SR USA Class
This class formed
part of a large production run of American shunting tank engines, designed to
operate on the railways of Europe after D-Day. The urgency in which they were
required led to the quite astonishing feat of a brand new locomotive design
being completed and ordered within a single week. The type has its origins with
Colonel Howard G. Hill, formerly a mechanical engineer with the Southern Pacific
Railroad. During 1940, he was drafted in by the US Army’s Office of the Chief of
Engineers, specifically to accelerate a programme of mass railway locomotive and
rolling stock construction. In the following year, the US’ entry into the war
seemed imminent, and in November 1941, liaison with the UK War Department over
supplying the latter with motive power hastened the development of a new tank
engine. Early in November, Hill worked long and hard to pencil a locomotive from
scratch, and in under a week produced a complete set of drawings. The resultant
0-6-0 Tank locomotive, whilst intended for use on the other side of the
Atlantic, was typically American in appearance, with a plethora of external
boiler fittings, cast steel bar frames, and no running plates. Time was of the
essence and consequently, the US Army immediately approved the design for
large-scale production – this was in the absence of a single prototype. The
design was formally coded ‘’T1531’’ by the US Army, and a
total of 450 examples were authorised for construction.
The order was subcontracted to three American firms, namely H. K. Porter, Davenport, and the Vulcan Iron Works. H. K. Porter of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had a distinguished history as a specialist builder of industrial steam locomotives, and the US Army contract was a fitting swansong for a trade in its death throes. Whilst the war provided a much-needed boom in work for the firm, the dearth of locomotive orders thereafter saw engine building at H. K. Porter cease in 1950. The firm, which had suffered bankruptcy in 1937 and had subsequently been incorporated as a new company in January 1939, continued to manufacture industrial machinery; its locomotive building assets were sold to Davenport. As per H. K. Porter, the 1942 order was to prove somewhat of a final fling for the Davenport Locomotive Works of Iowa. In spite of acquiring the locomotive interests of the former in 1950, production at Davenport ceased six years later. Finally, the third contractor, the Vulcan Iron Works, was a Pennsylvania corporation, having its principal place of business at Wilkes Barre. The company’s locomotive building business was also nearing life’s end, production there ceasing earlier than that at Davenport, in 1954. In spite of the sad end to once thriving companies, their production of Colonel Hill’s engine was swift, and examples were arriving at Newport Docks, Wales, from ‘’across the pond’’ in July 1942.
Delivered in near complete form, engines were unloaded from the decks of ships and towed dead to GWR sheds in the vicinity, where the motion gear was fitted. At some of these depots they were temporarily used as shunters, whilst others were loaned for a short period to the Welsh Collieries. Several of the Class ‘’S100’’ 0-6-0T engines, as they had been formally classed by the US Army Transportation Corps (a subdivision of the army which had come into existence on 31st July 1942), were taken out on a lend-lease agreement by the UK War Department. Engines were ‘’run-in’’ and steam tested, and whilst many were sent on their way to mainland Europe, several went into immediate store in Britain. Some of these stored engines were, too, shipped out for use on the continent in June 1944, again via Newport Docks. Examples were eventually dispersed throughout Western Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Forty-two of the ‘’S100’’ engines which remained in the UK were lined up in open air store at Newbury Racecourse station, on the GWR.
In 1945, Lieutenant Colonel Howard G. Hill was awarded the ‘’Legion of Merit’’ in recognition of his services to the US Military. In the same year, the Southern Railway faced a conundrum. Several of the company’s shunting engines at Southampton Docks were nearing expensive boiler overhauls. These were the ‘’B4’’ Tanks, originally introduced in 1891 by the LSWR under William Adams’ direction. They were compact engines running on a short wheelbase, necessary to negotiate tight curves in dock areas. Further engines of this type had been ordered after the LSWR took full control of Southampton Docks in November 1892, thus by the end of World War II, these tanks were over half a century in age. Indeed, they had been complemented in 1908 by a further batch of ten engines built to a modified design under Dugald Drummond. Nevertheless, with the end of the war in sight, SR locomotive building policy was upbeat, Bulleid having set the ball rolling with the introduction of the first ‘’Merchant Navy’’ Pacifics in February 1941. Between 1945 and 1947 (inclusive), it was proposed to construct seventy new steam engines, fifty of which were to be Bulleid Light Pacifics, the remainder comprising a mixture of passenger tank engines and dock shunters. The latter were to supersede the ‘’B4’’ Tanks at Southampton, but a new-build programme for this type of engine was suddenly put on hold; numerous War Department locomotives had been identified as possible replacements.
