USA Tanks

Published Tue, 2015-09-01 11:44

The news that the USA 0-6-0T No 30072 has been sold and will be departing from its long-term home on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway marks the end of an era.


K&ESR locomotive No 22 Maunsell in Southern Railway livery carrying her original SR number 65. Picture taken at Bodiam station. © Michael Roots - Creative Commons

At a time when locomotive moves between railways are as common as the fickleness of Premier League footballer on long contracts in demanding transfers, the fact that No 30072 has been based on the K&WVR for more than 50 years is remarkable.
The Southern Railway’s ‘USA’ class was formed by 15 United States Army Transportation Corps ‘S100’ class locomotives. The ‘S100’ was designed by Howard G. Hill in 1942 and 382 were built by US manufacturers during World War 2 for shunting operations in Europe and North Africa. Shipped to Britain prior to D-Day, the locomotives saw extensive service during the latter stages of the war and, in the immediate post-war years, a number were to see service with the railways of Austria, China, France, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Palestine and Yugoslavia as well as with the Southern Railway in Britain.
With their short 10ft 0in wheelbase, the ‘USA’ tanks were ideal for shunting operation in constrained environments, and the Southern acquired the type to replace the ageing ex-LSWR ‘B4’ tanks for shunting in and around the docks at Southampton. Although 15 were bought on the recommendation of Oliver Bulleid, only 14 entered service with the 15th being used for spares. The first 13 were numbered 61-73 by the Southern — respectively ex-USATC Nos 1264/277/284/959/968/279/282/971/952/960/966/973/974 — with the 14th — USATC No 4326 — retaining its USTAC number until being renumbered 30074 by British Railways. Of the 14 the 14, all were built by the Vulcan Ironworks of Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania with the exception of No 30061, which was built by H. K. Porter of Pittsburgh. Following Nationalisation, the original 13 were renumbered 30061-73. The 15th locomotive was ex-USATC No 1261; this survived at Eastleigh Works until September 1954 and was never renumbered by the Southern.
Following purchase by the Southern the locomotives underwent modification work. This included the addition of steam heating, vacuum ejectors, sliding cab windows and additional lamp brackets. In the light of operational experience with the first of the class to enter service, further modifications were made. These included the addition of large roof-top ventilators, British-style regulators, extended coal bunkers and separate vacuum and steam brake control. As a result of these modifications, it was not until late 1947 that the last of the class finally entered service. The locomotives were to prove a useful addition to the Southern’s motive power fleet although their austerity design resulted in problems. In particular, the class’s steel firebox rusted quickly and, in 1951, a number of the class had to have replacement fireboxes fitted.
The class was to have an operational career at Southampton of more than a decade, before being supplanted by the new 14-strong Class 07 diesel shunters in 1963. The first withdrawals occurred in 1962 and six were transferred to Departmental use and renumbered: No DS233 (ex-30061) was based at Redbridge Sleeper Works; No DS234 (ex-30062) at Meldon Quarry; Nos DS235/236 (ex-Nos 3066/74 respectively) at Lancing Carriage Works; and Nos DS237/38 (ex-Nos 30065/70 respectively) at Ashford Works. Of the remaining eight locomotives, all were withdrawn by the end of July 1967. Those in department use survived until: No DS233 in March 1967; No DS234 in August 1966; Nos DS235/36 in July 1965; and, Nos DS237/38 in July 1967.
Of the locomotives purchased by the Southern Railway, four survive in preservation. Apart from No 30072, which is destined to head to the Ribble Steam Railway prior to being overhauled on the East Lancashire Railway, No 30064 is based on the Bluebell Railway where it is awaiting overhaul and Nos 30065 and 30070 are both based on the Kent & East Sussex. The former is operational whilst the latter is undergoing a major overhaul.
In all, some 100 of this type of locomotive are believed still to be in existence worldwide, with preserved examples in a number of European countries, in the USA and worldwide. More than 60 years after their original design, a handful remain in industrial use in the Balkans (where Yugoslav railways built a further 90 of the type under licence between 1952 and 1961). Tow of the Yugoslav examples — No 62-521 of 1954 and No 62-669 of 1960 — have been brought to Britain for preservation in the guise of Nos 30075/76 respectively, initially both on the Mid-Hants Railway. The former is currently undergoing a boiler overhaul and repair on the Great Central Railway at Loughborough whilst the latter is based in unrestored condition at Barrow Hill.
Whilst No 30072 may have departed from the K&WVR for the present, it is hoped that once the overhaul is completed that the locomotive will return to West Yorkshire in 2018 in order to recreate the opening day services from 1968 in company with Ivatt 2-6-2T No 41241.