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During the Second World War, British Railways were in a parlous state, and to keep the war effort moving, the Ministry of Supply took over responsibility to provide railway infrastructure. The locos shown here are part of that effort, including some locos supplied by the USA.
These locos were introduced by the Ministry of Supply and built by a range of builders: Hudswell Clarke, Bagnall, Stephesons and Hawthorns (carna Hawks!) Hunslet, Barclay and Vulcan. They were subsequently purchased by a number of railway operators, which perhaps accounts for their widespread distribution in preservation. That, and the fact that being a shunting engine, they are well suited to propelling carriages back and forth over short stretches of line, a characteristic of preservation railways in Britain!
Chris Grace writes most comprehensively about the "class":
These locomotives are frequently referred to as 'J94s' but this is in fact incorrect. They were called "WD Austerity Saddle Tanks" (Or "British Austerity Saddle Tanks" depending on your source.
A considerable number were built during the war by Hunslet, RSH, and Vulcan for the ministry of supply. These were located at Military Installations, Royal Ordnance Factories, and Coal mines and were moved around a lot.
IT probably isn't truly accurate to describe them as shunting locomotives. ALthough they were used for this purpose the military tended to use diesels for shunting. The Austerities were more trip locomotives. When I was at the Longmoor Military Railway they were used for the internal passenger service, which was 8 miles from Bordon to Liss, hardly a Shunt. Many of the colliery lines involved long trips to the main line as well. (Having said this the railways here in New Zealand call a train which runs along a line picking up and dropping off traffic as it goes a "Shunt'. I don't know if they do the same think in Oz. In the UK that sort of movement is a "Trip". A Shunter is a locomotive that makes up and breaks down trains in a yard or depot)
After the war when the number required reduced heavily a number were sold to the National Coal Board and also to the London And North Eastern Railway, which classified them as 'J94', or the 94th class of 0-6-0 locomotives. Thus J94 only really applies to those locomotives which the LNER bought and later passed to British Railways on Nationalisation.
A further batch was built by Hunslet for the Army War Reserve in 1953. These were stored for some years and then progressively introduced into service with the Army, replacing wartime locomotives which were worn out.
The National Coal Board found the type very useful and continued to place orders for them after the war. Hunslet obviously treated them as a standard design, as some were sold to other users as well. Hunslet also purchased some back from the Army, reconditioned them, and sold them on. The NCB spent a lot of money on them, converting them with Giesl Ejectors and underfeed stokers.
It is very difficult visually to say whether a particular locomotive ever belonged to the Army as they are all to a standard design.
68011 in your picture is, I'm afraid, masquerading as a 'J94'. Despite the number it never ran on British Railways. The highest number for a J94 was, I think, 68010. The current operators simply painted it in BR livery and gave it the next number in the J94 series.
In fact "68011" is WD196, "Errol Lonsdale" (The army named locos after heroes, and Generals. General LOnsdale was in charge of the Army Transport Staff). This is one of the War Reserve Batch, being build by Hunslet in 1953 works no 3796. It served on the enormous Bicester Military Railway from around 1958 to 1967 when it was transferred to the (almost as large) Longmoor Military Railway where it was named and stayed there until Longmoor closed in 1970 and was then sold to the K&ESR, who obviously sold it on.
It may have had another name whilst at Bicester. My research material is at home, so I can't check.
The War Reserve obviously didn't stay a reserve for very long (1953-8), although its existence is often quoted as one justification for the presence of a 'Strategic Reserve' of steam locomotives in the UK.
The Longmoor livery was a very attractive Royal Blue and Red , as illustrated in your picture of "Gordon". Why the owners decided to paint 'Errol Lonsdale' in the horrible BR Black freight livery I cannot imagine, but it's their loco, I suppose.
Similarly 68012 is another impostor as it went from the WD to the NCB and thus never carried a BR number. I'm pretty sure that 'Diana' isn't even an Austerity. I think it was one of the batches built later on by Hunslet to the same design for Industry.
There were one or two J94s transferred from BR to the NCB towards the end of steam. I did have somewhere the history of the entire class which was published in "Railway World" in the early 1960s, but have been looking for it for some years without success. You can find most information in Tourret's "War Department Locomotives", The OPC History of the Bicester Military Railway, which was the central workshops where most of them were overhauled, and the history of the Longmoor Military Railway where other overhauls were done. However none of these sources deal with the locomotives which were not built for the Army.
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