LNER Thompson Class B1

The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) Thompson Class B1 is a class of steam locomotive designed for medium mixed traffic work. It was designed by Edward Thompson.


It was the LNER's equivalent to the highly successful GWR Hall Class and the LMS Stanier Black Five, a two-cylinder mixed traffic 4-6-0. Introduced in 1942, the first 8301, was named Springbok in honour of a visit by Jan Smuts. The first 40 of the class named after breeds of antelopes and the like, and they became known as bongos after 8306 Bongo. 274 were built by the LNER. 136 were built by British Railways after nationalisation in 1948. The total number in stock at any one time however was only 409 as 61057 crashed in 1950 and was scrapped.

The prototype for the new B class (Later classified B1) 4-6-0 was built at Darlington and entered service on the 12th of December 1942. It was the first 2 cylinder main-line locomotive constructed for the LNER since the grouping, such had been Sir Nigel Gresley's faith in the 3 cylinder layout. With cost saving a wartime priority the LNER's draughtsmen went to great lengths to re-use existing patterns, jigs and tools to economise on materials and labour. Extensive use was made of welding instead of steel castings. The boiler was derived from the Diagram 100A type fitted to the LNER Class B17 Sandringham 4-6-0s but with a larger grate area and an increase in boiler pressure to .

The appearance of No.8301 (subsequently renumbered No.1000) coincided with a visit to Britain by the Prime Minister of South Africa, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, and, as mentioned above, was named Springbok. 18 other B1s took the names of LNER directors. Not that there were many B1s to be named during the war years; constraints on production meant that the first ten were not completed until 1944. However, Thompson then placed substantial orders with two outside builders: Vulcan Foundry and the North British Locomotive Company of Glasgow. Between April 1946 and April 1952 NBL built 290 B1s. Over the period the cost of each engine rose from £14,893 to £16,190. Vulcan Foundry contributed 50 at £15,300 apiece. Orders for the B1s, which became Nos.61000-61409 under British Railway auspices, totalled 410.

The B1s operated throughout LNER territory; the first batch was distributed among depots on the former Great Eastern Railway section: Ipswich, Norwich, and Stratford in London. They were an immediate success and were soon working the Liverpool Street - Harwich boat trains, the Hook Continental and the Day Continental. B1s were also a familiar sight on other top-link workings such as The East Anglian, The Broadsman and The Fenman. During the 1950s over 70 B1s were stationed on ex-GE lines.

They enjoyed similar popularity on ex-Great Northern and Great Central territory with engines based at Darnall, Sheffield, regularly rostered for the Master Cutler and South Yorkshireman expresses. Elsewhere there were substantial allocations in Scotland, West Yorkshire and on Humberside.

If any faults were to be highlighted on the B1, it must be the ride quality. O.S. Nock, the famous railway author, often criticised the B1s for a poor ride, not somehting many were used to on the Gresley engines. The B1 was very cheap to build, but the final result was an engine that was somewhat lacking in the quality the LNER men had come to expect. The Two Cylinder layout gave the engines good starting power and excellent hill climbing abilities, but it also caused very bad hunting effects, a result of the use of cut-offs of up to 75% (a 10% advance on Gresley engines), and as such they were less kind on the passengers they carried than the B17's they replaced.

Overall however, it was entriely necessary that the B1s be introduced. The LNER was operating a high number of engines that were well past their economic life, even if it did mean many of them were lost before the preservation movement began. It was somewhat ironic that the engines that came under threat with the arrival of the B1s were the ones that Thompson admired the most: the engines of the North Eastern Railway (those of his Father-in-Law).

Sadly, with the change in the policies of British Railways, the B1s were withdrawn long before their projected economic working life. The first to be withdrawn was No.61085 in November 1961. Officially the whole class was rendered extinct in September 1967. Two were saved for preservation. See below for more information.

Apart from 61057, the rest were withdrawn between 1961 and 1967.


Early B1s were named after species of antelope, whilst later engines were named after directors and board members of the LNER. This lead to the fact that the B1 class contained the shortest name given to a British locomotive (#1018 'Gnu') and one of the longest (#1221 'Sir Alexander Erskine-Hill').

''Note this does not include all engines
Number Name Notes
8301 1000 61000 Springbok
8302 1001 61001 Eland
8303 1002 61002 Impala
8304 1003 61003 Gazelle
8305 1004 61004 Oryx
8306 1005 61005 Bongo
8307 1006 61006 Blackbuck
8308 1007 61007 Klipspringer
8309 1008 61008 Kudu
8310 1009 61009 Hartebeeste
- 1010 61010 Wildebeeste
- 1011 61011 Waterbuck
- 1012 61012 Puku
- 1013 61013 Topi
- 1014 61014 Oribi
- 1015 61015 Duiker
- 1016 61016 Inyala
- 1017 61017 Bushbuck
- 1018 61018 Gnu
- 1019 61019 Nilghai
- 1020 61020 Gemsbok
- 1021 61021 Reitbok
- 1022 61022 Sassaby
- 1023 61023 Hirola
- 1024 61024 Addax
- 1025 61025 Pallah
- 1026 61026 Ourebi
- 1027 61027 Madoqua
- 1028 61028 Umseke
- 1029 61029 Chamois
- 1030 61030 Nyala
- 1031 61031 Reedbuck
- 1032 61032 Stembok
- 1033 61033 Dibatag
- 1034 61034 Chiru
- 1035 61035 Pronghorn
- 1036 61036 Ralph Assheton
- 1037 61037 Jairou
- 1038 61038 Blacktail
- 1039 61039 Steinbok
- 1040 61040 Roedeer
- 1089 61189 Sir William Gray
- 1215 61215 William Henton Carver
- 1221 61221 Sir Alexander Erskine-Hill
- 1237 61237 Geoffrey H. Kitson
- 1238 61238 Leslie Runciman
- 1240 61240 Harry Hinchliffe
- 1241 61241 Viscount Ridley
- 1242 61242 Alexander Reith Gray
- 1243 61243 Sir Harold Mitchell
- 1244 61244 Strang Steel
- 1245 61245 Murray of Elibank
- 1246 61246 Lord Balfour of Burleigh
- 1247 61247 Lord Burghley
- 1248 61248 Geoffrey Gibbs
- 1249 61249 Fitzherbert Wright
- 1250 61250 A. Harold Bibby
- 1251 61251 Oliver Bury
- - 61379 Mayflower Name carried by preserved 1306.]]


Two have been preserved

  • No.61264 which was the only LNER locomotive to be sent to Barry Scrapyard and was the 83rd engine to leave the scrapyard. the Engine had been retired from service, but was stayed execution at that time to be used instead as a stationary steam plant, this prolonged its life beyond all but one of its classmates. when the engines working days had finally ended, it was sold to Barry Scrapyard, and preserved within the decade. preserved yes, but restored no, the boiler and firebox were in such poor condition that a new boiler and firebox seemed the only option, but steady work during the 1980's and 1990's brought the orignal boiler 'back from the dead', and the completed engine moved under its own power in 1997, resplendidt in LNER Apple green as no. 1264. It is currently in BR Black livery as 61264. It has now been withdrawn from service (mid 08) for a 10 year overhaul.
  • No.61306 "Mayflower" is on the Battlefield Line Railway in inauthentic LNER apple green livery and named Mayflower, a name it never carried in service, though scrapped sister engine 61379 was so named.


  • Yeadon's Register of LNER Locomotives. Volume 6 Thompson B1 Class

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