "Class Z". These were followed by the 'Y' 6-ft. 1-ins. 2-4-0s of 1859, 'X' 2-4-0WTs and 'W' 2-2-2s in 1862, and finally by the 'V' 2-4-2WTs of 1864. It would seem likely that Sinclair intended to allot the classifications from 'D' onwards to the existing locomotive stock, but there is no evidence that this was done.

Sinclair also initiated a system of order numbers at Stratford Works, known as the "Letter Accounts". These can be thought of as accounts ledger pages, in which were entered all costs incurred on the job for which the account was opened. These accounts were used for a wide range of construction and maintenance work, both for locomotives, carriages and wagons, and also for road vehicles, turntables, works machinery and so on. As far as locomotives are concerned, a new account would be opened for each batch of new engines to be built at Stratford Works. As far as is known, the accounts remained 'open' for as long as any of the locomotives of the batch concerned remained in existence. Thus, all building expenses and subsequent maintenance costs were recorded, and thus an average cost to the company of each locomotive could be established.

The series began at Al, and then progressed B1, C1 and so on to Z1. It then continued A2, B2 ... Z2, A3, A4 etc. Of the new locomotives produced under Sinclair, only the 'X' class 2-4-0WTs were built at Stratford, to Letter Account J2. In later years the letters 'J' and 'Q' were not used so as to avoid confusion with the letters 'I' and 'O'. This is somewhat eccentric, for it would surely have made more sense not have used the letters 'I' and 'O', in case of confusion with the numerals one and zero.

The Johnson Period and After

S.W. Johnson replaced Sinclair as Locomotive Superintendent in 1867, and he adopted the system of locomotive classification that lasted until the end of the GER's independent existence. Henceforth, new classes were known by the Stratford Works Letter Account order number of the first batch to be built, if they were built at Stratford. Should the first engines be built by a contractor, then they were known by the running number of the first engine built, as in the old ECR system. Thus, the first of his 0-4-2Ts were built at Stratford to Order T7, and they were known as the T7 Class. The first of the five 2-4-0s constructed by Sharp, Stewart to a North British Railway design were the "No. 125 Class", as the first engine was numbered 125.

In only four instances were locomotives subsequently built at Stratford to a design first produced by a contractor, or vice-versa. In all cases, the class was known by the original classification. Thus, although ten "No. 1 Class" 2-4-0s were later constructed at Stratford to Letter Account L7, they were known by the former classification. The same applied to the four 0-4-0STs built at Stratford in 1897-1903, similar to the rebuilds of the earlier "No. 209 Class". On the other hand, the Y14 class 0-6-0s were first produced at Stratford in 1883, and a batch of nineteen built in 1884 by Sharp, Stewart & Co. were also known as Y14s. Similarly, in 1920-1 Beardmore & Co. built twenty 4-6-0s of class S69.

There were two other order number series used by Stratford Works that are of relevance to locomotive construction; the "Locomotive Machinery" (LM) and the "Departmental & Personal" (D&P) accounts. These were short term accounts used for specific jobs. They began at LM1, D&P1 and ran to LM9999 and D&P9999, and then cycled back to the beginning. The 'LM' series were used for a variety of purposes, and not necessarily for locomotive work. The 'D&P' series were used for jobs in which a precise record of costs had to be kept, such as experimental work, or repairs to locomotives belonging to other railways.

The reason for mentioning these accounts is that both series were used once for building new engines. D&P 203 was issued for the construction of the experimental two-cylinder compound Y14 class 0-6-0 No. 127 in 1887. Officially, the engine was referred to as the "No. 127 Class" on the locomotive diagrams. In the mid-1890s it was renumbered 935, and presumably became the "No. 935 Class". However, it was shortly afterwards rebuilt with simple cylinders of the same pattern as those used on the N31 class 0-6-0s and assimilated to that class.

LM68 was used - for some reason - for the building of the first Holden 2-2-2 No. 789 in 1888. Again, it was referred to as the "No. 789 Class" initially, but in 1891 further engines were built to Letter Account D27, and this then became the designation for No. 789 and the later engines.

Modifications to the System

In the course of time the locomotive classifications were modified to identify significant rebuildings. Thus, when the R24 class 0-6-0Ts were rebuilt from 1902 onwards with higher-pressure boilers with longer fireboxes, and had their tanks widened, the rebuilt engines were known as class 'R24R'. Similarly, the high-pressure rebuilds of the M15 class 2-4-2Ts were class 'M15R', and the 0-8-0 tender engine rebuild of the experimental A55 class 'decapod' 0-10-0WT was class 'A55R'. From 1902 twenty-one T19 2-4-0s were rebuilt with larger high-pressure Belpaire boilers (the 'Humpty-Dumpties'), and they were thus known as class 'T19R'. However, from 1905 subsequent rebuilds were altered to the 4-4-0 wheel arrangement in addition, and the engines thus rebuilt were known by the cumbersome classification of "T19R with Leading Bogie".

