This section is under development. I hope to have better quality photos at some point..

 The BR steam era is within the memory of many of us, either as observers of the railway in service or of the many preserved locomotives and coaches still in service, yet surprisingly, there are many areas of ignorance of livery matters. I hope to shed some light on the matter and perhaps throw out some questions where I do not know the answer.

 BR liveries have not had the attention they deserve in print. Many of the publications covering the early days pay little attention to livery matters - and contain errors. The only publication to specialise on the subject, Brian Haresnape’s book ‘Railway Liveries - BR Steam 1948-1968’, only gives outline coverage of the topic and contains the odd error.

 During BR’s fifty years of existence there were five livery periods that I would define as follows-


Period 0     1948           Initial experimentation

           1      1949-56      Standard liveries, first emblem, crimson and cream coaches

           2      1956-65      Second emblem (crest), crimson lake coaches, regional variations

           3      1965-87      Corporate image - blue and grey

           4      1987-97      Sectorisation    


This paper covers only Periods 0 – 2.

 Although specific dates are given for each period there was a great deal of overlap between them. Coaching stock was repainted every 5-7 years and locomotives between 3-10 years depending on type and usage. Pre-nationalisation liveries lived side by side with period 2 in a few cases. Also, rebellious depots used to sneak in the odd livery variant, even during period 3, which was the most rigorously imposed era. It seems that since the Grouping the railways never succeeded in managing to present a completely uniform livery. The LMS never got to grips with uniformity and the GWR changed some aspect of its livery every couple of years. Only the LNER came near to achieving it before the war sent everything into decline.

 Note, a word of warning, as with all liveries ‘always’ means ‘mostly’ and ‘never’ means ‘except sometimes’! However categorical some fact may seem someone will turn up with a photo showing otherwise.

 The 1947 Transport Act which brought about the nationalisation of the railways included, as well as the Big Four, some minor railways that had not been ‘grouped’ in 1923, and London Transport. Other transport undertakings including Docks and Inland Waterways, selected road transport companies eg ‘Pickfords’, and the railway hotels all came within the Act. All these bodies were vested in the British Transport Commission. As I write this only Network Rail and a reduced London Transport, now known as Transport for London, remain in public ownership.

 Each of the four divisions of the Transport Commission was run by an Executive that had overall control and was responsible for policy making. The day to day running of the railways was controlled by six Regions, whose boundaries generally corresponded with those of the previous four companies except that the ex LNER territory in England was split into the Eastern Region and North Eastern Region. The ex LMS and LNER in Scotland were joined to form the Scottish Region. There were some adjustments to the boundaries, especially in the administration of the former Joint Lines, which were allocated wholly to one region. 


                                                                   PERIOD 0


During the first few months of 1948 the railway works continued to turn out freshly painted engines in the livery of their parent company but the first indication of the change of ownership was that during January company markings no longer appeared on locomotives and they were leaving the works with blank tender or tank sides.

From mid January ‘BRITISH RAILWAYS’ was painted on the engines, usually with a large space between the two words, probably to allow for the future introduction of a suitable emblem. This meant that the lettering sat very awkwardly on some engines, especially the smaller ones and those with oddly shaped side tanks (eg LMS 2-6-4Ts). It was also applied to motored coaches of some EMUs.

 The lettering was hand painted so that there were variations in the style and size. The WR and SR initially used lettering in their company style but later used a plain sans serif letter form approximating to Gill Sans. As the official cream colour was not defined/available until 1949 the SR used Southern lining yellow for lettering. The WR may have used coach cream for the lettering; the LMR and ScR (ex LMS) used the LMS 1946 letter shape in LMS straw (in 6, 8 and 10” size) and the ER, NER and ScR (ex LNER) used the final LNER style lettering in yellow for all classes (except A4 which were ‘silver white’). The LNER ‘Gill Sans’ lettering style was virtually that adopted by BR. (History of this?)

 It can be seen in some photographs of SR engines, which had BRITISH RAILWAYS in the Southern style, that the letters H, R, S and T were transfers from the word SOUTHERN and the rest hand painted to match.

 There were experiments with an emblem before the final adoption of the Lion straddling a wheel (cycling ferret) in December 1948. Two earlier types of Lion and Wheel emblems (‘Kitten and ball of wool’) were exhibited on the tenders of ER B1s Nos 61001 and 61009 on 19th April 1948 at Liverpool Street station (shown in British Railways Illustrated) and the familiar BR “sausage” symbol, as used on road vehicles and publicity material, was tried out on the tender of a SR ‘Schools’ class engine. It was tried in at least two styles – firstly with the lettering and sausage outline in a light colour (cream?) on the background colour of the tender (malachite green) and then with the colours transposed but with a much darker border picking out the edge of the ‘sausage’. The emblem was over 14 ft. long by about 3ft 6in high – totally out of scale with the tender. The tender was coupled to No. 926 for photographs but it is probable that it never ran in service, although the latter version was photographed coupled to No. 926 in steam.

