Side Tank Coal Engine – a brief history

The ‘Coal Tank No.1054′ was built by the London & North Western Railway at Crewe Works.  It was the 250th example of the class of 4′-3″ Side Tank Coal Engines that were designed by the Chief Engineer of the LNWR, Francis W Webb.

The design was based on Webb’s 0-6-0 ‘Coal Engine’ introduced in 1873.  The ‘Coal Engine’ was the first locomotive produced under Webb’s direction as Chief Engineer.  These simple, cheap, but effective locomotives carried the coal and water supply in a separate tender.

'Coal Engine' 8309.  During the early 1940s this engine carried the boiler that is now on Coal Tank No.1054.  Photo from the Mike Bentley collection

‘Coal Engine’ 8309. During the early 1940s this engine carried the boiler that is now on Coal Tank No.1054. Photo from the Mike Bentley collection

To provide an engine with greater operational flexibility over shorter journeys, Webb produced a tank engine version whereby the coal and water were carried on the engine’s own frames.  An additional pair of carrying wheels was utilised to help carry this extra weight.  This new design of  ‘Side Tank Coal Engine’ – or ‘Coal Tank’, as they became more commonly known – was introduced in 1881 and 300 examples were built over a period of 16 years.

No.615 as originally built, with sloping smokebox door, wooden brake blocks operated only by the handbrake, and plain black livery. photo from the Mike Bentley collection

No.615 as originally built, with sloping smokebox door, wooden brake blocks operated only by the handbrake, and plain black livery. photo from the Mike Bentley collection

They were originally intended for short-distance goods traffic, but were found to be very useful for local passenger trains and were soon at work all over the LNWR system.  The early engines were painted plain black, but later engines were turned out in the fully lined-out black passenger livery.