B17  61600 – 61672  4-6-0  LNER Gresley Sandringham


Power Classification 4P reclassified 5P in 1953
Introduced 1928 – 1937
Designer Gresley
Company LNER
Weight – Loco 77t 5cwt
               Tender 39t 6cwt
Driving Wheels 6ft 8ins
Boiler Pressure 180psi superheated
Cylinders Three – 17½in x 26in
Tractive Effort 22,845lbf
Valve Gear Walscdhaert with derived motion (piston valve)

By the mid-1920s, the power requirements of the GE District (former Great Eastern Railway) were becoming critical. There was a particular shortage of suitable locomotives for hauling express passenger services which had become heavier with increasing traffic and the introduction of heavier vacuum-braked coaches. Due to the limitations of the GER loading gauge, suitable locomotive types could not be transferred from other parts of the LNER system. Some of the K2 2-6-0 locomotives displaced older types, but they were not really suitable for the immediate heavy passenger needs. The shortage came to a head immediately after the General Strike (1926) when a shortage of quality coal led to appalling engine performances and the virtual failure of a number of stopping services on the Cambridge and Southend lines. LNER Management quickly ordered Gresley to produce a 4-6-0 design to supplement the existing B12s on the heavier passenger services

 K2 small K2 introduced by Gresley in 1912
 b12 small B12 introduced by Holden in 1911

The initial specifications were for a three-cylinder 4-6-0 borrowing the cylinder and motion arrangement of the D49 4-4-0 with a tractive effort of about 25,000lb and the axle loading restricted to 17 tons. Doncaster had many problems satisfying this specification. One drawing included a tapered boiler and fluted brake hangers in order to reduce weight. Parts of the B16 4-6-0 front-end also crept into some of the later Doncaster drawings. The Locomotive Running Department was not satisfied with the resulting drawings, and the contract was handed to the North British Locomotive Co. (NB Loco Co.) in December 1927.

 d49 small D49 Shire & Hunt class introduced by Gresley in 1927
 b16 small B16 introduced in 1919 by Raven
 b17 small B17 class as introduced by Gresley in 1928

In February 1928, the NB Loco Co. presented two designs with 18 ton and 19 ton axle loadings. Although neither design met the initial requirement of a 17 ton axle loading, the 18 ton design was chosen at a cost of £7,280 per engine. The LNER accepted that this would restrict the B17’s route availability to certain GER main lines and not the full range which was originally intended. An initial order for ten locomotives was placed that month.

The final B17 design borrowed many features from a batch of A1 pacifics (these later became A3 class locomotives) which the NB Loco Co. had built in 1924. The cab, cylinders, and motion had all been copied directly or slightly modified. Most of the boiler design was taken from the K3 2-6-0 and O2 2-8-0 designs. The LNER quickly ordered some modifications, including an increase in cylinder size from 17in to 17.5in, and a lengthening of the firebox by 5in. It was impossible for all three cylinders to drive the middle coupled axle, so the middle cylinder powered the leading axle and was positioned forward above the front bogie.

 a1 later a3 A1 class as built by the North British Locomotive Co in 1924. These were later classified as A3 engines.
 k3 small K3 class introduced in 1920 by Gresley
 b17 as new small B17 class as introduced in 1928

The first B17 was delivered in November 1928. Between 1930 and 1936, Darlington produced 52 B17s in five batches. A final batch of eleven were built by Robert Stephenson & Co. in 1937; resulting in a total of 73 B17s being built.

The classification B17/1 originally covered the first forty-eight locomotives which were fitted with GER type tenders. However small modifications were made to successive batches, resulting in four class parts (B17/1 to B17/4).

The first members of B17/1 had a number of teething problems with cracked frames. In an attempt to fix this, the B17/2 locomotives were built with lighter springing on their driving axleboxes and stiffer bogie springing.

Fractured frames continued to plague the B17s, so the B17/3 locomotives were fitted with horn blocks for the middle driving axle rather than guides. The spring arrangement was further amended and the axlebox lubrication mechanism was changed. Although this sequence of development led to a number of changes to the spring arrangement, the B17s would always have a reputation of being rough riders.

The final B17s to be built (class B17/4) were intended for routes with few length restrictions, so they were produced with the larger 4,200 gallon LNER Group Standard tender.

In 1937, classes B17/1, B17/2 and B17/3 were merged to form the new class B17/1. These had 3700 gallon GE tenders. Class B17/4 continued to indicate B17s fitted with LNER Group Standard 4200 gallon tenders.

The first locomotive (actually the third engine to be delivered), 2800, was named Sandringham starting a line of B17s named after English country houses. Starting with 2848, some of the B17s were named after Football Association clubs. Although some locomotives would be re-named, all 73 B17s bore a name.

The first B17s ran the Cambridge services, where they were popular locomotives with both the public and the railwaymen. The Colchester line showed some teething problems including a major derailment, but the enginemen quickly grew to like these new locomotives. The services from London to Ipswich were not such a great success. This line had a number of banks which caused problems for the heavier trains. Throughout their lives, the B17s would continue to be more popular with the Cambridge crews than with the Ipswich crews.

As more B17s were delivered, they worked more services including the cross-country service from Ipswich to Manchester. They were also a popular choice for East Anglia’s heavy boat trains. Later B17s from 1936 with the larger tenders were allocated further afield to Leicester, Sheffield, Neasden, and Gorton. The Sheffield and Leicester B17s replaced older Great Central Atlantics. Although much more powerful, the B17s were never very popular at these sheds. After the outbreak of World War 2, the Great Central District B17s moved to East Anglia.

