The class, designed by R. A. Riddles but derived from the earlier 2-6-2Ts designed by H. G. Ivatt for the LMS, was an attempt to produce a modern steam locomotive primarily for branch-line service. Detailed design work was undertaken at Derby works with work on specific parts undertaken at Brighton, Doncaster and Swindon. The original Ivatt design was slightly modified; this included a reduced cab to reduce the loading gauge.
Although it was originally planned that all of the class were to have been built at Darlington, the initial batch of 20, Nos 84000-19, were built at Crewe Works. The first was completed in July 1953 and all 20 were outshopped by the end of October the same year. The initial batch of 20 were all allocated to the London Midland Region, with the type split between seven sheds — Bedford, Burton-on-Trent, Fleetwood, Lees (Oldham), Low Moor, Royston and Wrexham Rhosddu — at December 1954. Two years later, the type was allocated to 10 sheds — Bank Hall, Bedford, Birkenhead, Bletchley, Burton-on-Trent, Chester Northgate, Fleetwood, Lees, Rose Grove and Royston.
The final 10 locomotives, Nos 84020-29, were all built at Darlington, emerging between March and June 1957. No 84029 was the last steam locomotive to be constructed at Darlington. The last 10 locomotives were all allocated to the Southern Region with the result that, at the end of 1958, the 30 locomotives were allocated to Ashford and Ramsgate on the Southern as well as to Bedford, Bletchley, Bolton, Birkenhead, Chester Northgate, Fleetwood, Lees, Lower Darwen, Royston and Skipton on the LMR.
On the LMR, the locomotives appeared on a wide range of branch services. These included Bedford to either Hitchin or Northampton, Hooton-Ellesmere Port-Helsby push-pull, Wolverton-Newport Pagnell, Banbury Merton Street-Buckingham-Bletchley and the Worth Valley branch to Oxenhope. As lines closed or were dieselised the type got transferred from shed to shed and line to line.
On the Southern Region, the locomotives were operated on non-push-pull services as the type’s vacuum operated push-pull equipment was not compatible with the compressed air system used on the Southern. As a result the type found itself on secondary passenger duties — such as Ashford to Rye and Ashford to Margate — as well as train shunting duties at Canterbury West. With the electrification of the Kent Coast routes, the locomotives were transferred away from Ashford and Ramsgate, being found in London and Eastleigh before all 10 eventually migrated to the London Midland Region. In the latter days on the Southern, regular duties included the shuttle service between Clapham Junction and Kensington Olympia. At the end of 1962 all were allocated to LMR sheds, being at Annesley, Bletchley, Bolton, Crewe Works, Fleetwood, Kentish Town, Leicester, Llandudno Junction, Rhyl, Skipton and Warrington.
Prior to the transfer, however, consideration in March 1960 was given to converting three of the class for operation on the Isle of Wight in replacement of the existing ‘O2’ 0-4-4Ts then in use. In order to fit the smaller loading gauge on the island the trio would have required modification. This was to have included the fitting of a shorter chimney, the reduction in the height of the dome and the reduction in height of the cab roof. In addition, the push-pull equipment was to be converted from vacuum to air operation. One of the class, No 84026, was transferred to Eastleigh Works in July 196o for the modifications to be undertaken; in the event, however, the project was never progressed and No 84026 was released back into traffic unmodified.
This was not, however, to be the end of plans for the use of the type on the Isle of Wight; by 1965, with withdrawals occurring, 10 of the class — Nos 84010/13-17/19/26/26/28 — were notionally transferred from the London Midland to Southern with a view to conversion for use on the island. By this date, however, the lines on the island were under threat; all had been listed for closure in the Beeching report of March 1963. The section of line from Smallbrook Junction to Cowes lost its passenger services on 21 February 1966, roughly contemporaneously with the scrapping of the last of the ‘84XXXs’, whilst the decision had been taken to convert the Ryde to Shanklin service to third-rail using ex-London Underground tube stock. As a result, once again there was no progress with the conversion.
Withdrawal of the class commenced on 12 October 1963 when No 84012, then just over 10 years old, succumbed. A further nine locomotives — Nos 84001/7/20-24/27/29 — were withdrawn during 1964. This left 20 in service at the start of 1965; of these 10 were to survive through to 11 December 1965, when they were all withdrawn; the 10 were Nos 84010/13-17/19/25/26/28. The end result was that the final 10 locomotives built had operational lives of around seven years; the shortest lived being No 84027, which lasted from 16 May 1957 until 2 May 1964.
Following withdrawal, the locomotives all made their final, one-way, journey to the scrapyard, sometimes after a brief period in store. The last three extant were Nos 84005/6/8, which were still complete in the yard of J. Buttigieg of Newport, South Wales, in August 1966. None, unfortunately, found their way to another of the Welsh scrapyards — that of Woodham Bros of Barry — where examples of other BR standard types were sent for scrap.
Thus, by late-1966 all of the class had been withdrawn and scrapped. However, work is in progress in converting one of the surviving Class 2 2-6-0s, No 78059, which was rescued from Barry without a tender, into a 2-6-2T on the Bluebell Railway. The new locomotive will be numbered 84030, the next in the number sequence. The decision to convert No 78059 was made partly because the 2-6-2T class had been allocated to the Southern Region during its operational career and so would be an appropriate locomotive for use on the Bluebell line.