N2  69490 – 69596  0-6-2T GNR Gresley

J2 - 1

N2 2

Power Classification 3MT
Introduced 1920 – 1929
Designer Gresley
Company GNR
Weight 70t 5cwt
Driving Wheels 5ft 8ins
Boiler Pressure 170psi superheated
Cylinders Inside – 19in x 26in
Tractive Effort 19,945lbf
Valve Gear Stephenson – (piston)

 

With the completion of the final batch of Ivatt’s N1 0-6-2T suburban tank, the Great Northern Railway (GNR) did not require any further suburban tank locomotives until after the First World War. In 1919 Gresley considered a number of possible designs for a new suburban tank engine, including an improved 0-6-2T, a 2-6-2T, and a 2-6-4T. The improved 0-6-2T was accepted for development, although it is interesting to note that Gresley would later design a 2-6-2T (V1 class) and his successor, Thompson, would design a 2-6-4T (L1 class) both for heavier suburban and branch work.

The 3-cylinder 2-6-2 and 2-6-4 tank engine designs produced by the drawing office at Doncaster were rejected by the civil engineers. This was not because they were too heavy but because they were too long at the Great Norther Railway interchange at Moorgate.

The new design was based on the N1, but featured larger diameter cylinders, piston valves, a superheated boiler, and a greater water capacity. The piston valves were positioned above the cylinders, requiring a high-pitched boiler. This combined with a short chimney to keep the locomotive with the Metropolitan loading gauge, gave the N2s a powerful appearance.

 

 n1 small N1 introduced by Ivatt in 1907 for London suburban services. Some were later fitted with condensing apparatus for working the Metropolitan tunnels to Moorgate although they proved unsatisfactory for this task.
 J2 - 1 N2 introduced by Gresley in 1920. Some were fitted with condensing apparatus for working the Metropolitan widened lines to Moorgate.
 v1 small V1 introduced by Gresley in 1930 which were intended for use on the Metropolitan widened lines and GNR suburban services but they were used in Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
 l1 small L1 introduced by Thompson in 1945 for working Kings Cross and Marylebone suburban services.

Sixty locomotives were built between 1920 and 1921, and these were followed by forty-seven Group Standard N2s between 1925 and 1929. Although initially built for suburban services in the Kings Cross area, later locomotives were built for similar services around Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.

There were four main variants of N2 classifications.

  • N2/1 were the original GNR engines which were later reclassified as N2/2. These engines were fitted with condensers and had right-hand drive unlike all the post Grouping built locomotives. Ten were built at Doncaster (69490-9) and fifty (69500-49) by the North British Locomotive Co Ltd. Problems with the condensers were soon experienced. Water would surge from the tanks through the pipes to the blastpipe and into the cylinders causing broken piston rings and bent cotters. The condensing drain pipe was widened, but this did not solve the problem. Baffle plates were fitted to the tanks from 1926 to stop the water surging forward, but this appears to have been only a partial solution. A number of N2/1s were moved to Scotland in 1927-28, and had their condensers removed at Doncaster or Cowlairs. Some of these returned to the London area in 1931, and the condensers were refitted.
  • N2/2 were introduced by the LNER in 1925 although the class later included the earlier N2/1 engines. This batch of 12 engines (69550-61) were built by Beyer Peacock & Co Ltd and were originally fitted with condensing apparatus. This was added or removed from the engines as they were transferred to or from the London area.
  • N2/3 were introduced by the LNER in 1925. They were built for the Great Eastern section and Scotland and they were non-condensing with taller chimneys (most of them) and domes. They were fitted with Westinghouse brakes. These six engines (69562-67) were built at Doncaster. These were similar to the N2/2s, but featured improved axleboxes with large (8.25in diameter) journals. The axlebox springs were mounted with cast steel hangers. The Running Department reported that the new spring arrangement resulted in much steadier running, but Gresley rejected the recommendation to fit it to the existing N2/1 and N2/2 locomotives due to cost. A second batch of N2/3 six engines (69591-96) was built by Yorkshire Engine Co Ltd in 1928-29. This second batch of engines were actually the same as the N2/4s except condensing gear was not fitted. It was decided to class them as N2/3s instead of introducing a new sub-classification. Originally allocated to Scotland, four moved to the GN Section in 1931-32 and had GE-style condensing gear and short chimneys fitted. Although these four locomotives were identical to the N2/4s, they were not re-classified until 1939.
  • N2/4 were the final batch of condensing engines for the London area, which were introduced in 1928. They were heavier than the N2/2 locomotives. These engines were built in two batches. In 1928-29 Hawthorn Leslie & Co built twenty (69568-87) and in the same period Yorkshire Engine Co Ltd built 3 (69588-90). The N2s fitted with condensing gear were still experiencing water surge problems, so in 1927 it was decided to try the GE-type of condensing gear as used on the N7s. Construction had already started on the first ten Hawthorn locomotives, so these were modified by Doncaster as soon as they were delivered. Later engines were built with the GE arrangement. The main feature of this new arrangement was the lack of a U-bend. This did not solve the problem, and extra baffle plates were fitted from February 1929. This also did not cure the problem, and a number of pipe modifications were tried. The cure appears to have been to drill some holes in the vertical pipe in the tank, so that the only water forced out of the tank was a small quantity through the air vent behind the cab. The air vent was then bent over to direct the water onto the coal in the bunker. From December 1929, all N2s with the GE arrangement were modified. Four of the engines built by the Yorkshire Engine Co Ltd were reclassified as N2/4 in 1939. They had been moved from Scotland to the GN Section in 1931-32 and had GE-style condensing gear and short chimneys fitted.

