The North Eastern Railway Class 'C' 0-6-0 locomotives were designed by T.W. Worsdell and built at the Company's Darlington and Gateshead Works over the decade between 1886 and 1895. Eventually 201 locomotives were built to this design and they worked for more than half a century on every part of the NER system from the Scottish Borders to West Yorkshire and from Penrith and Tebay to Hull. They were truly classic examples of functional and aesthetic 'High Victorian' engineering.
Initially both 'simple' and 'compound' propulsion versions were built but by 1913 all had been converted to 'simple' engines. More powerful superheated boilers were fitted from 1914, and many were converted from Joy to Stephenson valve gear.
All the Class 'C' locomotives were transferred into the ownership of the LNER where they were classified as 'J21'. There were some withdrawals beginning during the Depression in the 1930's, but 83 survived to be transferred into British Rail ownership in 1948. Their high power output with a light axle loading of only 15 tons 10 hundredweight made them excellent locomotives to use over Stainmore and their 5' 1¼" driving wheels meant that they could run at passenger train speeds. Around 25 members of the class were based at Kirkby Stephen East shed between about 1900 and 1954.
'65033' was never shedded at Kirkby Stephen but stole the limelight late in her career by working the last run by a J21 over Stainmore on an RCTS 'Special' on 7 May 1960. Amazingly on that trip the engine also worked its train on the LMS main line north from Tebay over Shap to Carlisle, no doubt giving the native LMR 'Big Lizzies' a good run for their money. She was the last of the class in service, and after withdrawal in April 1962 the engine lingered in the works yard at Darlington until 1966 when a decision was taken NOT to retain it for the National Collection. It seemed inevitable that the engine would be sold for scrap. Luckily at the last moment it was rescued by Beamish Museum and restored at Tanfield where it occasionally steamed at the museum site from 1975 to 1983.
In 2009 Ownership of the locomotive was transferred to the Locomotive Conservation and Learning Trust which is working on a programme to restore the engine to full working order as part of an ambitious programme to train a new generation in the traditional craft skills. We hope that she will shortly be visiting us at Kirkby Stephen in steam to run along the Eden Valley Line once more.