Before we get into the class, I want to talk about something relating to this post:

We all know that Sodor isn't real, nor is the North Western Railway itself.

However, in this 'Alternate History', alongside my own take on proposed steam locomotives, I've decided to establish a alternate history on Sodor and it's railways, including the North Western Railway. Same origins as to the Railway Series, the North Western Railway was formed by the Sodor & Mainland Railway (S&M), the Wellsworth & Suddery Railway (W&S), and the Tidmouth, Knapford, & Elsbridge Light Railway (TK&ELR). However, unlike in the Railway Series, the North Western Railway was formed in 1923 as part of the 1923 Grouping Act, and the railway was also nationalized into British Railways.

In this alternate history, the popular characters, Thomas, Gordon, Percy, etc, were not part of the North Western Railway. Infact, this North Western Railway built it's own fleet of locomotives, which (most of them) made it to British Railways and some to preservation.

In this post, we'll be going on a fictional class of locomotives a Twitter user has created: The NWR U1 4-8-2 Class.


The North Western Railway's U1 Class 4-8-2, was designed by Colonel Payne, the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the North Western Railway at that time. The U1's were the most powerful class of locomotives on the North Western Railway. They operated on the North Western Main Line as heavy freight locomotives until the end of steam on the North Western Region in July 1968, when they were replaced by BR Class 44s. The U1's could reach speeds up to 80 mph (130 km/h).


The amount of freight trains on the North Western Main Line increased heavily, and soon more powerful locomotives were demanded. The North Western Railway's controller, Sir Bertram Derek, considered purchasing LMS Stanier 8F locomotives from Crewe Works, however the Chief Mechanical Engineer, Colonel Payne, drew up a 4-8-2 Mountain design that could be commissioned from Beyer, Peacock, & Company in Manchester. So in October 1938, a commission of 7 4-8-2 Locomotives was ordered from Beyer, Peacock, & Company, with production beginning in May 1939 and finishing in January 1940.


The U1 Class wasn't inspired on any specific design, but it was rumored that it was based off the P1 Class 4-8-0. The design was made using the same type of wheels as those used on Gresley's P2 Class. The boiler and frames were re-utilized from those used on the A1 Class. Originally, it was intended for the design to carry 3 cylinders. However, this was later changed to carry 4 cylinders. The design also included Stanier 4,000 Gallons tenders, commissioned from Crewe Works. With an estimated tractive effort of 55,000 lbf, and a loco weight of 101.1 long tons and tender weight of 56.35 long tons, the U1s had a total weight of 157.45 long tons.

Naming the locomotives​

The locomotives were all named after Sudrian Navy battleships, with the doyen of the class being named Mountaineer.


Due to the break out of World War II, they were shopped out in NW Wartime Black, and traveled under their own power via the London, Midland, & Scottish Railway to the North Western Railway. They were numbered 770-774, however they were renumbered 58-61 throughout the war, by the Ogmund Dalby WWII numbering scheme. The first 2 members of the class, Nos. 770 and 771, were tested on military trains on the North Western Main Line, as well as on heavy freight trains.

After proving to be successful, the remaining 5 Locomotives were finished by January 1940. They were also given nicknames, with the most common one being 'Mountaineers'. After the war, the 7 Locomotives were repainted to Midnight Blue, Plain Black, and Middleton Blue. They were also given names: No. 770 'Mountaineer', No. 771 'Challenger', No. 772 'Hurricane', No. 773 'Invincible', No. 774 'Hercules', No. 775 'Battleship', and No. 776 'Sudrian Warrior'.

Operational Details​

The U1's were generally thought of as very successful locomotives, O. S. Nock stating "The 'U1' was unquestionably the most distinctive and original of all the North Western steam locomotives, and with little doubt the most successful. They were remarkable in their astonishing capacity for speed as well as their work in heavy freight haulage. Reliable locomotives those were." After Nationalization in 1948, the class was renumbered 98770-98776 and were painted in BR Plain Black. In August 1952, No. 98770 'Mountaineer' was sucessfully trialled on the Lickey Incline, serving as a temporary banker for almost 2 months. Given by the success, from 1959-1961, No. 98772 'Hurricane' was designated for banking duties on the Maron Incline, while No. 98774 'Hercules' was designated for banking duties on the Ulfstead Incline.

The U1 turned out to be the best of the Payne classes, and one of the finest steam locomotives ever designed in Britain in terms of its capacity to haul heavy loads over long distances. It was highly effective at its designed purpose, hauling heavy, fast freight trains, and was used all over the North Western Region network. The U1's shared their assigned work with the U2 'Diamond' class, although the Diamonds were lighter than the Mountaineers, they were both the largest classes in the NWR. The Mountaineers were notoriously difficult for inexperienced crews to fire properly, due to their long firebox, and thus specific crews who had proven experience in firing the locomotives were therefore allocated to them.

