John Speller's Web Pages Churchward 38XX "County Class"

John Speller's Web Pages

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Among the shortest-lived of George Jackson Churchward's locomotives were the forty members of the 4-4-0 "County" Class, built between 1904 and 1912. The Shrewsbury to Hereford railway line was jointly owned by the Great Western and London & North Western Railways, and the LNWR refused to countenance 4-6-0 locomotives on this line, necessitating the design of a 4-4-0 equivalent of the 4-6-0 29XX "Saint" Class. They were built almost entirely from standard parts, including the wheels and cylinders of the "Saint" Class and the Swindon No. 4 boiler as used on the 43XX 2-6-0s and the 42XX 2-8-0 tanks. It was intended that they would be scrapped and used for parts in constructing new engines as soon as six-coupled express engines were sanctioned by the London & North Western and Great Western Railways Joint Committee, as indeed they eventually were. As they had the same 6' 8" driving wheels, 18" x 30" cylinders and 200 psi boiler pressure as the "Saint" Class the "County" Class had the same tractive effort as the "Saints" (until the latter had their boiler pressures increased to 225 psi), viz.: 20,530 lb., making them the most powerful 4-4-0 locomotives ever built in Britain with two outside cylinders. This, alas, was their undoing, for they were too powerful for the size of their chassis, making them rough-riding and unstable at speed. The upper limit of power for a 4-4-0 with two outside cylinders is probably about 17,000 lb. tractive effort. The way round this would have been to give the locomotive three cylinders, which would have probably allowed a 4-4-0 locomotive with a tractive effort as high as 25,000 lb., which is in fact what Maunsell did with the Southern "Schools" Class. If Churchward had pressed the boiler to 225 psi and used three 15" x 26" "Star" cylinders with the Churchward/Holcroft/Gresley conjugated motion, he would have achieved a smooth-running 4-4-0 with a tractive effort of 20,847 lb., more or less the exact equivalent in power of a "Saint." But perhaps Churchward was just trying to get back at the LNWR for not allowing 4-6-0s by building a 4-4-0 that would be as rough as possible on the track!

It is unfortunate that F. W. Hawksworth later made exactly the same mistake with his 4-6-0 10XX "New County" Class. It was again simply too powerful for the size of its chassis. In fact here the Collett 49XX "Hall" Class 4-6-0 is pretty much at the upper limit of what can be achieved with two-cylinder 4-6-0 locomotive, and Hawksworth, by trying to push the power to the equivalent of a four-cylinder "Castle" Class managed to produce a locomotive that was rough-riding and unstable at speed like Churchward's 4-4-0. Hawksworth solved this problem by lowering the boiler pressure of the 10XX "Counties" from 280 psi to 250 psi, reducing the power output to the equivalent of a "Hall." But if instead he had used three 16" x 26" "Castle" cylinders and left the pressure 280psi he could have produced a smooth-running 4-6-0 equivalent to a "Castle" with one cylinder fewer. By using larger cylinders than this he could even have boosted the power output to the equivalent of a "King" and still had a smooth-running locomotive.

For some unaccountable reason Churchward also designed a 4-4-2 tank version of his "County" Class, the 2221 Class "County Tanks," of which thirty were built between 1905 and 1912. They were fitted with the slightly smaller Swindon No. 2 Boiler. Designed for suburban passenger work around London, they proved if anything even more unstable at speed than the "Counties," and considerably less versatile than the 31XX "Prairie Tanks," which replaced them in the 1930s.
Churchward 4-4-0 "County" Class No. 3807 "County Kilkenny" on a Paddington to Birkenhead express
Churchward "County" Class 4-4-0 No. 3823 "County of Carnarvon." Illustration from The Locomotive, July 1905
The prototype 4-4-2T "County Tank" No. 2221 as built. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Another view of No. 3823 "County of Carnarvon" after fitting with a top feed apparatus
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