 The final version of the Lion and Wheel was in fact the emblem of the British Transport Commission and appeared in two versions, with a railway wheel for the Railway Executive and a road wheel for the Road Transport Executive. The emblem was designed for the BTC and adopted by the railway very shortly after. The railway’s own symbol was the sausage or hot dog, or totem, which subsequently never appeared on rail vehicles, except for First & Second Class coach window stickers, but was used most extensively on station signs, road vehicles and publicity. It was designed by A J White.

 The Lion and Wheel, very much an ‘Art Deco’ design and typical of its time never received general approval. To quote Brian Haresnape in ‘British Rail 1948-83, A Journey by Design’ “It was not a true heraldic device, and worse still, it was not very attractive to the eye. The poverty stricken lion soon earned itself the nickname of ‘starving’, whilst some thought it was riding a bicycle…” Emaciated it may have been, but it was certainly emasculated. Strangely, the BRITISH RAILWAYS in the horizontal bar was not in the official Gill Sans style. (Haresnape attributes the design to Abram Games in 1949, wrong date, wrong designer.) The design was in fact the work of Cecil Thomas, as a low relief sculpture, which was possibly reinterpreted on commission by Games. Abram Games was originally Hungarian whose main claim to fame was the Festival of Britain logo. There is no British Railways emblem in the Abram Games Archive.

 It had appeared by June 1948 and was applied to a number of WR engines at Swindon, Nos. 5023, 5954, 6009 and 6910 being examples. This early version had a lighter coloured background (blue? grey?) to the central bar. During July 1948 No. 5023 was running with a tender lettered British Railways, without the emblem, possibly due to a tender change.

 Once the decision was taken to adopt the emblem the BR lettering on engines ceased. The transfers for the new emblem were not available immediately so once again a number of engines were returned to traffic, this time in BR livery, without ownership markings, even as late as mid 1949.


In late January 1948 an interim renumbering system appeared whereby a letter prefix was applied to the existing company number; the letters being, logically, E, M, S, or W.

 The regional letter prefix to the engine number was applied in a variety of styles, generally smaller than the number. The ER, NER and SR generally applied a very small letter (in relation to the number size) in front of the number. The WR generally put a small white W below the cab side number plate. The LMR usually put a same size letter under the number but occasionally it went above or in front. Because it was only an interim style it was never standardised and this is a case where a photograph of the actual engine needs to be studied for accuracy, if painting a model. The smoke box number plates of a few ex LMS engines were modified by fitting a metal plate bearing the letter M to the left of the number plate.

 Ex LMS Royal Scot No. 6169 ran for a time as M46169 in LMS 1946 livery with BR on the tender.

By April the standard numbering system had been decided so it was only from late January to mid March that the interim Regional Letter system was used although, of course, its results lasted until the mid 50s on some engines.   

 Surprisingly the WR was allowed to keep the GWR number plates on its engines despite it being economically more sound for the largest company (ie LMS) to keep its numbering (as it already had smoke box number plates) and, secondly, the cab side number plates were nowhere near as legible from a distance as the larger painted numbers. The plates could have been melted down to produce valuable brass for other fittings and cast iron for smoke box number plates.

 The chosen system was, for steam engines, as follows-



Numbers would stay the same (except for some older pre-grouping engines that were already in the process of being renumbered).

 The ex Ystalyfera Tinplate Works 0-4-0ST was purchased by BR from the liquidators and given the number 1. This engine had never belonged to the GWR

 New engines built by BR to GWR designs were numbered within the GWR system.

 The GWR had devised a reasonably logical system of numbering its engines, which was tied in to the engine class. For example the ‘King’ class was officially the 6000 Class and the numbers ran from 6000 to 6029. A problem occurred when there were more than 100 engines in the class. This was solved by keeping the second digit constant so that, for example, the ‘Hall’ class, which was the 4900 Class, started with 4900-4999 but then continued with 5900-5999 and then 6900-6958. The ‘Modified Hall’ class, officially the 6959 Class continued the series from 6959-6999 and 7900-7929.

