LB&SCR B4 / B4x Class 4-4-0

The B4 4-4-0 was RJ Billinton's last passenger tender locomotive and had many similarities in design with his earlier ones although were much improved in the size and power departments! Externally similar, the boilers were quite a lot bigger than Bessemer's, the previous largest loco, and had 180lb per sq. in. working pressure. The first three of the class had three-ring boilers with a centreline some 8' 1½" above rail level whilst the remainder had two-ring boilers pitched 1½" higher. Some of the class were built at Brighton, with others that became known as Scotchmen being built by Sharp, Stewart & Co. in Glasgow. The whole class was also known unofficially as "Sirdar" after the second engine to be built. Being the largest and most powerful express locomotives to be seen on the LB&SCR they were immediately put to work on the 8:45 a.m. up business from Brighton and the 5:00pm down from London Bridge.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

B4 Nº53, Richmond, which had previously been named Sirdar.

In 1912 Nº59 was fitted with a Phoenix superheater, a rather large piece of apparatus that required much modification of the engine. A vast extended smokebox was fitted and the frames were modified to the extent that all the elegant curves were lost, being replaced by angle irons and an upward curve at each end. The experiment was not a success (as various other railways also discovered) and did not last long. Then, in 1935, the Southern Railway combined parts of Nº59 (including the modified frames) with parts of Nº68 to form composite engine Nº2068.

Some examples were named after events and people involved in the Boer War whilst two, Nº42 His Majesty and Nº46 Prince of Wales, were frequently used for Royal Trains, and as such kept their names after Marsh scrapped nearly all of them until finally seeing them removed by the Southern Railway. Empress and Sirdar claimed a place in the history books when they worked Queen Victoria's funeral train which, on being taken over from the L&SWR at Fareham running late, arrived at Victoria some two minutes early. Empress was the train engine whilst Sirdar was the pilot engine running ahead of the funeral train.

B4 Nº66 Balmoral with train in LB&SCR days. This loco was later re-named Billinton.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Nº52 Siemens was, briefly, renumbered 50 by mistake in 1905 and in 1908 was re-named Sussex (the name of Nº72) due, it is believed, to an error in the paint shop! In addition to the two locos mentioned above, Richmond, Sussex (Nº72), Princess Royal, Norfolk, Billinton (was Balmoral) and Devonshire kept their names until Southern Railway days.

Nº74 was withdrawn during 1935 by the Southern Railway, but was returned to traffic in 1937 and subsequently passed into British Railways' stock in 1948. Nº47, Nº50 and Nº60 were fitted with extended smokeboxes in 1915, Nº44 was rebuilt with a superheater in 1922, Nº45 was originally fitted with a Drummond water-tube firebox which was removed in 1911 and Nº46 was rebuilt with larger cylinders and extended smokebox in 1918.

B4x An unidentified B4x working a down Portsmouth express near Cheam, date unknown but note the engine has LBSC lamp irons.

photograph: Dr. Ian C. Allan/Mike Morant collection

B4x NºB70. The location is thought to be Basingstoke.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

2056 B4x Nº2056 at Clapham Junction with what is probably the "Sunny South Express" passing through the station non-stop on the final leg of its journey from Liverpool, Lime Street, to Brighton.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

B4 Nº2057 at New Cross Gate.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

2063 A rather tired looking B4 Nº2063 Pretoria seen at Hither Green.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

Now carrying Southern Railway lamp irons, B4x Nº2073, looking rather sorry for itself. Despite the Southern branding this may have been taken in early BR days.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

In 1922 Lawson Billinton started the rebuilding of twelve of the B4 class into class B4x, though in reality they were more like new engines as little of the "donor" B4 was left other than the wheel centres and bogies. The wheelbase was extended by some 2' 4" and the larger boiler pitched some 8' 10" above rail level. A superheater was added and the tender enlarged to hold an extra 600 gallons of water. The boiler was similar to that fitted to the K class with top feed, though not in the additional dome that was fitted to some classes. The first two engines, Nº55 and Nº60, were turned out in grey and remained so until painted green by the Southern Railway. The last ten B4xs were built by the Southern Railway.
32043 B4x Nº32043 in fully lined British Railways black livery with the legen "BRITISH RAILWAYS" on the tender.

photograph: Mike Morant collection

B4x Nº32072 also in fully lined British Railways black livery but now with the "cycling lion" crests on the tender..

photograph: A J Wills collection

In all some 18 locos survived into British Railways days, seven class B4 and eleven class B4x, though all had been withdrawn by the end of 1951.

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This page was last updated 22 February 2012

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