The N2s boilers were very similar to those used on the N1 class, except they were fitted with a twin tube superheater. In 1944, the Southern Area fitted an 18-element Robinson superheater to 4756 (69535). This proved satisfactory, and the Southern Area converted all of their N2s between 1944 and 1950. The Scottish Area changed superheaters, according to boiler availability, and only eight received 18-element superheaters. Both the Schmidt and Robinson 18-element types were fitted, and two switched back to the original twin tube type.

The first N2s were put to work on the Kings Cross Metropolitan workings, displacing the remaining C12 4-4-2Ts and most of the N1s. The N2s were an immediate success. Rapid housing developments in the North London area led to Kings Cross having forty N2s on its roster by 1925. As well as suburban services, the Kings Cross N2s also hauled most of the empty coach workings for the main line expresses. Before the introduction of the pacifics on expresses the N2 class locomotives were sometimes employed to pilot main line expresses from Kings Cross to Potters bar.

They regularly achieved speeds of 60-70mph whilst working the non-stop services between Finsbury Park and Hatfield. They could accelerate to 50mph, or more, within half a mile of setting off and maintain an average speed of 30mph when hauling 200 tons up the 1 in 60 on the Highgate Branch or the two and a half miles of around 1 in 60 on the climb to High Barnet.

The locomotives deployed on the suburban services around Glasgow and Edinburgh were not fitted with condensing apparatus.

 c12 C12 class introduced by Ivatt in 1898 for London suburban services.
 n1 small N1 introduced by Ivatt in 1907 for London suburban services. Some were later fitted with condensing apparatus for working the Metropolitan tunnels to Moorgate although they proved unsatisfactory for this task.
 J2 - 1 N2 introduced by Gresley in 1920. Some were fitted with condensing apparatus for working the Metropolitan widened lines to Moorgate.

Number in Service.

Built Withdrawals No. in Service
BR Numbers Quantity
1920 69490 & 69500-7

  9

     9

1921 69491-99 & 69508-49

51

  60

1925 69550-67

18

  78

1928 69568-77 & 69588-92

15

  93

1929 69578-87 & 69593-96

14

107

1930-54

107

1955

  1

106

1956

  1

105

1957

10

  95

1958

14

  81

1959

34

  47

1960

15

  32

1961

19

  13

1962

13

    0

  • 69490-69499 and 69562-69567 were built at Doncaster
  • 69500-69549 were built by the North British Locomotive Co Ltd
  • 69550-69561 were built by Beyer Peacock & Co Ltd
  • 69568-69587 were built by Hawthorn Leslie & Co
  • 69588-69596 were built by Yorhshire Engineering Co Ltd

After trials in 1924 in the Glasgow area, twelve new N2s were ordered for the Scottish Area. These were initially allocated to Dundee, St. Margaret’s, and Eastfield. As well as the intended heavy suburban traffic, the St. Margaret’s N2s would often find themselves on transfer goods workings. Construction of standard N7s in 1927 displaced many of the Kings Cross N2s to Scotland. Dunfermline, Haymarket, and North Berwick all acquired N2s for the first time.

