54 B17 "Sandringham" B Hall Chmn June'19

At our meeting in June Brian Hall, chairman of the B17 Steam Locomotive Trust, described the Trust’s plans to build a replica of a type of steam passenger locomotive which was once a common sight on the LNER network. After the formation of the four major rail groups in the 1920’s, the LNER realised that they needed a more powerful express locomotive to cope with the longer and heavier passenger coaches coming into service. Also this locomotive had to be light enough to comply with the weight restrictions which affected some of the lines in the LNER network.

A preliminary design was produced in house by the chief mechanical engineer Sir Nigel Gresley, but unfortunately it couldn’t meet all the design constraints and a contract was therefore placed with the North British Locomotive Company in Glasgow to design and build a compliant locomotive based on Gresley’s design. A batch of ten of these 4-6-0 locomotives, identified as type B17, were delivered to the LNER at the end of 1928 and were immediately put to work on different main routes on the LNER network, such as hauling the boat trains from Harwich to Liverpool Street. King George Vth gave permission for the first engine, number 2800, to be named ‘Sandringham’, a name later adopted to describe the whole class. The initial batch of locomotives performed well but suffered from rough riding. It was also discovered as the result of an unconnected accident that cracks were appearing in the locomotives’ frames. Remedial work was undertaken to deal with these and other problems and by 1931 all the original locomotives had been suitably upgraded. Between 1931 and 1938 another 52 locomotives were built incorporating the various modifications as well as further improvements to the steaming and combustion processes. The B17s remained in service until the mid 1960s providing reliable main line express services not only in East Anglia but also on the Great Central line from Marylebone to Manchester.

The design of the new build B17 locomotive is based upon the 1935 version incorporating the changes made to deal with rough riding and frame cracking and other improvements. However changes to the design will be required to allow the locomotive to operate on the main rail network while other changes are being proposed to improve the efficiency of the locomotive. The new locomotive will be named the ‘Spirit of Sandringham’ and will adopt its BR number 61673.

The manufacture of the various components is being carried out by a number of companies which are deemed to have the appropriate skills and experience to undertake the specified work. The actual assembly of the components is being undertaken by an engineering works in Llangollen which has been involved in the building of three other new build steam locomotives. At all stages the various individual items of work are inspected by an independent assurance authority to ensure that they comply with the relevant specifications. The present situation is that the static chassis frame, having been assembled from its various parts at Llangollen, successfully passed its inspection in February 2019. The next stage is to turn the static mainframe into a rolling chassis by adding the wheels, axles, axle boxes, bearings and other parts. It is planned to complete the whole project by 2029 which would mark the centenary of the first B17 coming into service.

The total projected cost is estimated to be £3 million pounds. The trust owns two original tenders which were used by the B17s when they were in service, but until they have been closely inspected it is not known whether they can be fully restored. The decision to build a new locomotive rather than restoring an existing one is open to debate but the evident popularity of the new build ‘Tornado’ would suggest that the new build B17 will be just as popular.

The next meeting will be on 7th October 2019 when Roy Stoner will talk about the Cambridge to St.Ives line. This will be preceded by a short AGM.