In 1932, when William Stanier became the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London Midland Scottish, most of the region’s freight traffic was being hauled by ageing 0-8-0 engines, many of which dated from the pre-grouping period. By 1934, freight traffic accounted for 58% of the LMS’s turnover and the only modern stock available for haulage were Beyer-Garrett and ‘Austin Seven’ Class 7F locomotives. These locomotives had serious maintenance issues, as well as proving inadequate for the gradual acceleration of freight traffic as decreed by the Operating Department and so Stanier looked to the Great Western Railway for design inspiration for his new freight locomotive.
The influence came from the GWR’s 28xx class, but Stanier’s chief draughtsman, T.F Coleman, removed any legacy of that locomotive from the final design, resulting in a typically balanced Stanier locomotive that was similar in appearance to that of the ‘Black 5’. The first locomotives left Crewe Works in June 1935 and initially were classified as 7F, although this was soon changed to 8F and the class quickly proved its worth on the whole range of freight duties, as well as express goods, parcels and occasional passenger traffic.
By 1939, 126 locomotives had been built for the LMS and, impressed by the wide routing availability and ability to negotiate curves of just 4½ chains, the War Department selected the 8F as its first standard design for overseas service, eventually ordering or requisitioning 228 locomotives which served in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Israel, Palestine and Turkey, as well as the United Kingdom. Once hostilities ceased, these locomotives were either sold to the incumbent state railways or repatriated to the UK and absorbed into British Railways.
On the home front, the Ministry of War Transport had also selected the 8F as the standard wartime freight locomotive, with the result that a further 450 locomotives were built; 205 for the LMS at Crewe, Horwich and North British and 245 by the other three regions, at Ashford, Brighton and Eastleigh, Darlington and Doncaster, and Swindon. The LNER even went as far as constructing a further sixty eight as Class O6, these being transferred back to the LMS in a ‘swap’ for War Department 2-8-0 locomotives.
By the time that the final engine was built in October 1946, 852 8F locomotives had been constructed, of which 666 made it onto the British Railways stockbook, with 150 still being in service in January 1968. The 8F had become the largest class of Stanier locomotive, the fourth largest class of British locomotive and at the end of British Rail steam in August 1968, represented more than half the total of steam locomotives still in service. It is also the only British locomotive type to have been constructed by all of the rail companies, this taking place in eight different workshops, as well as at three different contractors.
Locomotive 8035 was built at the Vulcan Foundry Works as Works No.4712 and entered traffic in August 1936, avoiding the War Department ‘draft’. Post-war, the locomotive operated across the Midland region, operating from ten different sheds, the longest allocation being at Rugby between June 16, 1957 and January 9, 1965. Renumbered to 48035 in June 1948, the locomotive was withdrawn from service at Tyseley in March 1967.