History of LMSR “Black Five” 4-6-0 No. 44901

Built at Crewe Works in October, 1945, No. 4901 was one of a batch of 20 locomotives built to part lot 174, order 459. She was the 602nd “Black Five” of a final total of 842 built between 1934 and 1951. From new she was paired with Stanier 4000 gallon, Mk 2 all welded tender No. 10526 and carried a standard type 3B boiler No. 12295 pressed to 225lb PSI.

44901 Comrie. Paul Riley

44901 on a short passenger train at Comrie Station, Scotland. c.1963/64. Photo courtesy of the Restoration Archiving Trust/Paul Riley

Turned out as LMS No. 4901, she was painted in mixed traffic black livery of the period, and was to proudly retain her LMS identity until some 2 years after the nationalisation of Britain’s railways in 1948 when she finally received the number 44901 in February, 1950 as part of the newly nationalised B.R.re numbering scheme. Livery was the Riddles LNWR lined black livery which was ultimately adopted as the standard mixed traffic livery for all British Railway mixed traffic locomotives.

4901 followed in the footsteps of a long line of evolutionary engineering developments of the steam locomotive in the U.K. and by the time she was built in 1945, displayed a number of improved engineering differences to her sisters built in 1934.

Among many, she was fitted with manganese steel liners to axle boxes and horn guides, built with 1 1/8” thick frames, fitted with double clasp brake blocks and “mutton chop” spring hanger brackets. All these features were considered cutting edge technology at the time and were introduced with a view to reducing incidents of maintenance and repair and the costs associated therewith.

Following steam testing on what was called the “vacuum pit” at Crewe Works towards the end of October, 1945, she was line tested between Crewe and Shrewsbury and following sign off, sent to her new home at Carlisle (Kingmoor) shed (12A) where she remained for the next 19 years and 10 months until withdrawal from service in August , 1965.

During her relatively short life she had works repairs carried out at Inverness, Glasgow (St. Rollox) and Crewe. Following various tender swaps at works overhauls, she was to receive her final Mk1 all riveted tender in July, 1956, which she retained until withdrawal in 1965.

Being shedded at Kingmoor, the principal Northern Division shed of the LMS, the nature of that Depots’ work would have had her working regularly over the U.K.s four most notorious and strenuous mainline inclines. Shap, Beattock, Ais Gill and Slochd.

Her enormous range and distance of Mixed Traffic work took her from London (Euston) to Glasgow over both the Glasgow and South Western and Caledonian Railway routes into St Enoch and Central Stations respectively. From Carlisle to Leeds over the equally famous Settle and Carlisle line of the former Midland Railway and from Crewe to Holyhead over the route of the “Irish Mail”, the oldest named train in the World. Not to mention her work to Inverness in the north of Scotland and the lines to Liverpool, Manchester, Morecambe and Blackpool.

The total railway route mileage of her normal territorial working therefore amounting to over 900 miles. Most of it over arguably the most arduous railway route terrain in the U.K., across England, Scotland and Wales!!

It is reported that at some stage in her career she hauled the Royal Train, although we are seeking verification of this event.

With dieselisation spreading rapidly across the main lines of Britain’s railways in the early 1960’s, No. 44901 was withdrawn from traffic in August, 1965 after a very hard and eventful but short working life.

 44901 at the Barry Island Railway in 2012, some 46 years after having been delivered to Dai Woodham’s Scrapyard in 1966.

44901 at the Barry Island Railway in 2012, some 46 years after having been delivered to Dai Woodham’s Scrapyard in 1966.

She now faced a long and sad, final journey to Dai Woodhams Scrapyard at Barry, in South Wales, adding another but final “new” 150 route miles to her credit!, where she was recorded as having arrived before 22.03.66.

There she was to remain for the next 46 years, losing her tender and many other component parts as spares to other preserved Black Fives and despite several attempts to save her from an uncertain fate, her destiny now lies in the hands of a new and younger generation of Railway Preservationists who plan to breath new life into her and lovingly restore her to her former glory.