T18 Class 0-6-0T 1886-1888
LNER Class J-66
GERS Collection 700/0735
James Holden’s first new locomotive design was for the T18 class 0-6-0 tank engines for shunting work in 1886. These were urgently required because of the opening of the GN&GE Joint Line and the attendant increase in coal traffic handled by the GER. The eminent locomotive historian E.L. Ahrons claimed that – prior to their advent – shunting on the GER was carried out by “superannuated tender engines on half pay”. However, this was patently untrue, for the last of the older pre-GER period locomotives had been withdrawn some years before. The truth was that what shunting that needed to be done was generally carried out by the train engine at local wayside yards. After the opening of the GN&GE various new marshalling sidings had to be opened to deal with the coal traffic. The T18s were to some extent a re-working of earlier GE locomotive types, but they spawned a large number of similar 0-6-0Ts for suburban and branch passenger work. The boiler used on these engines became the second most-numerous GE standard type, and it was also used on several pre-Holden classes. In consequence, by 1900 over 25% of the GER locomotive stock used the boiler. The photograph shows the prototype engine No. 275 built at Stratford in June 1886, in ‘photographic grey’ livery, but without any GER initials on the side tank.
One of the very first problems that Holden had to deal with was concerned with the disposal of the waste tar from the GER’s oil-gas works at Stratford. This waste had previously been easy to sell (for what purpose has yet to be discovered), but in 1885 the market collapsed. The GER decided to bury it on the land that they owned at Stratford enclosed by the triangle of lines (as they then were) between Fork, Lea and Loughton Branch Junctions. However, the waste leaked into the soil and polluted the Channelsea River, arousing the ire of the local authorities. Given the number of contemporary bone boilers, glue factories, chemical works and others that all saw the backwaters of the Lea as an open sewer, the pollution from the GER’s waste oil must have been serious! Holden was given the task of seeing if he could find a way of burning the waste tar in the stationary boilers dotted around Stratford Works. Initial results were encouraging, and in 1887 it was decided to try the system on a locomotive. T18 0-6-0T No. 281 was chosen for the experiment – it became a dedicated Stratford Works shunter so that a close eye could be kept on it. The engine is seen here around 1890, with the oil fuel tank in the bunker. The gear was later removed, but an improved system was re-fitted in 1893, together with a short chimney, thus implying that it also made the odd foray down the Woolwich branch. No. 281 was the first locomotive to burn oil on the Holden system, and the first of around 60 engines on the GER at its peak in the late 1890s. No. 281 always remained attached to the Works, and was the last of the class (by then LNER class J-66) to be withdrawn as ‘Departmental No. 32’ in September 1962.
Another experiment with the T18 class 0-6-0Ts that had important consequences was that in 1887 No. 294 was shortly after building fitted with Westinghouse brakes, 10-spoke balanced wheels, and screw reverser, and the tried on the London suburban workings, particularly on the Enfield and Chingford lines. The experiment was a great success – although having driving wheels of only 4-ft. 0-ins, diameter, and thus a lower top speed than the E10 and ‘No. 61 Class’ 0-4-4Ts, they had a higher tractive effort, and thus a greater rate of acceleration. As a result, the last new T18s to be built in 1888 – Nos. 317-326 – were also built as passenger engines, with the further refinement of longer bunkers and correspondingly-shorter cabs. The cab spectacle windows were also higher on these ten engines, improving the forward view for the crew. Holden then decided to build more 0-6-0Ts for suburban work, and made some further alterations to the design to ‘fine tune’ what was essentially a goods shunting engine to one fit for passenger trains. These came out from 1890 as the R24 class (q.v.), and the ten passenger T18s were converted to shunters like their sisters, their ‘passenger’ fittings being transferred to ten of the new R24s. The experimental conversion No. 294 retained its passenger gear until it, too, was converted to a shunter in 1930. This photograph shows 319 as LNER class J-66 No. 7319 in the late 1930s. It survived to become BR No. 68383, and was withdrawn in October 1955.
Around the turn of the century the GER experimented with steel fireboxes on some batches of the standard boilers for the 0-6-0Ts. Although they became common on the Continent and the USA, British engineers always preferred the traditional, but expensive copper firebox. Stratford seems to have been very cautious with regard to firebox design, and on these steel firebox boilers the safety valves were placed on the rear ring of the barrel, so as to allow the maximum staying of the firebox crown plate. When the 180 lb. psi boilers later appeared – albeit with traditional copper fireboxes – four safety-valves were provided, again on the rear boiler ring, for the same reason. This is T18 class 0-6-0T No. 307 as running c1922 with one of the 160 lb. steel firebox boilers.
Several of the J-66 0-6-0Ts were sold during the 1930s as surplus to LNER requirements. This is former GER No. 275, which was sold in June 1938 to the Ashington Coal Company in Northumberland, becoming their No. 18, and seen here c1950 in company with an ex-Great Western Railway pannier tank – also far from home. Like the other members of the class that were sold, it has been modified by its new owners, this example gaining a rather thin cast chimney, and a peculiar-shaped dome cover.