The WB Yeadon London & North Eastern Railway collection



Admin History:

Willie Brayshaw Yeadon was born in Yeadon in the West Riding of Yorkshire on 28 June 1907. After his schooldays, he trained to become a mechanical engineer, and started work with Bradford Dyers, but was unfortunately made redundant in 1930 following the onset of terrible trading conditions. In 1931 he joined JH Fenner Ltd in Hull ('makers of improved beltings'), eventually becoming Sales Manager and then Marketing Manager, until his official retirement in 1972. He died at the age of 89 on 16 January 1997 in Hull Royal Infirmary after a short illness. By then he had become probably the country's leading authority on the London & North Eastern Railway and its locomotives. Indeed, Eric Fry, honorary editor of 'Locomotives of the LNER', writing in the 'Railway Observer' in March 1997, described him as possibly 'the foremost locomotive historian of all time'.

Willie Yeadon's earliest railway interest had been the London & North Western Railway, with visits and family holidays to Shap summit and Tebay. On his removal to Hull, however, the London & North Eastern Railway became his main preoccupation, and he was particularly inspired by the development and progress of Sir Nigel Gresley's Pacific class locomotives during the 1930s. He began to collect railway photographs in 1933, and continued his interest after railway nationalisation in 1948. The British Railways modernisation programme undertaken from the mid - 1950s prompted him to investigate and record the history of every LNER locomotive. This involved him in visits to locomotive sheds and railway engineering works throughout the old LNER territory ranging from north - east Scotland to London. He was regularly successful at salvaging ledgers and other records discarded by railway staff, particularly at Doncaster and Darlington - a task facilitated by his travels on behalf of his employer.

He was an active member of the Stephenson Locomotive Society and the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society for decades, but it is perhaps for his publications that he will be best remembered. He was a

major contributor to the RCTS's definitive 'Locomotives of the LNER' published in 19 volumes between 1963 and 1994. Yeadon had joined the RCTS in 1936 and when in 1954 the Society decided to commence its history he was an obvious choice to join the panel of authors. He was made an honorary life member of the Society in 1984. His other publications included the equally valuable 'Yeadon's Register of LNER Locomotives' (Irwell Press/Challenger Publications, 1990 - 1997), which he started when over 80 years old. Volume 12 of this monumental work was published shortly after his death and the series is being continued by its publisher (based on Yeadon's projections).

Yeadon produced two books identifying the exact location of every LNER locomotive at the beginning and end of the Company's existence: 'LNER locomotive allocations: the First Day, 1923' (Challenger Publications, 1996), and 'LNER locomotive allocations: 1947: the last day' (Irwell Press, 1989). Two further books dealt with his adopted city's railway history: 'Illustrated history of Hull's railways', with M Nicholson (Irwell Press, 1993), and 'More illustrated history of the railways of Hull' (Challenger Publications, 1995). In his final years he again returned to his first railway interest, publishing 'A compendium of LNWR locomotives', 2 volumes, (Challenger Publications, 1995 - 1996). Over the years he also wrote numerous journal articles for 'British Railways Illustrated', 'Railway World', 'Steam Railway', 'The Gresley Society Observer', 'The Stephenson Locomotive Society Journal' and others, sometimes under the nom de plume 'No 9499'.

The London & North Eastern Railway was the second largest company established as a result of the grouping of railway companies in Great Britain effective from 1 January 1923. It covered most of the East of England and Scotland, from London to the Moray Firth, with outposts in the west around Carlisle, Mallaig and Wrexham. There were seven major constituent companies, namely: The Great Northern Railway, The Great Central Railway, The Great Eastern Railway, The North Eastern Railway, The Hull & Barnsley, Railway, The North British Railway, and The Great North of Scotland Railway.

The Great Northern Railway, with its workshops centred on Doncaster, became the dominant influence, largely because its Locomotive Engineer, Nigel Gresley, became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER, and remained so for most of its short existence. The GNR was established in 1846 and had 1051 route miles and 1359 locomotives. Its main route ran from King's Cross in London to Doncaster and Leeds.

