E1/J72 - A Brief History of the Class

The N.E.R. E1 Class of locomotive is a remarkable design being unique in that it was constructed over a period of 54 years, by 3 different railway companies. Designed by Wilson Worsdell for the N.E.R. and introduced in December 1898, the first 20 engines were built at North Road Works, Darlington by 1899. Sir Vincent Raven, who succeeded Worsdell, had 20 more built in 1914 with very slight modifications to the original design, then a further 10 were built in 1920 and another 25 by Armstrong Whitworth at Newcastle in 1922/3. Sir Nigel Gresley for the newly formed L.N.E.R. re-classed the engines as J72’s and then built 10 at Doncaster in 1925. And then remarkably 54 years after they were first introduced British Railways built a further batch at Darlington, 20 in 1949 and 8 in 1951, bringing the class total to 113.

These 0-6-0T's were used in shunting yards, railway owned docks and coal staithes and on station pilot workings all over the Northeast. Eventually they were found further afield at Wrexham, Kittybrewster at Aberdeen, Keith and Kipps. The last batch were almost identical to the original but were given a vacuum brake, steam heating and sanding gear to enable them to be used on empty passenger stock workings, in addition, some of the earlier engines were similarly modified. The N.E.R. and L.N.E.R. built engines became under B.R. No's 68670 to 68754 and as no provision had been made for further construction the last batch had to be numbered in a special series and came out as No's 69001 to 69028. All 113 remained in service until 1958, when following the introduction of diesel shunters some of the earlier engines began to be withdrawn from traffic.

By 1964 and all but two of the class had been scrapped, mostly at Darlington North Road or at T.J. Thomson Ltd. of Stockton-on-Tees. The two exceptions were 69005 and 69023, which were taken into Departmental Stock as No. 58 and No. 59 initially at Gateshead but latterly at North Blyth and Heaton, where they were used for de-icing. Both withdrawn near the end of steam in the Northeast, No. 69005 was scrapped but 69023 became the only survivor when it was purchased by Mr. R. Ainsworth for preservation.

69023 in Preservation

69023 was delivered to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in 1969 where it was restored with its original number, in N.E.R. livery and named 'Joem', this being taken from the names of his father Joseph, 50 years service with the L.N.W.R., and his mother Emmeline. Later 'Joem' saw service on the Derwent Valley Railway at York but following the death of its owner the locomotive was put into store at the National Railway Museum, awaiting disposal.

69023 was then purchased by the N.E.L.P.G. and delivered to Grosmont in January 1983, remaining in traffic until late 1985 before undergoing overhaul at I.C.I. Wilton. At the same time a repaint in N.E.R./BR pattern lined green was undertaken, this style of livery was inspired by British Railways action in repainting two J72's No’s 68723 and 68736, for use on station pilot duties at Newcastle and York in N.E.R. green in the early 1960's.

Following restoration at ICI Wilton 69023 returned to the N.Y.M.R. where it regularly hauled lightweight trains as well as its more usual role of station pilot at Grosmont. Being small and easily transportable by road 69023 also visited many other railways, including the North Norfolk, Yorkshire Dales, South Devon Steam, East Somerset, Swanage, Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway, the Great Western Society at Didcot and it also attend open days at Hartlepool Power Station and BR’s Thornaby depot.

Joem is currently undergoing overhaul. 

Picture: Philip Benham. 

To find out more visit the NELPG Website