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It is the intention of the 567 Loco Group to build a Great Central Railway Class 2 4-4-0 express steam locomotive that used to haul passenger services out of Manchester. None of the type was preserved so building a brand new locomotive of this type will bring an elegant Victorian locomotive back to life. The locomotive chosen is No.567 first built at the Gorton Works in Manchester in December, 1890.

The Class 2 4-4-0 of the MS&LR/GCR

The late Victorian and Edwardian period saw steam locomotives in Britain reach a pinnacle of design and elegance with locomotives with graceful curves and brilliant colour schemes hauling passenger trains at speeds faster than anything else on earth. Gone were the rather cumbersome outside frame locomotives and in came the single inside framed locomotives with the sweeping curves of the splashers, the beautifully proportioned and placed chimneys and domes, the smokebox placed near the centre of the front bogie and boilers well proportioned. All the locomotives were adorned with brilliant and elaborate colour schemes to enhance their appearance. There are many examples but one company, the Great Central Railway, had a surfeit of these elegant designs. While the GCR is famous for its five axle 4-4-2 Atlantics, so admired that they became known as Jersey Lilies, there is another line of development that provides an equally aesthetic range of locomotives – the four axle 4-4-0s. It is one of these that the team at the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) has chosen to build at its Ruddington base.

The original No.567

No.704 in original MS&LR condition at Manchester London Road c1894

The Class 2 4-4-0, introduced in 1887, broke the mould of MS&LR/GCR express locomotive design, abandoning the previous double frame locomotives that had been favoured by the then Engineer and Superintendent of Locomotive and Stores Department Charles Reboul Sacré, for the single inside framed type. This wheel arrangement, the first for British passenger locomotive, allowed the introduction of all the elegant features that so characterised locomotives of the late Victorian and Edwardian period. It set in trend this graceful development of the 4-4-0s on the GCR until 1913 when the famous Class 11E “Director” Class was introduced. It was a development period which also encompassed the sublime designs of the GCR’s 4-6-0s.


The Class 2 was introduced under the leadership of Thomas Parker who had become the Locomotive, Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the MS&LR in 1886. Parker is better known for introducing the first locomotive class in Britain with a Belpaire firebox as opposed to the previously used round topped box. This he did in 1891 on his 0-6-2T goods tank Class 9C of which 125 similar examples were finally built. He was probably influenced by Beyer Peacock whose factory, the Gorton Foundry, was just across the tracks from the ML&SR works at Gorton. They built many locomotives for the MS&LR/GCR and had been building and exporting locomotives with Belpaire fireboxes for many years before they were adopted first by the MS&LR.


As an aside the Belpaire firebox, despite its more complicated manufacture, was favoured because its square top gave a greater surface area for heating the steam at the hottest point in the boiler. After its introduction on the MS&LR it was widely adopted in the UK, the most notable exception being by Sir Nigel Gresley on the LNER.


The design origin of the Class 2 has been disputed in some quarters. It arose from the desire of the MS&LR and the Leeds locomotive builders Kitson & Co to have a locomotive displayed at the Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition from May to November, 1887 celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign. Apparently there was only room for one of the exhibits so the two parties got together and agreed that Kitson would build a 4-4-0 locomotive for subsequent use by the MS&LR. And so the Class 2 was born and in November, 1887 it emerged from the exhibition in the guise of No.561.


There has been some controversy on who was responsible for the design as the next member of the class, No.562 built at the MS&LR works at Gorton, did not appear until April, 1890 some 2½ years later. Whatever the situation it would be unthinkable that Parker did not specify and oversee the design and production of No.561 as the class was intended to haul the Manchester to King’s Cross expresses to Grantham and return from where the Great Northern Railway took over. This service ran from the early 1880s and was accelerated from 2nd July, 1883 in order to compete with the Manchester to London services of the Midland and London and North Western Railways. The accelerated service then took 4½ hours and ran from Manchester London Road when the London Extension was opened to passenger traffic in 1899. On this latter service the trains actually took longer, the fastest one taking 4hr 50mins. The journey was quite a long one compared with the current best time on the West Coast Main Line of 2hr 8min. To put things into further perspective the First Class single fare from Manchester to Marylebone in 1903 was 24s 6d (£1.23) and the Third Class 15s 5½d (77p). You could take your horse for 47s 0d (£2.35)! How times have changed!