There were two types of wartime engine on offer: the aforementioned U.S.A. Tanks in store at Newbury Racecourse, and a British equivalent, the 0-6-0 ‘’Austerity’’ Saddle Tank. Several of the latter were lined up in open store at the Longmoor Military Railway, Hampshire, and like their American counterparts, had seen little, if any, use. R. A. Riddles of the LMS had been called upon by the Ministry of Supply to head a design team for a heavy shunting locomotive. The specification set out was for an engine which could haul a 1000-ton train from a standing start, on the level, and operate over tracks in varying states of repair. They needed to be capable of two years continuous intensive use. An order for 377 of these engines was subcontracted to the Hunslet Engine Company of Leeds, and as per the U.S.A. Tanks, many were shipped to the continent for use after the Allied invasion. Indeed, the Hunslet Company subcontracted its own order to other firms to speed up construction time, notably: Andrew Barclay Sons & Co; Hudswell Clarke; Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns; the Vulcan Foundry; and W. G. Bagnall.
In January 1946, the SR commandeered a War Department Saddle Tank for trial running at Southampton Docks, and in that month it arrived at Eastleigh. These engines had a tractive effort of 23,870 lbs, a water capacity of 1,200 UK gallons, and a coal capacity of 2¼ tons. During trials, however, it was discovered that the 11-foot wheelbase was too long to negotiate some of the tighter curves at the docks, barring it from areas previously accessible to the ‘’B4’’ tanks. In April of the same year, one of the surplus U.S.A. Tanks, War Department No. 4326, was brought down to undergo the same trials. The engine had a water capacity of little over 999 UK gallons, a coal capacity of 2500 lbs (about 1.12 tons), and a tractive effort of 21,630 lbs at 85% normal boiler pressure. During the following May it was ran over the railway system at Southampton Docks, and its shorter 10-foot wheelbase was found to be capable of tackling those tight bends which the UK Saddle Tank fell foul to. A contingent of SR personnel was subsequently despatched to Newbury Racecourse to inspect those engines in store, which were reportedly in much better condition than the Saddle Tanks at Longmoor. Many of these tanks, which had been surplus to the War Department’s requirements, had only been steamed as part of their run-in trials, and were found to be in very good condition. They were robust engines fabricated from modern materials, with the simplicity of two outside cylinders. They were noteworthy for having the cylinders driving onto the rear axle. Eventually, fourteen of the U.S.A. engines from Newbury were purchased by the SR in December 1946, including that already at Eastleigh, WD 4326. This was for a cumulative total of £35,000 (£1,020,000 at 2008 prices), and the engines started arriving on SR territory in February of the following year. A fifteenth engine was latterly purchased for £2000 (£58,400 at 2008 prices) and intended as a source of spares. Among the fourteen operational engines which had been selected and brought to Eastleigh, were a mixture of examples built by H.K. Porter and the Vulcan Iron Works. The decision was taken to standardise on those made by Vulcan, in light of slight design variations, and a number of Porter examples were sent back to Newbury and exchanged. Of the final fifteen-strong fleet, thirteen were Vulcan-built, the final two (including the spare) being of Porter origin.
The purchase of the American engines was significantly cheaper than building new locomotives from scratch, but numerous modifications were required before these tanks could properly run on SR metals. They were out of gauge for their intended lines, which required modification of the cab steps, which were deemed too wide. The cab was also equipped with additional lookout windows and rooftop ventilators. Wider diameter draincocks were fitted to the cylinders; thus, incompressible water, formed through condensation during the cooling of the cylinders, could quickly escape. Carriage steam heating equipment was added, a British-style regulator placed in the cab, and separate steam and vacuum brake controls fitted, for which vacuum ejectors were used. The latter created a vacuum within the brake pipes between vehicles, and the degree of braking was determined by how much air the driver admitted to the same pipes. SR-style injectors, to pump the water into the boiler, were incorporated, and the coalbunker was enlarged.
