Merkur WD Austerity 0-6-0 (J94) Saddle Tank Locomotives
The ‘WD Austerity 0-6-0 ST’ designed by Riddles was one of the planned limited life shunting class of locomotives commissioned by the War Department during WW2. Developed for the British Army to support the allied invasion of Europe, the first of the class first steamed in January 1942. A total of 377 of this rugged and simple class of locomotive were built over the next four years with some 75 allocated for service with the British military in this country. Their short wheel base meant they were particularly appropriate for dock shunting work being able to negotiate sharp curves. Some of the class worked the coal fields.
In November 1945 the LNER took one of the 0-6-0ST class for trials and the following year purchased the remaining 70 odd locomotives giving them the J94 classification and numbering 8006-80. Because of their planned short working lives the LNER had to make a number of modifications to meet their needs including new cab seats, cab side doors, standard lamp irons and a number with extended coal bunkers. The entire batch ultimately entered British Railways (BR) service in 1948 being classified as 4F and renumbered 68006-80.
Under LNER ownership the J94s were largely allocated to sheds in north east England but in BR days they were transferred over a wider area. Apart from shunting duties the J94s were ideal for short distance trip workings and proved to be particularly useful on so called ‘difficult’ branch lines such as the Brymbo branch in North Wales, the East & West Yorkshire Union line but achieved a certain degree of fame on the BR Midland Cromford and High Peak line where by 1962 a total of four locomotives had been allocated.
The class was withdrawn from BR between 1960 and 1967 although a total of six of the J94s were sold to the coal industry between 1963 and 1965 and saw extended working lives with the National Coal Board (NCB). The last two of the J94s were withdrawn in 1967 when the last section of the Cromford and High Peak line was closed. Two of the Austerity J94s BR No: 68077 and 68078 as well as many ex industrial examples have survived into preservation.