Steam Locomotives of a More Leisurely Era
1900 – Johnson Class 3 Belpaire 4-4-0
In 1900, S.W.Johnson, who had been locomotive superintendent of the Midland Railway since 1873, introduced this design of 4-4-0 engine for main line work. It was a considerable advance on his previous express types, some of which were inclined to be under-boilered. The new engines were provided with a much larger boiler, and also, for the first time on the Midland Railway, a Belpaire firebox. By Johnson’s previous standards, they were comparatively plain in appearance, the decorative curved splashers of the earlier days being no longer in evidence, but nevertheless a most neat and sturdy design evolved.
The new engines soon proved themselves very capable machines, and for many years they performed a major share in express working over the old Midland system, to a greater extent perhaps than the compounds which followed them, and if only for that reason that there were more of them. Some of them were used at first on the mountainous Leeds and Carlisle road, but later they were usually to be found on the main lines between London and Leeds, London and Manchester, and on the West of England line between Derby and Bristol.
In all, eighty of the class were built between 1900 and 1905. In 1907 they were renumbered into one series as 700-79, and thereafter became generally known as the ‘700’ class. From 1913 onwards they began to be rebuilt with superheaters and extended smokeboxes, and nearly all received this treatment. About 1925 it was decided that no more rebuilding should be done, and the seven engines still unconverted were scrapped. These were Nos. 737, 742, 749, 751, 772, 778, and 779. The class thereafter began to fall into some disfavour, and they began gradually to be taken out of service. The process was slow, however, and 22 survived to be absorbed into BR stock at Nationalisation in 1948. These were Nos. 711, 715, 720, 726-9, 731, 734-6, 739-41/3/5/7/8, 756-8, and 762.
Under the BR renumbering scheme their numbers were increased by 40000, as 40711, etc., but in many cases the engines were scrapped without actually carrying their new numbers. The last one in service was No.40726, withdrawn in 1952.
They were very fine engines, fast and steady running, but had a tendency to be heavy on coal. This was probably the reason that they did not meet with a great deal of favour after about 1925, when much attention was given to the question of economy of coal consumption, even at the expense of providing locomotives of adequate power for the needs of the day.
Driving wheels – 6’ 9”, Cylinders – 20½”x 26”, Pressure – 175 lb., Tractive effort – 20065 lb., Weight – 55 tons 7 cwt., LMS power classification – 3P.