Y14/J15 0-6-0 7564
Our oldest locomotive, now over 100 years old, built in 1912 at Stratford works.
The Great Eastern Railway’s Y14 ‘small goods’ class 0-6-0, was designed by TW Worsdell and introduced in 1883 to haul coal trains on the newly opened GN-GE Joint line from Doncaster. They were very successful, and construction was continued until 1913, when the 289th appeared from Stratford Works, making the Y14 numerically the largest class on the GER.
Due to their very low axle loading (13.5 tons) they could work on almost every GER line. 272 Y14’s were passed on to the LNER in 1922 when they were reclassified as J15’s. A total of 127 survived until nationalisation and were allocated the numbers 65350-65479. They were given the BR power classification 1P/2F and route availability of '1'. The last survivors were not withdrawn until the end of steam in East Anglia.
The Society’s historic engine was built as GER no. 564 and left Stratford Works on 22 February 1912. It was one of the penultimate batch of ten (order number B70) and had a Macallan variable blastpipe, dual-brakes and steam heating fitted during construction. It spent most of its working life in Norfolk and Suffolk. In 1922 and 1936 it was allocated to Norwich Thorpe and also spent time at Yarmouth. After the grouping, the loco was renumbered 7564, then 5462 in November 1946. In October it was transferred to Lowestoft and stayed here for 13 years. In 1949, as a consequence of the nationalisation of British Railways, it became 65462. Both the LNER and BR painted the Ioco plain black. Originally the engine had a dished smokebox door, a rolled steel stovepipe and encased Ramsbottom safety valves. During LNER ownership it received a bevel-edged smokebox door, a cast iron J72 type chimney and Ross pop safety valves. The LNER replaced the GER wooden cab roof with a higher pitched steel one around 1933.
Between June 1947 and April 1950 no. 5462/65462 carried a GER boiler with Ross pop safety valves and the whistle mounted on the former Ramsbottom valve seat. During a general repair in May 1953, 65462's boiler was changed for one that had a short Darlington chimney, the whistle on a tall mounting just in front of the cab and no safety valve seat. The tender was swapped at the same time for no. 7543, a similar Holden one. A tender cab, made from the cab of a condemned GER 2-4-2T was fitted between then and 1956 to protect the crew from rain or blowing coal dust when the engine was travelling tender first. In June 1957, the boiler was replaced by another with the more usual tall J72 chimney.
The loco had its first encounter with the M&GNJRS on the 21 May, 1960 when it assisted a rail tour (from Norwich City to Norwich Thorpe via Sheringham, the Waveney Valley line and Lowestoft) after the train’s loco, J15 65469 ran out of steam at Beccles. To avoid lost time (the train was already running late) 65462 was commandeered from the yard to help the ailing J15. The two locos, coupled tender to tender, then hauled the special as far as Lowestoft Central.
65462 was allocated to Norwich Thorpe in June 1960 and then moved to Stratford in January 1961, still carrying its 32C shed plate. Later in the year it had air-brake trip-cock equipment fitted on the right-hand loco rail-iron and under the left hand tender frames for use on the Leyton to Epping/Ongar line. The former GER branch was by then part of London Transport’s Central Line, but BR J15s hauled occasional specials and freight trains on it until April 1962.
In January 1962, 65462 was retubed at Stratford, before joining the few other remaining London based J15s (65361, 65453, 65460/4/5 and 65476) on standby and Liverpool Street station pilot duties. These elderly locos were kept because of their wide route availability and Westinghouse brakes. 65462 was loaned to Colchester for a while for use as Clacton station pilot. The last four J15s (including 65462) were finally withdrawn on 16th September 1962, when steam was eliminated from East Anglia, having outlived many other more modern types of locomotive.
After withdrawal, four of the class were retained for possible preservation and put into open air storage at Stratford. During the previous October, the M&GNJRS had decided to buy a J15 for use on its scheme to reopen one of the closed M&GN lines and had started to raise the £800 required. The Society had initially planned to have 65469, but a crack was found in its frames and so 65462 was purchased instead mainly because of the stovepipe chimney. It was stored with what was to become the Society’s other loco, 61572, at Stratford and the pair were given a test steaming in October 1962 prior to purchase. Sadly the other J15s were cut up for scrap.
The J15, and B12 no. 61572, were moved to Devons Road depot in Bow during the summer of 1963 where they briefly shared the premises, to the spring of 1964, with the remainder of the first batch of Class 20s. By September of that year the cladding and asbestos lagging were removed from both engines and other minor work was undertaken. By now the Society had the depot to itself until asked to leave when track removal became imminent. The J15’s piston connections were removed and put in a coal wagon – with some coal still in it! The two locos plus wagon were moved briefly to Stratford, seen there in November 1964, and then transferred to March MPD all at no cost to the Society. Here one of the eccentric straps (part of the removed items) was found to be broken. March MPD very kindly welded and machined this, again at no cost. Both locos were stored outside the old steam shed. In 1966 the J15’s boiler was given two partial hydraulic tests to determine the condition of the tubes. It was found that the boiler had once been fitted to an F3 2-4-2T and dated from before 1893.
The J15 and B12 were moved to Sheringham, picking up the Quad-Art set, LNWR saloon and two railbuses from Norwich Crown Point, arriving on 4 June 1967 and were hauled into the station over the original gated level crossing. It was to be another ten years before the J15, as GER no. 564 hauled a passenger train on the North Norfolk Railway. The loco ran for thousands of miles before being withdrawn in 1989, shortly after the Holt extension was opened.
After significant boiler works, in which a new firebox was built, the J15 returned to steam for the first time in 13 years in 2002. During this boiler ticket, the J15 visited a vast number of other heritage railways and covered many thousands of miles on the NNR. In the winter of 2011/12, the boiler was retubed and the locomotive was given a ‘Stratford job’ and repainted into LNER black to celebrate her centenary year.
On 6 May 2013, the J15 was withdrawn from traffic after completing the final steaming of her second ten year ticket in preservation. By July 2013 the engine was with Ian Riley & Sons of Bury for the commencement of her heavy general overhaul, with the announcement on the 17 September that the 'Y14:2014' appeal was to be launched to raise the shortfall in funds for the engine's overhaul.
Original article by Steve Marshall, updated February 2014.
Additional information courtesy of Society Joint Vice President Chris Bird and NNR director Steve Allen, inserted June 2014. Further details were included by Dennis Greeno October 2016.