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Big Bertha locomotive 1919

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Big Bertha locomotive 1919

If ever a locomotives name (or in this case, nickname) summed up its looks and duties, then this was it. As the only 0-10-0 tender engine to work in Britain, Bertha was certainly big and spent virtually her whole life muscling up to the rear of freight trains on the Lickey Incline and shoving them up that ferocious two miles of 1-in-37 between Bromsgrove and Blackwell.

Big Bertha locomotive 1919

Big Bertha locomotive 1919
TECHNICAL DATA
Introduced  1919
Builder  MR Derby
Weight (loco) 73  tons
Designer  Fowler

Boiler pressure  180psi

Cylinders (4)  16 3/4  x  28 in

Valve gear  Walschaerts
Driving wheel diameter  4 ft  7,5 in
Tractive effort  43,315lb
Withdrawn / Scraped  1956/1957

A measure of the locomotives standing in railway history is the fact that it is rarely mentioned in books without the adjective famous being used as a prefix. Built especially for the job in 1919 by the Midland Railway (which until that point had never even built an eight-coupled engine for its own exclusive use), it spent virtually its whole life pounding up that ferocious bank and remained in almost continuous service for 37 years, not being withdrawn until 1956, by which time new BR Standard 2-10-0s had been built. At the time of its construction, it was the only ten-coupled loco in the country, the Great Eastern Railway having by then rebuilt its own 0-10-0T Decapod of 1902, and it was to be 1943 before it was joined by any other British ten-coupled locos. So important was Bertha to the operation of the Birmingham-Bristol arterial route that a spare boiler was specially built at Derby Works to ensure that no longer than necessary was spent out of service whenever the giant needed overhauling.

Kitted with four steeply-inclined cylinders and packing 43,300lb of tractive effort, the unique machine did the job of at least two 0-6-0Ts and was fitted with a railed platform at the front-end and, in later years, a headlight to facilitate the gentle buffering-up to trains prior to the ascent of the incline. As BR No. 58100, Bertha (she was never afforded the honour of an official name . . . probably because some crews referred to her as Big Emma!) was withdrawn in May 1956 and broken up the following April. Banking has continued on the Lickey, however. After 1964, dedicated fleets of diesels took over and the practice continues to this day, although there is no longer a permanent allocation of locos there. Instead, one of a small batch of specially- adapted EWS Class 66s is used for the job whenever required.

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