With the opening of the through route to the Midland Railway at Olney, between Northampton and Bedford, via the Easton Neston Minerals, Towcester, Roade and Olney Junction Railway (yes, really!) the EWJR was able to offer the facility to the Midland of a short cut for freight traffic from Bristol docks to London. This was particularly useful for the perishable traffic of bananas. Trains arrived from Bristol at Broom Junction, where they were reversed over the EWJR. Initially Midland locos were used, but they were too heavy for the track and the East and West needed to provide its own power. However, the banana trains used stock fitted with the automatic vacuum brake, and the EWJR had no suitable locos. An approach was made to the LNWR, who were selling some of their famed DX goods locos, and three were bought at the end of 1892. One, LNWR 1891 (formerly 648 until 1887), had the vacuum brake fitted and was therefore technically an SDX – S standing for “special”: it became EWJR number 7 . The other two, LNWR 1945 (809 until 1889) and 1966 (825 until 1890) were not fitted with power brakes, and became general freight locomotives numbered 8 and 9. The working timetables had three paths allocated for banana trains, but the existence of the vacuum brake on number 7 only suggests that at first, only one train ran this way.
The DX goods locos bought had been fitted with new fireboxes and boilers under Webb, but these three appear to have had them built to the Ramsbottom pattern and dimensions (shorter firebox, larger boiler at a lower pitch – modellers beware!) which also had a top hinged smokebox door.
Number 9 was fitted with cast-iron wheels with 12 spokes of H-section instead of the usual 15 spoke variety. This was fairly uncommon, and they were nick-named as “duckfoot DXs”. Numbers 7 and 8 had been rebuilt by the LNWR in 1878 and 1880 respectively, but number 9 was not rebuilt, possibly explains why it still had the cast iron wheels? In 1903, number 8 was reported as having worn out wheels, and number 9 as being worn out apart from the wheels, so the obvious solution was to put the wheels from number 9 under number 8. This was reported in the “Locomotive Magazine”, in volume 13, 1907, as referenced on the invaluable Steamindex site.
When the line through to Olney was first opened in 1891, the Midland Ry. started a through goods service between London and Gloucester via the E. & W. Jn. Ry., Kentish Town engines working right through, but this arrangement was discontinued after a time and these trains have since been hauled by the East and West engines between Olney and Broom, a run of 55½ miles. To work this traffic three DX goods engines were purchased from the LNWR in 1892 and numbered 7, 8 and 9 by the E. and W. Ry… …Although these goods engines were chiefly used on this traffic, the size of the wheels made them available for dealing with heavy excursion trains off other-lines when required, as they were fitted with the vacuum brake. Old No.9 (DX goods) engine had been scrapped, and No.8 was running fitted with the cast-iron channel section spoked wheels originally under No. 9… …For details [we are] indebted to Mr. J.F. Burke, chief engineer of the E. & W. Jn. Ry. and Mr. J. Bradshaw, manager of the Stratford-on-Avon workshops.
The photo above is therefore dated between 1903 and 1908, when it was reported as “recently withdrawn”. The locomotive has acquired brakes on the loco, not just the tender, and appears to have had a vacuum ejector fitted – something not, so far, documented elsewhere, and which I surmise was added when it was rebuilt, making it a “special” DX in LNWR terminology. This suggests that number 8 had some substantial work carried out in 1903, to make one working loco out of two that were getting worn. Despite this, it was listed as “recently withdrawn” in 1908.
Number 7 was placed onto the duplicate list in 1908, renumbered as 07, and scheduled for scrapping but number 10 was in a worse state and number 7 was renovated and fitted with a new boiler of standard Webb pattern from the LNWR in 1914 and taken back into capital stock as 7, lasting until 1920.
It is somehow typical of the EWJR that they managed to buy three examples of one of the most numerous and famously standardised locomotive classes built in the UK, and all 3 were different!