A Group of Really Useful Engines

My latest completed proofread for Pen & Sword Books was a biography of Robert Riddles, British Railways’ last steam Chief Mechanical Engineer and designer of the ‘standard’ fleet of steam locomotives. Written by Colin Boocock, the story starts by highlighting the so-called ‘Austerity’ engines designed by Mr Riddles during World War Two, including the 2-8-0s and 2-10-0s. These, of course, were followed by the ‘standards’. Mr Boocock devotes a chapter to each of these twelve types, giving an overview of their respective times in railway service. Of course, despite appearing with the best intentions, events overtook them and their working lives were tragically short, eighteen years at most. Probably the best were the 9F 2-10-0 freight engines – my own view is that if these machines had appeared in 1939 instead of 1954, they would have earned a place in history as the best-ever British steam freight locomotives. Happily many standards have been preserved, including the one-off 8P 4-6-2 ‘Duke of Gloucester’, one of the best performing of the preserved engines that have appeared on the post-1968 national network. The book itself is a fine tribute to someone who was perhaps underrated as a steam locomotive designer.

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