In 1937 two members of the class (61659 and 61670) were rebuilt with streamlining similar to the A4 pacifics for working the East Anglian train between Liverpool Street and Norwich. This streamlining was for show only, and served no practical purpose at typical B17 speeds. They were given the names East Anglia and City of London and were reclassified B17/5. 61659 was fitted with a B1 type boiler in 1949, technically making it a B17/6 engine, but still retaining the streamlining. Both streamlined engines had the streamlining removed in 1951, when 61670 was also converted to B17/6.

From August 1943, the boiler pressure was reduced to 180psi as a war time efficiency.

In 1939, Gresley proposed an improvement to the B17 Diagram 100 boiler with an increase in working pressure to 220psi and the addition of thermic syphons to the firebox. The proposal was cancelled at the end of 1939, but Thompson created his own improved B17 boiler in the form of the Diagram 100A boiler for his standardised B1 4-6-0. These were designed to operate at 225psi, but did not include the thermic syphons of Gresley’s earlier modification. Between 1943 and 1958, a total of 55 of the B17s were rebuiltwith the Diagram 100A boiler, and these modified locomotives were given the classification of B17/6.

The B17/6 locomotives kept their three-cylinder arrangement, but between 1945 and 1947 Thompson rebuilt nine B17s to use the Diagram 100A boiler and have two cylinders. These two-cylinder rebuilds were classified B2. Although the B2s showed an improvement in efficiency and power compared to the original B17s, the B17/6s (B17s with Diagram 100A boilers) were shown to slightly outperform the B2s and only one further rebuild occurred (after Nationalisation, in 1949). The B2 engines were all fitted with NER tenders except 61615 and 61632 which had LNER tenders from withdrawn P1 class locomotives and 61671 which retained its original tender. These Thompson rebuilds had an increased tractive effort of 24,865lbf.

The first three B17s were withdrawn between 1952 and 1953. The remaining B17s were withdrawn between 1958 and 1960.

Number in Service.

Built Withdrawals No. in Service
BR Numbers Quantity 17/117/4 17/5 17/6 B2


1928 61600-09




1930 61610-21




1931 61622-36




1933 61637-42




1935 61643-47




1936 61648-61




1937 61662-72


71 2








2   1




2   1




2   1   1




2   1   6




2   2   8




2   9   9




1 19 10




1 28 10




35 10


1952 61628


26 36 10


1953 61604/24


21 39 10




42 10




48 10




49 10




53 10




    3 38 7




    1 16





  • 61600-61609 were built by the North British Locomotive Co Ltd.
  • 61610-61661 were built at Darlington.
  • 61662-61672 were built by Robert Stephenson & Co Ltd.

Accidents and Incidents

  • On 4 October 1929, locomotive 2808 Gunton was hauling an express passenger train which was in collision with a freight train at Tottenham, London after the latter had departed against a danger signal and subsequently stopped foul of a junction.
  • On 15 February 1937, locomotive 2829 Narworth Castle was hauling a passenger train that was derailed at Sleaford North Junction, Lincolnshire due to excessive speed on a curve. Four people were killed and sixteen were injured, one seriously.
  • On 10 February 1941, locomotive 2828 Harewood House was hauling an express passenger train that came to a halt between Harold Wood and Brentwood, Essex as it was too heavy for the locomotive. A passenger train overran signals and was in a rear-end collision with the express. Seven people were killed and seventeen were seriously injured.
  • On 2 January 1947, locomotive 1602 Walsingham was hauling an express passenger train that overran signals and was in a rear-end collision with a local passenger train at Gidea Park, Essex. Seven people were killed and 45 were hospitalised.

New Build

In 2008 the North British Locomotive Preservation Group (NBLPG0 proposed to build two B17 locomotives of which one would be built to mainline operational standards. The other would be a non-working example of the class for static display at museums.

One of the locomotives would carry the name Sandringham after the first member of the class, while the other will recreate one of the Footballers.

One Great Eastern-type tender (from 2802 Walsingham) and one LNER tender were obtained , and a LNER tender, and under the plan, these would be interchangeable between the two locomotives.

When the project went public in 2008, a number of enthusiasts joined the North British Locomotive Preservation Group to support it, and eventually the Sandringham Locomotive Company was formed.

Early in 2010, some members within the Sandringham Locomotive Company proposed the idea of forming a new trust to take over the project.

This came into being in 2011 when they took over most of the assets of the company.

The two tenders were moved to Dereham on the Mid-Norfolk Railway, a former Great Eastern line, for the project to start.

Although the new trust dropped the idea of building two B17s, the North British Locomotive Preservation Group retained its aim of building a new Footballer.

NBLPG held back with relaunching its 61662 Manchester United scheme so that the new B17 Trust – which aims to recreate 61600 Sandringham (in the guise of 61673 Spirit of Sandringham), the first member of the class, could become established in its own right.

Now the North British Locomotive Preservation Group is pushing ahead in its own right – although many of its members support the new trust too.

The North British Locomotive Preservation Group does not see itself as competing with the B17 Trust, as it will be appealing for funds from a different sector.

NBLPG hopes to attract funding from via football supporters who would not normally donate to a steam locomotive project, with the Manchester area targeted in particular.

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