The Great Central Railway was the descendant of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway formed in 1849 and was thus named in 1897. It had 855 route miles and 1358 locomotives. Its routes included the Cheshire Lines Committee, and extended via Nottingham and Leicester to London Marylebone.

The Great Eastern Railway, formed in 1862, was the successor to the Eastern Counties Railway. It had 1191 route miles and 1336 locomotives, serving primarily agricultural areas in East Anglia, with extensive London suburban services based on Liverpool Street Station.

The North Eastern Railway had 1866 route miles and 2156 locomotives. It was formed in 1854, and amalgamated with the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1863. Its main line ran from York to Berwick, and it worked with the GNR and the North British Railway to operate mainline services to Scotland. It took over the Hull & Barnsley Railway just before grouping.

The Hull & Barnsley Railway was established in 1880 as an attempt to break the NER's monopoly in Hull. It had 106 route miles and 181 locomotives and its main line ran from Hull to Cudworth near Barnsley. The take - over by the NER took place in April 1922.

The North British Railway was established in 1844. It had 1378 route miles and 1075 locomotives. Its routes included that between Berwick and Edinburgh, plus most of the Scottish coalfields.

The Great North of Scotland Railway, established in 1846, had 334 route miles and 122 locomotives. Its routes were concentrated north of Aberdeen and it was actually detached from the rest of the LNER system, relying on running powers over Caledonian Railway Company (later part of the London Midland & Scottish) tracks to reach Aberdeen.

The LNER also owned two - thirds of the Cheshire Lines Committee (the rest was LMS - owned), and was joint owner of the Isle of Axholme Railway. It took over the operation of the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway from 1936 and from 1937 assumed responsibility for the former Metropolitan Railway in and around London.

The business headquarters of the LNER was Marylebone Station in London. The first chairman was William Whitelaw, former chairman of the North British Railway. He was succeeded in 1938 by Sir Ronald Matthews. Sir Ralph Wedgwood became the first general manager, to be succeeded by Sir Charles Newton in 1939. Three individuals occupied the post of Chief Mechanical Engineer: Sir Nigel Gresley (1923 - 1941), Edward Thompson (1941 - 1946), and AH Peppercorn (1946 - 1947). There were usually just over 200,000 employees for most of the company's existence, and still 195,100 in 1947. Its multifarious activities also took in steamship services, docks and quays, hotels, and bus companies, such as East Yorkshire Motor Services Ltd. The Company suffered greatly from adverse trading conditions for most of its existence. The LNER came under Government control on the outbreak of war in 1939, and was nationalised with the rest of British railways with effect from 1 January 1948, when all powers were vested in the British Transport Commission. At that point LNER's southern area became the Eastern region of British Railways and the North Eastern area formed the North Eastern region. LMS and LNER lines in Scotland were merged to form BR's Scottish Region.

Despite the adverse trading conditions, the LNER embarked on an impressive policy of rationalisation and building, notably the Gresley - designed A4 streamlined Pacific class, and as late as 1947 announced the building of 25 diesel - electric locomotives that were to spell the beginning of the end for steam power.

Nevertheless, during its existence the LNER owned about 10000 steam locomotives, with a total of 7399 in 1923 and 6545 in 1947. Indeed, much administrative and practical effort was put into organising their location and numbering, a fact reflected in Willie Yeadon's own almost obsessive interest in shed allocations and locomotive re-numbering.


This substantial collection relating to the London & North Eastern Railway is in three main parts: photographic material; research notes and files by Mr Yeadon; and original railway company records.

The photographic collection is very extensive, with over 31000 photographs present. The bulk of these are held in a series of photograph albums (DYE/1/2 - 135) as arranged by Yeadon in several sequences: LNER locomotives (in class order); LNER trains (again in locomotive class order); and aspects of LNER locomotives and trains, including named trains, liveries, exhibitions and parades, and so on. Each album has been meticulously assembled, with the photographs accompanied by detailed and very informative hand - written notes. This is followed (DYE/1/136 - 177) by several thousand individual photographs which were categorised by Yeadon on a thematic or subject basis, such as 'Great Northern Railway', 'Hull & Barnsley Railway', or 'Tenders'. As with the contents of the albums, these photographs were obtained by Mr Yeadon from multifarious sources, and the provenance is usually indicated, frequently with brief notes. However, many specimens have no accompanying information. Accordingly, Mr Yeadon's rough classification has been retained. General details about the contents of each batch of photographs are provided in the list of the collection, but it has not been possible to catalogue them individually.

