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Stirling Single locomotive 1870

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Stirling Single locomotive 1870

Among the most elegant designs ever to have graced the railways of Britain were the Great Northern Railways Stirling Singles. Known as Eight Footers after the 8ft lin diameter of their driving wheels, they were designed by Patrick Stirling and have been described as the ultimate triumph of form over function.

Stirling Single locomotive 1870

Stirling Single locomotive 1870
TECHNICAL DATA
Introduced  1870
Builder  GNR, Doncaster
Designer  Stirling
Weight (loco)  1870
Boiler pressure  140psi
Cylinders (2)  18  x  28 in
Valve gear  Stephenson

Driving wheel diameter  8 ft  1 in

Tractive effort  11,130 lb

Withdrawn 1907
Preserved  National Collection

They were far more than good lookers, however, for they combined grace with power and stamina, bearing the brunt of principal expresses on the East Coast Main Line for no fewer than three decades. Until their arrival, the GNR had largely had to make do with slow and comparatively crude Sturrock engines. The Singles were the first in a long line of thoroughbred East Coast racehorses and two of them, Nos. 668 and 775, distinguished themselves in the Races to the North in 1888 and 1895 respectively. No. 1 was turned out from the GNRs Doncaster Works in 1870 and was followed by several small batches over the next quarter of a century until the fleet totalled 53 by 1895, the last batch featuring slightly increased dimensions. It will be noted from the photographs that the loco has no dome. This is because Stirling preferred a perforated pipe running inside the boiler, an idea which on the whole seems to have been successful, although his successor, Henry Ivatt, didnt favour the arrangement and fitted a dome to several members of the class. Displaced from top link duties by the arrival of Ivatts Atlantics at the turn of the 20th century, they were cascaded onto less arduous duties on the more easily- graded routes of cast Lincolnshire and the last one wasn't withdrawn from such services until 1916.

The pioneer No. 1 had been retired nine years earlier and preserved by the GNR - but its claims to fame still werent over yet: First it was steamed in 1925 to take part in the Stockton & Darlington centenary cavalcade, in 1938 it was steamed again to haul a rake of 1880s Scotchman coaches from Kings Cross to Stevenage, and then, on September 11 that year, it wrote another chapter in the history books when it hauled Britain's first-ever enthusiast society-organised railtour - a Railway Correspondence & Travel Society charter from King's Cross to Peterborough. Finally, in the early- 1980s, No. 1 was again put into working order and hauled trains on the preserved Great Central Railway.

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