The Reign of Terrier

Well, the docklands layout now has a locomotive. I don’t normally buy locomotives specifically for layouts, more the other way round – I build layouts in order to give locomotives somewhere to run.

IMG_1553But, well, I rather like the London, Brighton and South Coast ‘Terriers’, and I saw a second-hand one going cheap on a stall at a jumble sale, so policy be damned.

The use of a Terrier (or A1X, if we’re going to be pedantic) is, of course, entirely justified on an East London layout – the LBSC actually built these delightful engines to work passenger trains on their lines in South East London. They were nippy little engines, and more than capable of the work they were given to do. They were equally capable of goods and shunting work, and their small size and light weight made them perfect for branch and light railway work. So good at their jobs were they that they lasted in service from the 1870s through to the 1960s, often passing through more than one owner – where the LBSC or Southern Railway didn’t want them, someone else generally did. Some even ended up back with the Southern after the lines they had been sold to were taken over.

The engine in the photo is Brighton, an engine that had something of an adventurous life. It was a showtrain of sorts, winning a gold medal at the 1878 Exposision Universelle in Paris and, in a moment to gladden the heart of any red-blooded Englishman, set a speed record of 50mph on the Chemins de Fer de l’Ouest. It went to the Isle of Wight Central Railway in 1902. On withdrawal, it was a seaside attraction at Butlin’s holiday camp at Pwllheli, which frankly sounds like a fate worse than death. Fortunately, the engine was saved by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and now lives there under its Wight identity of Newport, number W11.

All of which rather suggests that it shouldn’t be in the East End during BR days. Fortunately, there’s a little phrase we modellers like to use, which is “might have been”. J E Connor, in his book Stepney’s Own Railway, notes that there was at one time a plan to build a link between the East London Railway and the London and Blackwall Railway at Shadwell. The East London Railway used Marc Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames to provide a link between the North and South sides of the docks in East London. It was operated by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, the Metropolitan Railway, the Metropolitan District Railway, the South Eastern Railway, the Great Eastern Railway – and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. Connor suggests that enthusiasm for this project was the reason for Terriers being built with the names Stepney, Fenchurch, Minories, Shadwell, Millwall, Poplar and Blackwall. The Terriers were named after places on or near LBSC lines (which apparently caused Victorian travellers a lot of confusion, as they mistook the name of the engine for the destination of the train), but those seven places were all along the London and Blackwall Railway.

So I’m gonna go right ahead and say that, in the universe where my railway is set, that link actually was built. The Terriers would have been ideal motive power for the dock lines, as the swing bridges carried a severe weight restriction. They already worked through the Thames Tunnel, that’s why they were fitted with condensing equipment, so it’s no stretch to suggest that they would have been regular performers on such a link.

The docks give me an excuse for all sorts of (small) motive power, justifying the use of engines from the London Midland, Eastern and Southern Regions, although I don’t intend to restrict myself to BR days. I could also bring in the Port of London Authority’s locos and stock, as well as any number of industrial shunters.

Yes, I think this is going to work out just fine.

Why “Terriers?”

Ever wondered how these engines got their nicknames? The most popular suggestions are that they’re very small compared to most locomotives, and they have a distinctive exhaust “bark” when working hard (apparently due to their Westinghouse brake pumps). J E Connor adds another suggestion – because the A1 class worked through the Thames tunnel, they spent much of their time underground. Like, yes, a terrier hunting rats.

Further Reading

http://www.terriertrust.org.uk/ – The Terrier Trust. An informative and informal site with lots of interesting articles.

http://www.semgonline.com/steam/a1x_01.html – The Southern E-Group is, to my mind, the best online resource for enthusiasts of the Southern Railway, its constituents and successors. They have no less than twelve lavishly-illustrated pages on Stroudley’s little friends.

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