Section 2 comprises research notebooks, files and other research papers by WB Yeadon. The division between this section and section 3 (original LNER records) is somewhat arbitrary, as Mr Yeadon had a habit of inter - filing his own and original material, and also of continuing and updating (in some cases even correcting) the contents of original LNER records. This section is in itself a potentially rich source for railway historians. It includes the core working notebooks for Yeadon's 'Register of LNER locomotives' (in 9 volumes at DYE/2/1 - 9). There are also copies of various boiler registers (DYE/2/10 - 15), and particularly extensive notes and files on locomotive shed allocations (DYE/2/22 - 28) and locomotive/ tender numbering (DYE/2/29 - 35). Files relating to the Hull area (DYE/2/41 - 42) inevitably contain much valuable documentary and statistical information, plus facsimiles of original documents.

The third section is again a very varied artificial collection of original LNER records acquired by Mr Yeadon from various sources. Most of it was literally thrown away (or on the point of being thrown away) by staff at workshops at Doncaster, Darlington and elsewhere, and would have been lost but for Mr Yeadon's intervention. The material has been roughly ordered in this catalogue on the basis of type (such as registers, locomotive repairs, special fittings, liveries, and so on) rather than of provenance - largely because a fair proportion of the items are effectively anonymous. Also, most sections have been arranged purely in date order, thereby presenting the logical progression from pre-grouping companies, to the LNER, and then (in some cases) to British Railways, within each category. Particularly significant items include GNR stock registers from 1896 (DYE/3/2 - 3); AC Stamer's list of NER locomotives, dated 1920, but covering the period 1864 - 1952 (DYE/3/1); and Darlington construction orders, starting in 1923, with some signed by the LNER's Chief Mechanical Engineer, Sir Nigel Gresley (DYE/3/13).

There are numerous locomotive repair records from both the Darlington and Doncaster workshops, including several hundred repair records for individual locomotives between the 1920s and 1940s (DYE/3/14 - 289). Boiler records (including repairs and re - numbering) are also quite extensive, with examples from the ex - Great Central Railway, ex - North Eastern Railway and ex - Great Northern Railway workshops (DYE/3/290 - 305). The section on special fittings includes records relating to brakes, steam heating, and lubrication (DYE/3/307 - 315). There are also items relating to locomotive shed allocations and other changes, particularly from the LNER Southern Area (later Eastern Region) based on Liverpool Street Station in London (DYE/3/316 - 323) and the North - Eastern Area (York) (DYE/3/324 - 325). The small collection of diagrams and plans includes an Engine diagram book for the Great North of Scotland section from c.1926 (DYE/3/338) and for the Hull & Barnsley section of the North Eastern Railway in c.1923 (DYE/3/337), together with a set of some 120 LNER boiler diagrams from the 1930s and in some cases updated to c.1958 (DYE/3/341), and a volume containing diagrams of 'Specially constructed wagons' probably from the Cowlairs works and dating from about 1930 (DYE/3/340). Finally in this section, there are a few items derived from employees of the Company, including a notebook compiled by PN Townend - sometime Shed Master at King's Cross Locomotive Depot (Top Shed) - between 1941 and 1945, which includes details of journeys made, and other information (DYE/3/359). There are also four anonymous logbooks compiled by an ex - Great Central Railway area driver, apparently based in Northwich, between May 1954 and December 1956.

Finally, the small collection of published or printed material includes a Sharpe's corresponding map of the railways of England and Wales dating from 1847 (DYE/4/1), a copy of the Hull Railway Guide for September 1943 (DYE/4/6), and a prize specimen - a well-thumbed copy of Risdon Prentice and Peter Proud's 'The Locomotives of the LNER 1923 - 1937' published by the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society in 1941 (DYE/4/8).