John Speller's Web Pages Sir Vincent Raven's Locomotives

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Sir Vincent Litchfield Raven was born at Great Frasham in Norfolk in 1859, the son of a clergyman, and educated at Aldenham School, following which he apprenticed with Edward Fletcher, Locomotive Superintendent of the North Eastern Railway, at Gateshead. He rose rapidly through the ranks to become Assistant Locomotive Superintendent (Northern Division) in 1888, and Chief Assistant Locomotive Superintendent 1893, in which capacity he was responsible for the North Eastern Railway’s contribution to the Race to the North of 1895. In 1910 he succeeded Wilson Worsdell as Chief Mechanical Engineer of the North Eastern Railway. In World War I he took a leave of absence from the North Eastern Railway from 1915 to 1919 in order to be Superintendent of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, for which he was awarded with a knighthood in 1917. On the formation of the London & North Eastern Railway in 1923, Sir Nigel Gresley was appointed Chief Mechanical Engineer, but Raven was kept on as a Technical Advisor. Hr reached retirement age and retired in 1924. Following this he went on a fact-finding tour of India and New Zealand on behalf of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. He died of heart disease in Felixstowe in 1934. Edward Thompson, who later succeeded Gresley Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London & North Eastern Railway was Raven’s son-in-law, and it has sometimes been suggested that there was “bad blood” between Gresley and Thompson which led, among other things, to the rebuilding and ruination of Gresley’s P-2 Class 2-8-2s. It is certainly true that Gresley and Thompson seem to have had difficulty working together and, especially after Bulleid became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway Thompson may have resented Gresley replacing him with Bulleid as his Personal Assistant on the Great Northern Railway in 1912. But resentment, if any, seems to have been entirely on Thompson’s part, and relations between Raven and Gresley were nothing other than cordial and friendly.

Raven’s first design for the North Eastern Railway was his 6 ft. 10 in. 3-cylinder Atlantic, Class V-2. This was a 3-cylinder development of Wilson Worsdell’s 2-cylinder V and V-1 Class Atlantics, and was a very popular locomotive, being much smoother running than the 2-cylinder Atlantics. Indeed, it was in some ways Raven’s most successful design, and would give the Ivatt 3-cylinder Atlantics of the Great Northern Railway a run for their money. Unlike the Great Northern Atlantics, Raven’s V-2 Class did not have a wide firebox, but these were probably more trouble than they were worth anyway, and they were later discredited by André Chapelon. Worsdell’s X Class 3-cylinder 4-8-0T had had a divided drive, but, except in the case of the T-3 Class 0-8-0 where the drive was on the second axle, Raven always favored his 3-cylinder engines driving on the front axle only.

Like Churchward on the Great Western, Raven came to the conclusion that the increased adhesive weight of a 4-6-0 gave it an advantage over the 4-4-2 type. His next design was a 6 ft. 1¼ in. mixed traffic locomotive, the Class S-2. Twenty of these were produced, but they proved to be indifferent steamers, at least with drivers who were not used to their idiosyncracies. The last of the S-2 Class, No. 825 was equipped with Stumpf Uniflow cylinders in order to reduce condensation, but in practice this produced no noticeable improvement and No. 825 was rebuilt by Gresley in conformity with the rest of the class in 1924.

Raven’s next design was the 3-cylinder Class D 5 ft. 9 in. 4-4-4 tank engine, intended for intermediate passenger work. Although these engines did their job well they had a tendency to roll at high speeds, and they were accordingly all rebuilt as 4-6-2 tank engines by Gresley between 1931 and 1936.

Raven’s last design before leaving for War service was the 4 ft. 7½ in. 2-cylinder T-2 Class 0-8-0 for heavy freight, an enlarged version of Worsdell’s T-1 Class. These proved immensely popular and many of them lasted through Nationalization to the twilight of steam. No. 2238 (BR No. 63395) is the only Sir Vincent Raven locomotive to have been restored; a video of this locomotive operating on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway may be seen here.

After his return from the War, Sir Vincent Raven’s first new design was a 3-cylinder 4-6-0, the 5 ft. 8 in. mixed traffic Class S-3. At this point it was intended that the East Coast Main Line would be electrified, and that these locomotives would be confined to secondary main lines. In the event, however, the East Coast electrification was shelved until the 1980s, and these locomotives were therefore put to work on the East Coast Main Line where they did stalwart work. 38 of them were built by the North Eastern Railway and the LNER built a further 10.

At a more mundane level Raven then designed a 2-cylinder 0-6-0 4 ft. 7¼ in. Intermediate freight locomotive, the Class P-3, of which 25 were built by the North Eastern Railway and a further 10 by the LNER.

Raven’s last steam locomotive design was his 6 ft. 8 in. Pacific. This was basically a stretch version of the V-2 Class Atlantics, brought out in something of a hurry to compete with Gresley’s A-1 Pacific on the Great Northern. Gresley had originally intended to build his Pacific as a stretch version of the Ivatt Atlantics, but instead chose to produce an original and much better design. Raven probably did not take much interest in the Pacific design anyway, because by now he was heavily committed to electrification. The Raven Pacific nonetheless proved more or less the equal of the Gresley Pacific in the LNER trials. Two were built by the North Eastern Railway and a further five by the LNER. One of these, 2402 “City of York” took part in the 1925 celebrations of the Centenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway

Raven might, however, like to be remembered most for his electric locomotives designed for the Shildon – Newport and York – Newcastle electrification schemes, and it is a tragedy that this work was put on hold until the very end of the twentieth century.

Raven V-2 (LNER C-7) Atlantic No. 2202
Raven fitted the last member of the S-2 Class No. 825 with Stumpf Uniflow cylinders, but these produced little or no improvement and the engine was rebuilt in conformity with the rest of the class by Gresley in 1924
D (LNER T-1) 3-cylinder 4-4-4T No. 2143
First and last designs of the North Eastern Railway – Stephenson’s “Locomotion No. 1" with Sir Vincent Raven’s 4-6-2 No. 2402 “City of York” in a postcard view of the Stockton & Darlington Centenary celebration of 1925
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