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A Bevy Of Buckjumpers – Holden’s R24 and S56 Classes (LNER J67/J69) and Hill C72 Class (LNER J68)

A Bevy Of Buckjumpers – Holden’s R24 and S56 Classes (LNER J67/J69) and Hill C72 Class (LNER J68)

Where do you even begin when trying to summarise the history of the Great Eastern Railway’s ‘Buckjumpers’? Built, then rebuilt, with new orders then being built to a similar design, then improved again, and again, and again. Boiler swaps, reclassifications galore and a celebrity loco that was lovingly cared for by its crews and which wore several faux liveries, only to be scrapped rather than enter preservation. And of course, just to muddy the waters, despite being a design that is unequivocally connected to the Liverpool Street ‘Jazz’ services, the locomotives were in use across the country from East Anglia, to Stratford, to Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, to Scotland and on to Manchester, Liverpool and Wrexham. And designs differed between Passenger and Goods versions! Is it any wonder that no one has attempted to model these in Ready-to-Run 00 gauge.

Until now.

James Holden’s T18 Class of 0-6-0Ts (the LNER J66s) had proved that the shunting design was also more than suited to the rigors of high intensity suburban commuter traffic and so Holden looked at how he best improve the locomotives, resulting in the 1890 R24 Class 0-6-0T; a locomotive almost identical to the T18 apart from a lengthened wheelbase (but yet a shortened overall length) and a more forward placement of the side tanks. Between 1890 and 1901, 14 batches of R24 Class locomotives were built at Stratford; a total of 140 engines split 100/40 in favour of passenger types over goods/shunting locomotives.

Passenger locomotives were built with Westinghouse brakes, 160lb. boilers with 2-column safety-valves on the firebox, 10 spoke balanced wheels, ‘straight’ outside brake rigging, screw reverse, screw couplings and with later groups that were fitted with condensing gear, some with low side tanks, some with stepped sides to hide the gear. All were finished in the GER’s Ultramarine Blue livery, with Vermillion lining.

The goods/shunting locomotives were fitted with hand brakes, the same 160lb. boiler with 2-column safety-valves on the firebox, 15-spoke unbalanced wheels, ‘cranked’ outside brake rigging, lever reverse, 3-link couplings and later batches were fitted with steam brakes from new, with existing engines modified in the same manner from the late 1890s. These locomotives were finished in the GER’s standard unlined Black, although there were instances of Vermillion lining being added.

As suburban traffic increased, the GER modified its 4-wheel coaching stock by widening them and increasing the seating capacity, which naturally led to an increase in overall train weight. This necessitated an improvement in haulage capacity and so, between 1902 and 1921, an improvement programme resulted in the rebuilding of 95 R24 Class locomotives to R24r types. The locomotives selected were rebuilt with 180lb boilers and larger sidetanks, resulting in the firebox extending further into the cab, the fitting of 4-column safety-valves on the rear of the boiler barrel and the widening of the sidetanks by 5” on each side, with the footplating widened throughout to suit. The valancing remained in position, but the footsteps had to be cranked outwards to take into account the increase in width.

During the same period, in 1904, a further 20 passenger fitted locomotives were built, the S56 class, as further passenger 0-6-0Ts were required by the GER to meet the growing demand. These were identical to the rebuilt R24rs but featured wider cabs and bunkers to match the wider side tanks, while the cab doorway was of a symmetrical ‘keyhole’ shape due to the extended firebox into the cab.

A further ten 0-6-0T shunting engines were deemed by the GER to be needed in 1912, but the decision was taken instead to build a further ten passenger engines and to convert the ten oldest R24s as shunters. Taking the opportunity to update the S56 design with the latest ‘cosmetic’ features, a side window cab with high, arched roof and rectangular windows with quasi-elliptical tops was added, with bars over the lower half of the rear cab windows. In other respects, these locomotives were identical to the S56 class and were known as the C72 class. More shunters were required the following year and so ten more C72 class locomotives were built as shunters and another ten were delivered after Grouping in 1923. These shunters had the usual lever reverse, but were fitted as steam/hand brake only, no condenser with level tank tops and 15-spoke unbalanced wheels.

So, by 1923, there were 190 Buckjumpers in the Great Eastern’s fleet (the Buckjumper name had come about due to the type’s lively ride, which had been compared to a bucking horse by some crews), in variety of builds. The LNER took the step of classifying those locomotives with 180lb boilers as J69s, while those with 160lb boilers were classed as J67s. The C72s, although virtually identical, were classed separately as J68s.

And this is where it gets rather more complicated and is what makes creating a tooling suite for the J67/J68/J69s a very complex project.

Following Grouping the initial LNER alterations to the R24 Class included the fitting of vacuum ejectors and/or steam heating gear to some of the passenger engines. However, from 1926, most of the passenger engines were converted for shunting and those converted for goods shunting were stripped of their condensers (retaining the condensing chambers and vent pipes also in many cases), fitted with lever reverse and three-link couplings and then converted from Westinghouse to steam brakes. Some of these conversions retained their vacuum ejectors and screw couplings if they were already fitted, or else were retrofitted later so that they could be used for carriage shunting. These locomotives retained their 180lb boilers and 10 spoke wheels at the time of conversion. Many of the remaining passenger engines later lost their condensers, although a few were later refitted.

Some of the 180lb engines (both passenger and shunter types) were later fitted with 160 lb boilers and reclassified as J67s, but most reverted to 180lb and the J69 class in due course. A few of the original 160lb shunting engines were also fitted with 180lb boilers from the late 1940s onwards and these then became J69 class.

The S56 class were reclassified as J69, along with the R24r Class and during the 1927-33 period, some locomotives were converted to shunting types by removing the condensing gear, substituting steam brakes for the Westinghouse equipment and lever reverse for the screw pattern. Of these, a few later received vacuum ejectors, as did all of the remaining ‘passenger’ engines between 1924 and 1939, as well as being fitted with steam heating gear. Most of the latter eventually had their condensers removed.

As mentioned previously, the C72 class were reclassified as J68, even though they were mechanically identical to the S56 class. None of the passenger engines were converted to shunters, although they did later lose their condensers (except for No. 41, which was sold to the War Department in 1940, and 43, which was still fitted when withdrawn in 1959). Cab roofs continued to be modified and all the passenger engines received vacuum ejectors between 1923-1929. Of the shunters, all bar three also received vacuum ejectors between 1923-1940. One oddity was No.47, which was fitted with a 160lb boiler in 1939 and reclassified as a J67. It was then refitted with a 180lb boiler and reinstated to the J68 class in 1945.

Withdrawal from service for the Classes gathered pace through the mid-to-late 1950s, and by 1962 all had been withdrawn, with just 68633 surviving into preservation as part of the National Collection, now being housed at Bressingham Steam Museum in a restored GER S56 condition and numbered as 87.

Several people and Societies have assisted Accurascale during the research phase of the project, notably the Great Eastern Railway Society and Bressingham Steam Museum, but special mention must go to the late Iain Rice, who despite being ill gave his time and knowledge freely and made his own research available. He is sorely missed by the hobby.

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