The modified tanks were deployed to Southampton Docks between April and November 1947, where they replaced the ‘’B4’’ fleet. Some of the latter, which still had life left in their boilers, were cascaded elsewhere, notably to work in the goods yard at Winchester City. Generally good at their intended task, it was discovered early on that the U.S.A. Tanks were prone to developing hot bearings, which precluded their use on runs of any great distance (in preservation, this problem has been overcome by the fitting of mechanical lubricators). At least on paper, the fourteen-strong fleet of operational engines were numbered in the series 61 to 74; after the formation of British Railways in January 1948, ‘’30000’’ was added to these numbers.
The fleet remained at the docks until displacement by diesel shunters in 1962; the first withdrawal was No. 30063 in May of that year. A number of tanks had a brief spell in store, or were used as static engines to supply steam to docked ships. It was not long, however, before many were snapped up by Southern Region engineering departments, to replace pre-Grouping shunters. Three went to Ashford Wagon Works, one to Lancing Carriage Works, one to Redbridge Sleeper Works and, finally, one to Meldon Quarry. These six engines were renumbered in a new series with a ‘’DS’’ prefix (‘’Departmental Stock’’), whilst the remaining tanks – bar No. 30063, which was withdrawn for good – remained in the general BR fleet. No. 30062 arrived at Meldon Quarry in January 1963, which had become Western Region territory in September of the previous year. There it worked until August 1966, under the guise DS234, thus becoming one of the last operational steam locomotives allocated to the WR. Repairs having become due, it was transferred back to Eastleigh, remaining in service there as yard shunter until March 1967.
30061 (D.S.233) & 30064
USA Tank Nos. 30064 and D.S.233 (formerly No. 30061) are seen ''on shed'' at Eastleigh on 1st April 1967. No. 30061 had been dedicated to the Engineer's Department in October 1962, when it received a new number prefixed D.S. and was employed at Redbridge Sleeper Works, Southampton. In 1966, the engine went into store at Eastleigh. No. 30064 can now be found on the Bluebell Railway. © David Glasspool Collection
In 1964, ''Yankee Tank'' No. 30067 was seen shunting at Eastleigh, the huge works buildings forming the backdrop. Built by the Vulcan Iron Works, Pennsylvania, in 1942, this engine became WD 1282. On purchase by the SR, it was extensively modified and renumbered 67, entering service with that company in May 1942. Renumbered yet again by British Railways to 30067, it lingered around Eastleigh as a shunter after being ousted by diesels at Southampton Docks in 1962. However, it remained in the mainstream BR fleet, thus did not gain a Departmental Stock number. It survived right up until the end of steam on the SR, on 9th July 1967, and was one of five U.S.A. Tanks allocated to Eastleigh at the time. © David Glasspool Collection
No. 30071 is seen outside Eastleigh shed in 1965. This engine remained in service right to the end of steam on the Southern, 9th July 1967. It then made its way to Salisbury, where it was stored, before being dispatched to South Wales for scrapping. © David Glasspool Collection
As mentioned in the main text, these engines were deployed throughout Western Europe, in addition to the Middle East and Africa. SNCF received seventy-seven USA Tanks, which went under the classification 030 TU. In the photograph above, one of these engines, No. 030TU20, is seen on the turntable at Calais shed in April 1965. © David Glasspool Collection
No. 30065, wearing its SR guise of No. 65, is seen at Bodiam on the Kent & East Sussex Railway on 25th October 2001. Built in 1943 by the Vulcan Iron Works, Pennsylvania, this engine became War Department No. 1968. After store at Newbury Racecourse station and subsequent purchase by the SR, it became plain No. 65, and went to work in Southampton Docks in November 1947. Becoming BR No. 30065, it remained a shunter at Southampton Docks until 1962, when ousted by diesel shunters. Grabbed by one of the engineering departments, the engine was latterly renumbered DS237, named ''Maunsell'', and made its way to Ashford Wagon Works in November 1963. It remained in use there alongside classmate No. DS238 (formerly No. 30070), until being taken out of service permanently in April 1967. Sister engine No. DS238 was decommissioned in June of the same year, and in March 1968 both were sold to Woodham Brothers, South Wales. Dragged dead in tow from Ashford, bound for the ossuary on Barry Island, the pair were declared unfit for further travel at Tonbridge, due to developing hot bearings. Here, they were dumped on the site of the closed engine shed for six months, until being moved to Rolvenden, on the Kent & East Sussex Railway, in September 1968. They had been re-sold to the preserved line in the previous month. © Mike Glasspool
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