 J2 - 1 N2 introduced by Gresley in 1920. Some were fitted with condensing apparatus for working the Metropolitan widened lines to Moorgate.
 n7 N7 introduced by Hill in 1914 and developed by Gresley following Grouping in 1923.

The Scottish N2s performed their duties well, but they were never very popular and acquired nicknames such as Metropolitans or Bulldogs. The fitters found them troublesome, and the engine crews found them crude and uncomfortable. In 1928 they were also discovered to displace the track in the North Berwick area, and a speed limit of 40mph was applied to this line. This was followed by a derailment of 2690 (69596) near Gartmore in October 1929, whilst hauling an Aberfoyle train. This was quickly followed by the N2s being banned from a number of Scottish branch lines. As the V1s became available, twenty-eight N2s were permanently moved back to London. The remaining Scottish N2s spent much of their remaining lives idle or operating as pilots.

Two N2s were tried in West Riding in 1926. This trial was followed by a permanent allocation to Bradford and Ardsley in 1931. The West Riding N2s were found to have much quicker acceleration than the N1s, but their high-pitched boilers made them top-heavy. This was accentuated by the many sharp curves in the area. From September 1937 to August 1939, the high-speed streamlined West Riding Limited was hauled between Bradford Exchange and Leeds Central stations by a pair of N2s. The main leg between Leeds and Kings Cross was hauled by an A4 pacific. By 1945, all of the West Riding N2s had returned to London or moved to Nottingham.

During the Second World War one found its way to Mexborough shed where it was used to bank goods and mineral trains from Wath to DunfordBridge.

N2s were rarely seen in the North East (NE) area. Between 1931 and 1932, Newcastle had three of the ex-Scottish N2s. These spent some of their time at Gateshead hauling the Sunderland to Blackhill services, but proved to have inadequate water capacity for the 47 mile run. All three had been transferred back to Scotland by June 1933.

Locomotive allocations during British Railways operation

Depot as at 1st January

1948 1952 1957 1960 1961

1962

Aberdeen Ferryhill

1

Carlisle Canal 1

1

Colwick

5

Dawsholm 3

1

Grantham 5

5

Hatfield

14

18 9

4

Hitchin

2

2 2

1

Hornsey

10

7 14 3

6

Kings Cross

58

62 66 22 15

3

Kipps

8

7 2 2

1

Neaden

2

New England 5 4

10

Parkeston

2

3

Parkhead

8

9

8

107

107 105 47 32

13

Many of the duties performed by the later locomotives in service included standing-in for diesel failures and acting as station pilots.

Accidents and Incidents

  • On 1 October 1929 the 10.32 a.m. up passenger train hauled by N2 locomotive 2690 (69596), Aberfoyle to Glasgow, while travelling at a speed of about 30 to 40 miles an hour, was derailed near the Deepston Pow bridge between Gartmore and Buchlyvie at a point about 2 miles from the latter station. Fortunately, there were only about 20 passengers in the train, of whom 2 complained of shock or minor injury. Two horses travelling in the horse-boxes on the front of the train were killed.
  • On 10 February 1946, a local passenger train hauled by locomotive 2679 (69585) travelling towards Kings Cross hit a set of buffers at Potters Bar station and the derailed carriages fouled the main line. The wreckage fouled signal cables, giving a false clear signal to an express passenger train, which ran into the wreckage. A third passenger train travelling in the opposite direction then ran into the wreckage. Two people were killed and the 17 injured were taken to hospital.The driver of the local train was eventually held to blame but a signalman was found to have contributed to the accident by changing a set of points as the train passed over them.
  • On 24 May 1954, locomotive 69638 ran into the turntable pit at Hatfield, Hertfordshire following the removal of the turntable.

Preservation

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