B17: 1928 Sandringham class
The 'Sandringham' class had a tortuous beginning. In 1927 new locomotives were urgently needed on the GE section, but the development of a new design was hampered by the need to keep to a low axle weight. The bridges on the Great Eastern Section had been very lightly constructed and a severe axle-load limit was in operation. Further, the small turntables limited locomotive length. Until 1928 the largest locomotives per mitted were the Holden B12 4-6-0s, which had an adhesion weight of 44 tons.
Gresley was faced with a difficult situation on the Great Eastern Section. A 2-6-4T was being developed for the Southend services, but work ceased on this partly due to the Sevenoaks accident and partly through the need for mainline motive power.
Because of the delay, the Chief General Manager requested the LNER Board for permission to order twenty B12s. Not surprisingly, this was refused, and only ten were authorised. Robert Stephenson submitted the lowest tender at £5943 per locomotive, but Beyer Peacock was successful at £5975 as faster delivery was promised. However, after the order had been placed on Beyer, Peacock, Gresley decided that the locomotives should be provided with Lentz poppet valves.
Meanwhile negotiations were taking place with North British Locomotive Co for the development of a three-cylnder 4-6-0 costing £7280 each with a maximum axle load of 18 tons per axle in which the use of three cylinders permitted the adhesion weight to be raised to 54 tons. The nominal tractive effort of the new design was 25,280 lbf, which represented an increase of 3,411 lbf compared with the earlier 4-6-0s. The first batch was built by the North British Locomotive Co. and H.A.V. Bulleid (Master builders of steam p. 61) has stated that this Company undertook the detailed design work. See also Thompson B2 class.
In the meantime, because of Doncaster's lack of progress on the new 4-6-0 design, Lord Faringdon, the LNER Deputy Chairman, took the matter direct to Sir Hugh Reid, Chairman of the North British Locomotive Company, which had recently built the 50 LMS 'Royal Scots'. NBL solved the latter by disregarding Gresley's insistence on single axle drive, and, by moving the inside cylinder forward to drive on to the leading axle, weight was transferred to the bogie, so reducing the weight on the coupled wheels.
NBL was aggrieved that further orders went to Darlington, and there was a further major confrontation with Beyer Peacock concerning the B12 order which had been modified to incorporate Lentz valve gear. At that time Beyer Peacock was run by Sir Sam Fay and R.H. Whitelegg, and legal action was nearly taken against the LNER
Relationships between the two suppliers ultimately improved and led to orders for J39s from Beyer Peacock in 1936 and NBL for K3s delivered in 1935. The Lentz B12’s were unsuccessful and had to be rebuilt with piston valves. Bridge restrictions on the GE Section were gradually eased.
After delivery had been completed, Beyer, Peacock and the LNER were in dispute over the price. An acrimonious letter from Sir Sam Fay (then the Chairman of Beyer, Peacock) to Nigel Gresley led to an additional payment by the LNER of £1,500, to keep the matter out of the courts.
But whatever may have been said originally, future B17s were built by Darlington (for whom Armstrong Whitworth provided some of the boilers) and Robert Stephenson, but none by NBL.
Checkley, Sid. Fitter at the end of WW2 and thereafter Memories of Colwick. in Hughes, Geoffrey. A Gresley anthology. Didcot: Wild Swan/Gresley Society, 1994. pp. 77-82..
The B17 class suffered from loose seats and loose cabs. It was difficult for the fitters to reach the piston glands for the inside cylinder. On the other hand there was less on the 2 to 1 arm as it was behind the cylinders, but maintaining the regulator valve of No. 1647 was difficult. He obtained a ride on 1648 Arsenal, and this was very rough, but also very fast.
Hoole, K. North Road Locomotive Works, Darlington, 1863-1966. 1967 "These three-cylinder engines [B17] were a six-coupled version of the "Shire" class but considering the fact that the design was prepared in two different drawing offices the similarity is remarkable".
Proud, P. The Sandringhams. Rly Obsr, 1960, 30, 304. RCTS. Locomotives of the LNER. Part 2B. Tender engines—classes B1 to B19. 1975. Considers most aspects of the class including its difficult genesis and its origins at the North British Locomotive Co. Notes that consideration was given to building further locomotives of the type for the North Eastern Area (but more powerful K3 supplied instead) and for the Scottish Area (V2 class built instead). J. Instn Loco. Engrs,
[CLASS B17 4-6-0, L.N.E.R.] . 1929, 19, 2-5. illus., diagr. (s. & f. els.)
Engineer, 1929, 148 L.and N.E. Rly. passenger locomotive., 8-9. illus., diagr., plan.
THREE-CYLINDER 4-6-0 express locomotive, 4-5. illus., diagr. (s. el.)
Rly Mag., 1945, 91, 113-14.
Gresley locomotive characteristics. Unpopularity of the types which lacked trailing axles.
Swinger, Peter. The power of the B17s and B2s. OPC
White, Malcolm. The Yarmouth train. 2005. Many of the class are illustrated mainly on services to Yarmouth South Town (some are based on colour photographs). B17/5 streamlined No. 61670 City of London is shown on the East Suffolk line on p. 3 and as de-streamlined and classified B17/6 on p.87 entering Ipswich station with a down express and the similar No. 61659 East Anglian (in colour) on p.99 approaching St. Olaves swing bridge and on p. 100 near same location.