Britain's railways at the end of World War II found themselves in a very comparable plight in 1945 to that which they had suffered from twenty seven years earlier back in 1918. The management of the entire UK rail network had been placed under the direction of the government's Railway Executive Committee in 1939. In the severe austerity of the late 1940's the pre-war 'Big Four' railway companies would never again regain independent control of their assets and operations. State control through the REC remained in force right up until the nationalisation of the rail network by Clement Atlee's government which took place on 1 January 1948.
By 1945 the locomotives and rolling stock used to provide services on Britain's railways were in poor condition after six years of deferred maintenance, and operators were 'making do' with life expired and often Victorian vintage motive power. The end of hostilities meant that hundreds of recently built surplus War Department locomotives no longer required for Europe became available to relieve shortages of power for moving passengers and freight in the UK. But as far as Stainmore traffic was concerned the viaduct weight restrictions ruled out this option.
In 1946 the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LMS, George (H. G.) Ivatt produced a modern and lightweight 'mixed traffic' 2-6-0 tender locomotive design known as the '2MT'. It was intended for working all kinds of traffic on branch lines which required light axle loads. This new engine had many modern technical features that simplified repair, maintenance and firing and they were instantly popular with everyone who had to keep locomotives moving. Two 2MT's were first tried out on the route in the summer of 1948 and they proved to be ideal motive power for Stainmore. In 1951 thirteen new Ivatt 2MT's built at Darlington were allocated for use on trains over the summit, replacing several of the sixty year old veteran NER 0-6-0's still in use. In this picture Ivatt 2MT 46480 passes Barnard Castle West signal box arriving on a train from Kirkby Stephen to Darlington.
In 1949 at a time when other national railway administrations were already moving to diesel locomotive traction British Railways, in what must be seen now as an extraordinarily wasteful project, began work on the production of a new generation of 'Standard' steam locomotives. 999 engines were built in 12 classes between 1951 and 1960, and as the design team were mainly former LMS engineers the new 2MT Mixed Traffic tender locomotive design was virtually an exact copy of the Ivatt design of 1946. The only amendments were to minor details required to bring the new engines into line with other BR 'Standard' equipment. 65 of the locomotives were built at Darlington between 1952 and 1956, and from December 1953 a batch of 10 new engines numbered 78010 to 78019 were allocated between West Auckland and Kirkby Stephen sheds for use in traffic over Stainmore. Known amongst the enginemen as 'Mickey Mouses' they were soon hard at work moving the majority of mineral traffic between the North East and Cumbria. In the picture here BR 2-6-0 2MT 78013 arrives at Stainmore Summit with a second 'banking' locomotive behind still shoving at the rear of the mineral train up the final steep gradient.
In May 1955 eleven slightly larger locomotives of the Ivatt 2-6-0 4MT Class were transferred for use over Stainmore, after a new assessment of the strength of the viaducts. These engines were built at Horwich near Bolton in 1946, with further batches being constructed at Darlington and Doncaster until 162 had been completed by 1952. The design resembled Ivatt's smaller 2MT engines being built at the same time, but the boiler had more steam output and the bigger engines had 25% greater tractive effort. Six of the locomotives were based at Kirkby Stephen to handle those 'turns' requiring mineral trains to be collected at Tebay and taken east, and five at West Auckland shed.
In this picture taken in August 1958 Ivatt 4MT's 43073 and 43028 cross the River Eden bridge at Stenkrith as they accelerate a return 'Blackpool Special' out of Kirkby Stephen eastwards up towards Stainmore Summit and distant Tyneside
Finally in 1956 following further relaxations on viaduct loadings the British Rail 'Standard' BR 4MT 2-6-0's were allowed to work over Stainmore. Five of the bigger locomotives were allocated to Kirkby Stephen and seven to West Auckland. These engines very closely resembled their 'Ivatt 4MT 2-6-0 equivalents described above, just as the smaller Ivatt and BR 2MT locomotives followed the same basic design. But the 'front end' was a lot neater and aesthetically pleasing.
The 'Standard' 4MT's were powerful movers of heavy mineral trains but they also had fierce acceleration and the capacity for turns of speed. Leaving Barnard Castle for example with westbound 'specials' two of them on full regulator could get their trains up to 60mph in the level mile to Tees Valley to get a running start at the bank ahead.
In addition to the 2MT's and 4MT's described on this page mention also should be made of both the BR 2-6-0 3MT tender engines and the BR 3MT 2-6-2T tank locomotives which were also deployed operating the line during the 1950's. The tender locomotives operated in a pool with their 2MT and 4MT counterparts working passenger and freight traffic over the summit while the 82XXX tank engines handled the lighter local passenger trains both over the summit and to Penrith just before the dieselisation of these services in 1958.
British Railways 'Standard' 2-6-0 4MT on shed at Kirkby Stephen in 1958
Two Ivatt 2-6-0 4MT locomotives heading east out of Kirkby Stephen in 1958
Ivatt 2-6-0 2MT arriving at Barnard Castle with a train from Kirkby Stephen
BR Standard 2MT 78013 arriving at Stainmore Summit on a mineral train