Steam Railway feature sample

Here’s a sample of one of the many fantastic features you can read in this month’s Steam Railway magazine.

nine lives:
Living with No. 92203 ‘Black Prince’

The BR Class 9 2‑10‑0s are some of the most fêted locomotives ever to have run in Britain. Thomas Bright gets under the skin of one of preservation’s most famous examples.

‘Black Prince’ displays its express-like lines as it waits for the off at Weybourne. THOMAS BRIGHT

‘Black Prince’ displays its express-like lines as it waits for the off at Weybourne. THOMAS BRIGHT

If a thing looks right, it is right, and we both agreed that this ‘Nine’ did indeed look absolutely right.” 

So commented Somerset & Dorset Fireman Peter Smith upon encountering a BR Standard ‘9F’ for the first time, when both he and S&D Driver Donald Beale were presented with No. 92205 at Bournemouth West in the summer of 1960.

He’s not wrong. There’s just something about a ‘9F’, isn’t there? By and large, most heavy freight engines look exactly what they are – slow and ponderous, but powerful. A ‘9F’ on the other hand, despite being the epitome of heavy freight locomotive design, looks lithe, athletic – fast even.

Perhaps it is the high running plate exposing the centipede-like row of driving wheels, or the enormous boiler, the swept-back spectacle plates in the cab, or the smoke deflectors up front. Deflectors are almost exclusively worn by express passenger locomotives, so to see such appendages on a freight engine suggests there is more to this machine than meets the eye.

In many respects, the ‘9F’ power classification for the BR 2‑10‑0s is a misnomer. The rest of the BR Standard range – unique ‘8P’ No. 71000 Duke of Gloucester excepted – were all officially designated as mixed traffic engines, and were designed to work as wide a variety of duties in as large a sphere of operation as possible.

But when it came to versatility, the ‘9Fs’ were in a different league. Although they were designed and built expressly as heavy freight locomotives, they ended up doing a huge range of jobs in their regrettably short working lives, putting in prodigious feats of performance that their designers – Robert Riddles and E.S. Cox – could never have envisaged. They were as comfortable hauling the heavy Consett iron ore trains as they were embarrassing ‘Britannias’ on Western Region expresses into and out of Paddington.

In that regard, the BR lined black mixed traffic livery once applied to No. 92214 in preservation was perhaps not as inappropriate as some enthusiasts deemed it to be.

One simply cannot help but be awed by a ‘9F’. As Peter Smith goes on to say in his book Mendips Engineman: “It was obvious that this meeting with a ‘Nine’, for Donald and myself, was a case of love at first sight.”

It is small wonder then that preservation’s second most famous example after Evening Star – No. 92203 ‘Black Prince’ has become one of the North Norfolk Railway’s most popular engines.

Yes, this humble, unlined black freight locomotive rivals unique pre-Grouping-design gems such as the ‘N2’, ‘Y14’ and ‘B12’ to cement its place in the ‘Poppy Line’s’ passengers’ affections. 

Don’t believe us? Here’s the verdict of Friends of Black Prince spokesman Mark Powley: “Because of her history and connection with David Shepherd, she attracts people from far and wide, bringing great joy to people and more revenue to the railway.”

Remarkable? Yes. But just why are the ‘Class Nines’ so universally popular?

Read more on pages 60-66 of Steam Railway SR493 – on sale now!