Another issue of the Mountaineers was that they were rough riders at high speeds, as proven on 12 May 1954, when No. 98776 'Sudrian Warrior' was trialled on the 'Wild Nor' Wester' train from Tidmouth to Vicarstown. Although the trial was mostly a sucess, the passengers claimed that the journey was very rough. This situation happened again on the North Eastern Region on 30 June 1955, where No. 98774 'Hercules' was trialled on the 'Flying Scotsman' service from Kings Cross to York.


In February 1987, No. 98770 'Mountaineer' set the record for the heaviest train ever hauled by a steam locomotive in Britain, when it started a 2, 576-ton train near Edge Hill Motive Power Depot, covering for a failed BR Class 50 .

Accidents and Incidents​

- On 10 September 1945, No.771 'Challenger' derailed its tender at Vicarstown Marshalling Yard, when it reversed into a P2 Class 4-8-0 and some wagons. The incident was caused by a set of points malfunctioning.
- On 15 June 1947, No.775 'Battleship' was hauling a goods train from Tidmouth to Barrow-In-Furness, when it ran past a red signal and over ran a set of switch with direction to another track. The switch's rail snapped due to the locomotive's weight and derailed one of the trucks while the train was going over 60 mph. Several services were delayed due to the accident, and the locomotive went to Crovan's Gate Works for a new coupling.
- On 21 December 1949, No.98772 'Invincible' was derailed by a snowdrift after crashing through it at 80 mph while hauling a midnight goods train outside of Ballahoo. Only the crew members were injured. The locomotive was sent off to Crovan's Gate Works for repairs and returned to service 2 months after.
- On 2 June 1951, No.98774 'Hercules' was hauling a goods train bound for Liverpool when it derailed at Chester due to points failure. The train was taken over by an LMS 8F Class.
- On 9 December 1951, No.98774 'Hercules' crashed through buffers outside Maron with a goods train due to snow and frost freezing the points.
- On 18 March 1963, No. 98772 'Hurricane' derailed its tender when it returned to its banker siding at Wellsworth.


The class was gradually superseded on the heaviest trains during the 1960s by growing numbers of the BR Class 44s. The Class 44s proved to have the same traction effort whilst being lightweight. The Mountaineers withdrawals began in December 1967, and the last one to remain in service, No. 98770 'Mountaineer' was withdrawn on 29 July 1968. All the U1s were sold to Vicarstown Scrapyard Ltd.

Livery and numbering​

In the U1's introduction, the locomotives were painted in NW Wartime Black, carrying their Ogmund Dalby WWII Numbers (58-61). After the war, the locomotives' paint squeme was Midnight Blue, though some were painted in Plain Black and Middleton Blue, whilst given their 770-776 numbers. The initial livery applied following the nationalisation of the railways in 1948 was NWR Midnight Blue, with the lettering 'BRITISH RAILWAYS' on the tenders. In 1950, the livery was changed to BR Plain Black with the Early Crest. By this stage the locomotives were renumbered under standard British Railways procedure, from 98770 to 98776. The Crest was replaced by a new one in 1956.


Only 4 members survived into preservation: No. 770 'Mountaineer' was preserved by the Vicarstown Railway Museum in August 1968. No. 771 'Challenger' was preserved by the Payne Locomotives Society in November 1968. No. 773 'Invincible' was preserved by the Great Central Railway PLC in 1976. Finally, No. 775 'Battleship' was preserved by the Didcot Railway Centre in the mid 1970s.

List of U1 Class locomotives​

Number and Name - Date and Place Built - Shed Allocation - Withdrawal Date
770 Mountaineer - 2 October 1939, Beyer Peacock & Co - 90A Tidmouth - 28 July 1968
771 Challenger - 2 October 1939, Beyer Peacock & Co - 90A Tidmouth - 27 July 1968
772 Hurricane - 6 November 1939, Beyer Peacock & Co - 93A Maron - 13 December 1967
773 Invincible - 7 November 1939, Beyer Peacock & Co - 99A Vicarstown - 25 June 1968
774 Hercules - 20 December 1939, Beyer Peacock & Co - 99A Wellsworth - 14 April 1968
775 Battleship - 31 December 1939, Beyer Peacock & Co - 94A Cronk - 7 July 1968
776 Sudrian Warrior - 5 January 1940, Beyer Peacock & Co - 98A Ballahoo - 18 July 1968

No. 770 'Mountaineer' in NW Wartime Black, temporarily numbered as 58. (Model by Leonard07816662 on Twitter)
NWR U1 Remade Wartime Mountaineer.jpg
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