Taking cues from the earlier LMS Black 5 4-6-0, the London Midland & Scottish Railway’s Stanier 8F became one of the most widespread and versatile freight locomotives ever to work on British Rails. Built with a 2-8-0 configuration, the engines were built between 1935 and 1946 by William Stanier, with freight specifically in mind.
At the time these locomotives were built to replace many of the Midland Railway’s former 0-6-0 engines which were the last testament to the small engine policy. Though, as its name implies, the engines were indeed smaller and more flexible for varying operations, under the LMS these highly underpowered locomotives proved to be a substantial thorn in the company’s side, with several locomotives having to be used to power a single train. With costs rising, the LMS, in conjunction with Stanier, the company’s then Chief Engineer, developed both the Black 5 and the 8F to replace this mode of operation, supplemented by the gigantic articulated Garratt’s, and the smaller Fowler 7F’s.
For the first few years the 8F was almost exclusively an LMS machine, though it did sometimes wander into other company’s territories. Upon the outbreak of World War II however, the engine, being among the most powerful and efficient, was chosen as the standard freight design, and construction boomed. Locomotives were now available for all of the former ‘Big Four’ companies, with construction taking place at LMS’s Crewe and Horwich works, LNER’s Doncaster works, GWR’s Swindon works and SR’s Ashford Works. This was not the first time a standard locomotive had been chosen during warfare, as in World War I, the GCR Class 8K had been given the honour of such an important task. In addition to locomotives built for the Big Four, The War Department had 208 8Fs built by Beyer Peacock and North British Locomotive Company and requisitioned 51 more.
The 8F’s success also took it to foreign climbs as well as UK rails, with many allied nations of North Africa and the Middle East also taking on the 8F as their standard locomotive. Countries including Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Iran, Iraq, Italy and Palestine all bought variants of the 8F to work their railways both during and after the war, with some of these foreign 8F’s continuing in operation well into the 1980’s and 1990’s. In fact, seven locomotives, 246-338, 343-345, 354-356, 345, were sunk during shipping to Turkey when the vessel they were transported on, SS Jesmore, collided with Baron Pentland on 16th February, 1941. Another two locomotives were sunk whilst aboard SS Thistlegorm, which was bombed by Crete based Heinkel He 1-11 bombers whilst at anchor near Ras Muhammad in the Red Sea on 6th October, 1941.
Production of War Department examples continued until 1943, when it switched instead to the cheaper WD Austerity 2-8-0 and 2-10-0 locomotives, both of which were derived from the 8F. The 8F itself continued in production until 1946, with 852 examples produced, 331 London Midland and Scottish Railway engines and 245 among the London and North Eastern Railway, Great Western Railway and Southern Railway in 1943-45 for LMS stock, though mostly retained on loan by the other railways during the war. The LNER also purchased 68 Stanier 8Fs for its own use in 1944-46, classifying them O6, though these
were also sold to the LMS after the war.
624 8Fs passed into British Railways ownership when Britain’s railways were nationalised in 1948. A further 39 (10 requisitioned) were purchased from MEF stock in 1948, and a final 3 (1 requisitioned) from the Longmoor Military Railway in 1957, bringing the total to 666. The 8Fs were concentrated on the London Midland Region, but were also allocated to former LMS sheds on other regions. Despite some having operated in Scotland by the LMS, they were not common on the Scottish Region under BR ownership as the later WD ‘Austerity’ 2-8-0 and 2-10-0 types were used instead.
The 8Fs were successful and durable locomotives in BR service, with all 666 locomotives surviving until 1960 and routine withdrawals not beginning until 1964. The first to go in 1960 was 48616, followed two years later by 48009. 48773–48775 (the former Longmoor Military Railway locomotives which were the only 8Fs on the Scottish Region) were also withdrawn in 1962, but these were reinstated into London Midland Region stock in 1963. The remaining 664 were withdrawn between 1964 and 1968, with 150 surviving to the last year of steam on BR.
Fourteen 8f’s are known to have survived with six LMS/BR locomotives been preserved in the UK, a seventh was used a spares donor for other preserved 8Fs and a number of new build projects. Three members of the class have over the years been repatriated to the UK from Turkey, with one later sent to a museum in Israel. In addition, two Turkish Railway (TCCD) locomotives have been preserved in Turkey, and some more remain there in a derelict state. One locomotive has even survived in Iraq.
Of the fourteen engines known to have survived into preservation, three have seen main line operation: Nos. 48151, 48305 and 48773. These have been regular mainline performers in recent years with 48773 & 48305 being withdrawn from operation in the early 2000s. At present 48151 is the only 8F to be certified for mainline use, despite being limited to only 50 mph (due to her wheel size) she has managed to pull in a few mainline trips in recent years, trips include The Fellsman, Scarborough Spa Express, Waverley, Roses Express & recently The Welsh Mountaineer.