The GER adopted the Belpaire firebox boiler as standard for larger engines after 1900. It was fitted to new Claud Hamilton 4-4-0s from 1903, the new engines being built to Letter Account D56, and thus being known as class D56, as opposed to the earlier engines with round-topped fireboxes, class S46. The F48 class 0-6-0s were the goods engine version of the Clauds, having the same boiler, cylinders and motion. New engines with the Belpaire boiler appeared from 1905, and these were known as class G58. Some years later it was decided that, henceforth, the S46 4-4-0s and F48 0-6-0s would be fitted with Belpaire boilers when reboilering became due, and thus the rebuilds were then known as class D56 or G58 as appropriate.


The classification policy outlined above is that which was generally used, but variations of it were used by different departments. At one end of the scale, when details of new or rebuilt locomotives were released to the press, they were generally referred to by the old "first member of the class" system. The T19 class 2-4-0s were referred to as the "No. 710 Class", for example. However, the Drawing Office and Works had to be more specific. In the period from 1890 particularly, there were often minor alterations in details between subsequent batches of a class, as they were continuously improved or new materials and techniques became available. Thus, drawings might be endorsed "Y14 Class, P17, M18", if the drawing only related to those Y14 engines built to Letter Accounts P17 and M18.

Other departments might not be so pedantic. For example, the standard GER 0-6-0 tanks of the T18, E22 and R24 classes had identical boilers. In 1902, a higher-pressure version of this boiler, with a longer firebox was produced, and this was fitted to the R24 class as they came due for reboilering, and to the later S56 and C72 classes from new. It could not be fitted to the earlier T18 and E22 classes, as their shorter rear wheelbase left insufficient room for the firebox. In the order books, new boilers for the T18 and E22 classes (and the unrebuilt R24s) are specified as "T18 Class boilers". However, those with the longer fireboxes are specified as "T18 Class boilers, high pressure", even though they could not actually be fitted to the T18 class!

The Drawing Office routinely produced small 'diagrams' of the various locomotive types for use by the Traffic, Accounting, Civil Engineer's and other departments. These showed a simple side elevation outline of the locomotive, together with principal dimensions, capacities and weights. In general, the class designations followed the system outlined above, but there were interesting variations. To cite a few examples, the C8 class 4-4-0s were referred to as the "No. 305 Class". The first two batches of R24 class 0-6-0Ts were originally intended to have consisted of ten passenger engines to order R24, and ten shunters to S24. This was almost immediately altered so that all twenty were passenger engines, but for many years the diagrams were headed "R and S24 Class". The last batch of M. Bromley's E10 class 0-4-4Ts were ordered to Letter Account X13 under M. Gillies, who acted temporarily as Locomotive Superintendent for the six months between Bromley's departure and T.W. Worsdell's arrival. So far as can be ascertained, these engines were more-or-less identical to their predecessors, but the diagrams were headed 'E10 and X13 Classes'.

LNER Classifications

In 1923 the Great Eastern Railway became part of the new London & North Eastern Railway. All four of the new 'grouped' railways had to undertake renumbering of their locomotive stocks to eliminate duplicated numbers, but the LNER was the only one to reclassify all of the locomotive types that it inherited in one unified system. The system used was based upon that used by the former Great Northern Railway, under which each class was allocated a letter, which designated the wheel arrangement, followed by a number that identified each class. The number ranges varied according to how many different classes that there were with a particular wheel arrangement. Thus, the letter 'A' was allocated to 4-6-2s, of which there were two tender engine classes, designated A-1 and A-2, and three tank engine types, A-5, A-6 and A-7. Thus A-3, and A-4 were left blank for future construction. Locomotives of the 0-6-0 wheel arrangement ('J') were by far the most numerous, and thus J-1 to J-49 were allocated to tender engines, and J-50 and above to tanks. Some wheel arrangements, such as 2-6-0s ('K'), or 0-6-2 ('N'), were exclusively tender or tank engines.

The individual number groups were allocated in order of the originating railway, in the order Great Northern, Great Central, Great Eastern, North Eastern, North British and Great North of Scotland, and then sub-divided by the date of first introduction and driving wheel diameter.

The complete list of new LNER classifications of ex-GER locomotives is shown in the following table.

Wheel Arrangement LNER Class GER Class
4-6-0 B-12 S69
4-4-0 D-13 T19R
D-14 S46
D-15 D56
D-16 H88
2-4-0 E-4 T26
2-4-2T F-3 C32
F-4 M15
F-5 M15R
F-6 G69
F-7 Y65
0-4-4T G-4 S44
0-6-0 J-14 N31
J-15 Y14
J-16 F48
J-17 G58
J-18 E72
J-19 T77
J-20 D81
0-6-0T J-65 E22
J-66 T18
J-67 R24
J-68 C72
J-69 R24R, S56
J-70 C53
0-6-2T N-7 L77
0-4-0T Y-4 B74
Y-5 No 209 Cl
Y-6 G15
0-6-0CT Z-4 No 204 Cl