Steam Locos of a Leisurely Era
1890 – 2-Cylinder Compounds
Belfast & Northern Counties Railway
Although several railways made experiments with compound engines during the 1880s and 1890s – notably the LNWR and the North Eastern – none of the various systems tried achieved any lasting favour, and in nearly every case the engines were either converted to simples or scrapped by the succeeding locomotive superintendent. (An important exception was of course the Johnson compounds on the Midland Railway, but these did not appear on the scene until 1901.) The Worsdell-von Borries system introduced by T.W.Worsdell on the North Eastern was successful enough and achieved its object in economy of coal consumption, but although a large number of engines were built for the NER they were all converted to simples by the designer’s brother, Wilson Worsdell, who succeeded him in 1890. The von Borries design employed two cylinders only, one small high pressure and a second, considerably larger in diameter, to receive the exhaust steam at a much lower pressure. The main disadvantage found in these engines was slow acceleration and sometimes difficult starting. A noticeable peculiarity was the slow beats of the exhaust when the engine was working, as each revolution of the driving wheels produced only two exhausts from the chimney in place of the customary four (or six in the case of most 3-cylinder engines).
In spite of any shortcomings, however, the Belfast and Northern Counties Railway favoured the type for many years and continued to build new engines long after the system had been abandoned on the North Eastern. The B & NCR was only a small railway and did not require many express engines, but between 1890 and 1908 a total of 27 were constructed, as well as two 0-6-0 goods engines. There was also a narrow gauge tank design, to be described later.
The history of the 27 express engines is too complicated to describe in detail, and involved much subsequent rebuilding and renumbering which resulted in a certain amount of confusion. Briefly, however, the first nine engines, built between 1890 and 1895m came out as 2-4-0s, whilst the subsequent ones had leading bogies from the start. Two of the 1895 engines, Nos. 50 Jubilee and 55 Parkmount had 7’ 0” driving wheels, the largest ever used on an Irish railway. They became 4-4-0s in 1897, and No.55 worked in this condition until scrapped in 1944. No.50 was rebuilt as a 2-cylinder simple in 1926 and given a larger superheated boiler, being withdrawn in 1946. The history of the others follows broadly on these lines, but one or two ran to the end as 2-4-0s, the last being No.56, scrapped in 1942. Most of the others were rebuilt more than once, and finished up as comparatively modern superheated 4-4-0s, a few of which were still running in 1959. One other engine deserves special mention – No.57, one of those built in 1895, and it is notable in being the first engine in the world to be fitted with Ross ‘pop’ safety valves, now in almost universal use on British Railways, and also used largely abroad. The inventor, a Mr.Ross, was in the service of the old B & NCR at Coleraine and he designed this new type of safety valve there and fitted it to No.57. The original valve was preserved when the engine was withdrawn in 1938, at which time it was still running as a 2-4-0 compound but with a much larger boiler than the original. Although the old B & NCR was acquired by the Midland railway of England in 1903, when it became known as the Northern Counties Committee, it is interesting that the locomotive superintendent Malcolm continued under Derby direction to build 2-cylinder compound engines as late as 1920 in the case of the narrow gauge tanks, but after 1908 he went over to 2-cylinder simple propulsion for his 4-4-0 express engines.
Class C (2-4-0) and Class A (4-4-0) as built
Driving wheels – 6’ 0”, Cylinders – (1) 16”x 24”, (2) 23¼”x 24”, Pressure – 170 lb., Tractive effort – 11560 lb., Weight – 37 tons 6 cwt (weight of 2-4-0 engines)
Nos.50 and 55 as built
Driving wheels – 7’ 0”, Cylinders – (1) 18”x 24”, (2) 26”x 24”, Pressure – 170 lb., Tractive effort – 13685 lb., Weight – 43 tons 3 cwt
No.50 as rebuilt
Driving wheels – 7’ 0”, Cylinders –(2) 19”x 24”, Pressure – 170 lb., Weight – 46 tons 12 cwt
The later dimensions of Classes A & C varied considerably in rebuilding.