At the end of normal steam operation on BR in August 1968, the most numerous surviving locomotives were the Stanier '8F'2-
The '8F' was a most versatile machine; it could take real punishment on heavy freight work, whilst its free running capabilities allowed express freight and parcels trains to be worked with ease, and passenger trains to be handled competently in emergencies. Rarely, either at home or in the inhospitable wastes of the Middle East, were its performance or reliability found wanting.
Introduced by Sir William Stanier in 1935, the 126 '8Fs' quickly established a formidable reputation. In 1939, the War Department chose the '8F' as its initial standard design for overseas service. 208 locomotives were built for the WD. by Beyer Peacock and the North British Locomotives Co., including 27 sent to Turkey to fulfil a commercial export order some of which were still in service in 1987. The WD. engines worked in Persia, Palestine, the Lebanon and Egypt. Some reached Italy in 1945, and after the war, many operated in these countries and in Iraq and Israel.
In Britain, the '8F' became the standard wartime freight locomotive and was built by all the 'Big Four' railways. 205 locomotives were ordered by the LMS, and 245 were built by the GWR, LNER and SR. The LNER ordered a further 68 examples for its own use, and with 852 locomotives constructed in no less than 11 workshops, the '8Fs' became the fourth largest class of British locomotives. In 1948,39 locomotives returned from Egypt, and with the return of three more including No. 8233 in 1957, there were eventually 666 '8Fs' at work on Britain's railways.
For over thirty years the class formed the backbone of the freight locomotive stud of the LMS and London Midland Region, of BR. The engines could however, be widely seen as only the Southern Region did not have a permanent allocation. As dieselisation progressed, the class staged a valiant rearguard action on the North Western lines of the LMR. Despite the layers of dirt, the steam leaks and their run down condition, the '8Fs' remained hard at work on demanding duties into the last hours of regular steam operation in this country, the birthplace of the steam locomotive. And yet, no example was scheduled for official preservation as part of the National Collection.
Comparatively few heavy freight locomotives have survived; the extensive publicity accorded to passenger locomotives has often obscured the hard and essential work performed by the freight locomotive stud, and few examples of modern pre-