No.687 in Great Central livery at Macclesfield Central c1899

No.5687 in LNER livery leaving Grimsby c1930

CAD model of No.567

George Dow in his Great Central Vol. II is clear that No.561 was a Kitson design and that the 2½ years that elapsed before No.562 appeared was partly taken up by No.561 being returned to Gorton after the exhibition and being stripped down so that the MS&LR could make detailed drawings for future manufacture of the class. It is an indication of how highly Parker thought of the design. No doubt some considerable part of this time was also consumed by the legal niceties of copying the Kitson design.

In researching the new-build No.567 further confirmation as to the Kitson origin of the design has emerged. Kitson & Co, builders of the first of the class, went into receivership in 1937 and in 1938 the patterns, drawings and goodwill of the company were acquired by Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns (RSH). This company is well known for the production of a large number of 0-6-0 industrial locomotives two of which, No.56 of 1950 and No.63 “Corby” of 1954, are based at Ruddington. Close examination of these locomotives has determined that the cylinder block, pistons, connecting rods and coupling rods are amongst the components that are identical or very similar to those on No.567. This gives confirmation that the original design of the GCR Class 2 was very much a Kitson design.

The first of the MS&LR built locomotives, No.562 appeared in April, 1890 the first of a batch of six built at Gorton with No.567, the last of that batch, being completed in December, 1890. There were no significant differences between the Kitson and Gorton built locomotives. There was a slightly deeper frame and relocated sandboxes on the Gorton version but the main dimensions were unchanged. A second batch of six locomotives was built in 1891/92 at Gorton followed by a further batch of 12 which were built by Kitson in 1892. The boilers were of the round top design with a working pressure of 160psi and a grate area of 18.8sq ft. The driving wheel diameter was 6ft 9in. The two inside cylinders had a diameter of 18in and stroke of 26in with Stephenson motion and slide valves. The overall length of the locomotive and tender was 53ft 7¼in the tender having a water capacity of 3080 gallons and coal capacity of 5 tons. A final batch of six locomotives was built at Gorton in 1894 (making 31 in total) with coil instead of leaf springs on the drivers and an increase in the diameter of the journal diameter from 7½in to 8in. Alterations were also made to the tenders. These were classified as Class 2A.


All members of the class were re-boilered with Belpaire boilers under the direction of John George Robinson the GCR’s Chief Mechanical Engineer. These boilers became the GCR’s Standard No.1 boiler. The process started in 1909 with No.687 and was not completed until 1918 with No.691. With the new boiler the grate area was reduced to 18.3sq ft as the water space in the sides of the firebox was increased to 3in from 2½in. It was pitched 3½in higher than the round topped boiler at 7ft 8in. The fully laden weight of the engine and tender in this condition was 83T 6C with a maximum axle load of 16T. Other detail changes introduced by Robinson included a longer smokebox and his own design of chimney and an extended cab roof.

The Class 2s performed very well on their allocated duties on the MS&LR principal expresses from Manchester to Grantham. Although loads were very light they did have the job of climbing over the Pennines on the Woodhead route. They were also used in South Yorkshire and into Lincolnshire and were said to be most economical locomotives only burning 24lb of coal per mile. Unfortunately the Class 2’s reign on the premier expresses was short lived as the demands of higher speeds with heavier loads led to the introduction of the Class 11 in 1895. Designed by Harry Pollitt the then MS&LR Locomotive Engineer they were a development of the Class 2 but were fitted from the start with Belpaire boilers (the first such use on a passenger locomotive) and had 7ft diameter driving wheels. The cylinder bore increased to 18½in.The Class 2s were displaced on to secondary and stopping duties with the introduction of further Pollitt and Robinson 4-4-0 designs. Several were based in Sheffield from where they did work stopping trains on the London Extension as far south of Leicester. Later the class migrated to the east with sheds at Lincoln and Immingham having substantial allocations from where they served Grimsby, Cleethorpes and several other eastern destinations.Withdrawal commenced in 1926 with No.564 one of the first batch built at Gorton. The last of the class, No.704, a Kitson built locomotive, was withdrawn in December, 1939 and broken up in April, 1940. No.567 was built in December, 1890 as the last of the first batch built at Gorton. When Robinson fitted his own pattern of chimney in 1901 No.567 also received a longer smokebox. It was fitted with a Belpaire boiler in June, 1918 which necessitated a change to the spectacle plate. On the Grouping in 1923 the class were painted in the LNER green passenger livery. Later economies in January, 1928 led to the progressive re-painting to lined black livery. In January, 1930 No.567 was allocated to Mexborough shed where it worked services to Barnsley and Sheffield. In October of that year it moved on to Immingham. It was withdrawn in September, 1931 after a working life of 41 years.


