William Pickersgill and the Caledonian Railway ‘956’ Class Locomotives

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Courtesy of Dugald Drummond and John McIntosh, in the years leading up to World War 1 the Caledonian Railway had a motive power fleet the equal of any in the UK, with express power in the form of a whole series of 4-4-0s and, for the heaviest trains, the '49' and '903' classes of 4-6-0 of which the legendary ‘Cardean’ was one.

William Pickersgill succeeded McIntosh as CME in 1914 and was soon faced with all the effects of World War 1 on the railway. During the war, Pickersgill and his St. Rollox Works staff were charged with designing an engine to work, unassisted, the heaviest passenger trains on the Caledonian’s heavily graded main routes, from Carlisle to Glasgow and Aberdeen; specifically to haul 425 ton loads at up to 75-80 mph to maintain the booked timetable.

The resulting '956' class three-cylinder 4-6-0s, whilst certainly big, proved incapable of meeting these objectives and unable to match the performance of the ‘49’ and ‘903’ classes. Introduced in 1921 and largely used on goods workings, they had all been withdrawn by 1935.

In this magisterial book the author tries to make ‘An Objective Assessment’ of the class, looking at the background to them, William Pickersgill himself and the effects of the war, before performing a technical dissection of the design to find out what went, and was, wrong with it.

Very highly recommended for anyone interested in steam locomotive design.

Well produced 168 page hardback, full of B&W photos and drawings.