For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway

S44 Class 0-4-4T 1898-1901

LNER Class G-4


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During the first fifteen years of his superintendence, James Holden rebuilt and modernised all of the 0-4-4T classes built under Johnson, Adams and Bromley. Notwithstanding the success of his 0-6-0Ts on the arduous London suburban work, in 1898 it was decided to construct some new 0-4-4T engines, specifically for use on the Chingford and Enfield Lines. These appeared as class S44, and are still something of an enigma. In the same year – 1898 – Holden had given up on his N31 class 0-6-0s (q.v.) and had decided to go back to building the faithful Worsdell Y14 design. However, these new 0-4-4Ts were mechanically identical to the N31s, having the same cylinder and motion arrangement, although the cylinders were a half-inch smaller in diameter. One wonders if perhaps a stock of cylinder castings and other parts were to hand intended for N31s that were not built. The boilers for the new engines were of a standard type that had so far only been used for rebuilding the ‘No. 134’ and ‘No. 61’ classes, plus some of the older tender engines. This boiler had the same barrel length of ten foot as the standard boiler used on the larger engines, but two inches smaller in diameter, at 4-ft. 2-ins, and it also had a shorter firebox. The photograph shows No. 1101 of the first ten.

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A further thirty S44s were built down to 1901, and one of this series is shown in LNER condition. These engines differed slightly from the first ten in that the footsteps were separate from the footplate valancing, and the condensing pipes were a different shape. In service, the S44s were not highly-regarded by the enginemen – the drivers liked their smooth-riding, but the firemen complained that they were almost as difficult to steam as their N31 forebears. Apart from working the Enfield and Chingford trains along with the 0-6-0Ts, they were also to be seen on other duties, such as the North Woolwich branch trains. Under the LNER they became class G-4, and were soon the subject of an interesting experiment. The LNER had decided to standardise on the vacuum brake, and were considering building new articulated 5-coach vacuum braked train sets for the Liverpool Street suburban services. However, they wisely decided to check that it would still be possible to keep time with the slower-acting brake. To this end, a number of the G-4s were given vacuum ejectors and run with pairs of borrowed GN line 4- coach articulated sets, plus two loose carriages to make up the intended ten-coach lengths. The experiment only proved what the GER and the operators of electric suburban trains had always known – for smart stops and re-starting, the air brake was indispensable. As a result, the new ‘Quint-Art’ sets were Westinghouse braked. The G-4s began to drift away to the country lines after the Grouping as they were replaced by new N-7 class 0-6-2Ts. Also, by this time the other GER locomotive classes that used the same boiler as the G-4s were long gone, and withdrawal of the G-4s began in 1929, with the last being scrapped in 1938. The locomotive in the photograph – No. 8134 – was one of the final 1900-1 batch, and has been fitted with the later smokebox door, rimmed chimney and additional coal rails. However, none are known to have acquired pop safety valves, and only one was fitted with a steel cab roof.