Cylinder Block

Connecting Rod

Wooden Pattern



Cylinder Covers

Frame Cutting

Oiler Pots

Connecting Rods

Cylinder Covers

Recreating the Victorian Main Line
The GCR 567 Locomotive forms part of a larger vision to recreate the Victorian main line express trains that operated on the Great Central Railway through Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. The carriages of the GCR Rolling Stock Trust combined with other restored original Great Central carriages from other sites present the very real prospect of running Victorian locomotive No.567 with a matched rake of original Victorian carriages on the now preserved Victorian Great Central main line stopping at original Victorian stations past Victorian Signal Boxes and other period infrastructure. A unique and mouth-watering prospect for all who wish the true golden age of steam to be recreated, a time when the world looked to Britain for its technical lead and locomotives such as 567 were the fastest machines on earth.

MS&LR 3rd Class Five Compartment six wheeler No.946

The first of these restored carriages is No. 946 a six-wheel five-compartment 3rd Class carriage built by Manchester Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway at the Gorton, Manchester works in 1888 to a Parker design.

General Dimensions - Overall, the vehicle is 34ft 8½in long over the buffers by 8ft 7½in wide over the lower footboards and 12ft 6½in high. It weighs approximately 12 tons.

No.946 is a rare survivor of a classic Victorian period railway carriage. The 6-wheeled vehicles built by the MS&LR were originated by Charles Sacré. No.946 was first lit using compressed oil gas the common practice at the time. It seated 10 passengers per compartment, with 50 seated in all. When new, it spent its first years in express and semi-fast train formations and was later relegated to local services.

Mounted on a wooden frame with side reinforcement of steel plate, the body is mainly teak on oak frames, using traditional coach building methods. The body is carried on three axles with six Mansell wheels (3ft 7½ inches diameter) which have wooden insets intended to dampen vibration and noise when running and are leaf-sprung. The buffers similarly react to two massive springs mounted in the middle of the carriage.

No.946 was condemned in 1967. Fortunately it was not broken up, but was used in the late 1960s in a Civil Defence exercise at Takeley, Hertfordshire, on the now-defunct Bishops Stortford to Braintree line, in a mock train crash where it suffered considerable damage to its bodywork. Afterwards, it languished in the Up Side yard siding at Manningtree station until purchased for preservation in 1971 for the sum of £50. A hint was dropped to a local Royal Engineers squadron that they might transport it as a training exercise to its new site. To this they enthusiastically agreed and thus it arrived late one summer afternoon at its new home, Robert Drage’s New Buildings Farm, Great Chishill in Cambridgeshire. After arrival in June 1971, the missing body panels were replaced with marine ply and the roof weather-proofed. The intention was to use the first London Extension livery at the launch of the Great Central into London, French Grey/Brown livery. Unfortunately enthusiasm in its restoration waned and it stood unattended for many years until being adapted to become a hunters’ shooting lodge. Unfortunately, none of the Pope’s Patent gas lights had survived, nor had any of the door furniture. Most of the under frame was however, intact.

On arrival at Ruddington in 2002 the body was stripped of all the panelling and a very comprehensive rebuilding programme commenced. After fifteen long years, with restoration nearing completion, an estimated ten thousand hours of skilled volunteer labour, and some £90,000 in time and spend on materials and paint, No.946 becomes the Trust’s flagship in its museum quality finish of French Grey and Brown. This was revealed on 11th November 2015, to the media and the wider world. The ceremony was dedicated to the many talented and skilled members of the Trust and to the memory of all whom were injured or died in the accident at Quintinshill one hundred years ago.

On 18th September, 2017 No.946 was transferred to the exhibition building at Nunckley Hill on the Mountsorrel Railway.

Completed compartment in 2015

No.946 nearing the completion of restoration

Door manufacture in 2014

The view in c1999

Major structural work

At Manningtree in 1971

Bodyshell complete

Seat fitting in 2013

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