 This system served for every class except the 5700 Class pannier tanks, which were too numerous to be accommodated in the system. These started in 1929 with 5700-5799, 7700-7799 and 8700-8749. In 1930 a sub-class with minor differences was introduced at 6700-6749. In 1933 further sub classes were introduced, firstly 9700-9710, and then 8750-8799 and 9711-9799. At this point the system broke down, as only 37xx was available because 27xx and 47xx already existed as classes. The 4700 Class only consisted of ten engines and could have been renumbered into one of the many gaps in the numbering system but it was decided to continue the 5700 class at 3600-3799, 4600-4699, 9600-9682. The series was concluded with a further sub class in 1949 with 6750-6779.          

 Engines that had been absorbed at the Grouping were allocated to vacant numbers in the GWR system between 1 and 2197. The allocation was on the basis of wheel arrangement/originating railway/tractive effort. These absorbed engines carried the letters GWR on their number plates, above the number, and also, stamped on the rim, their original company and number.

 A number of absorbed engines were renumbered again from 1946 to tidy up the numbering of the more modern classes and to free up more blocks of numbers. The renumbered engines did not have GWR on the plates, in order to distinguish renumbered from un-renumbered engines.

 Also, in 1948, engines, which had been converted to oil burning, and had been renumbered as a consequence (eg 28xx to 48xx), were converted back to coal burning and were being given their old numbers back.  


 Numbers would have 30,000 added except on Bulleid engines, which had alphanumeric numbers. These were renumbered into the 33xxx (Q1), 34xxx (West Country/Battle of Britain) and 35xxx (Merchant Navy) series. The ‘Leader’ class, built after 1948, was numbered 36001-3 but only 36001 was completed. Isle of Wight engines, which were in a series of their own, were not renumbered at all although on paper they carried a W prefix. Engines on the Southern duplicate list (3xxx series) would have clashed with the Q1s so were renumbered from 30564 to 30589. These included classes 0395 0-6-0, 0415 4-4-2T (Adams Radial), 0298 2-4-0T (Beattie Well Tank) and C14 0-4-0T. 

 The two independent railways, Kent & East Sussex and East Kent were nationalised and came under the Southern Region on 2nd February 1948. Two engines entered BR stock, the remainder being scrapped. KESR No 3, an ex LBSCR Terrier, received the number it would have carried had it remained on the Southern - 32670 and EKR No 4 was numbered 30948 adjacent to the ex EKR 0-8-0T taken into Southern Railway stock some time earlier (30)949.  

 The Southern Railway had perpetuated the numbering systems of its constituents save for the addition of 1000 to ex-SECR engines and 2000 to ex-LBSCR.

 LSWR locomotives had been allocated to available blocks of numbers that were vacant at the time of construction. There was no attempt to number different batches of a class consecutively.

 The SECR was even more random in that any space in the system vacated by a scrapped engine could be occupied by a new engine. It was anathema for the powers who invented the system for there to be any gaps in the numbering, scrapped engines immediately having their numbers taken by new. When the locomotive stock of the LCDR and SER were combined to form the SECR the SER numbers stayed the same but the LCDR numbers were changed by having 459 (!) adding to each one because that was the number of engines on the SER. Any right minded person would have settled on 500 as the number to be added – it would certainly have made the arithmetic easier when altering the engine record cards!

 The LBSC initially used a similar system but in later years new classes were allocated to specific blocks of numbers.

 Engines built by the Southern Railway during the Maunsell period were given numbers within the existing systems. The N, N1, U, U1 and W family, which were all derivatives of the ‘River’ Class 2-6-4Ts, were numbered in the 1xxx range as developments of an SECR design. Likewise the L1 class, which was entirely new construction, not a development of the L class, but bore strong similarities to the D1 and E1 classes was numbered in the SECR series. The new designs – Lord Nelson, Q, V and Z were given blocks of numbers in the LSWR series.    

 Mr Bulleid, as ever radical, started a new system, which was based on wheel arrangement. More specifically it was based on the Continental method, which counted axles rather than wheels and used letters for the driving axles. Thus a 4-6-2 was a 2C1. Bulleid rearranged this to give 21C and numbered his Pacifics 21C1 – 21C170. Zeroes were ignored so that the Q1s were simply C1 – C30. It is logical to assume that the Leader class would have been numbered from CC1 had they been finished before 1948. Or would they? The electric locomotives already carried the designation CC

On nationalisation the opportunity was missed to renumber the entire SR stock into a logical system, as had been done with LNER engines two years earlier.


Numbers would have 40,000 added, except for those engines that had been renumbered into the 2xxxx range in 1934 to allow for increasing numbers of standard engines and, because of continuing construction of new engines beyond 1948, further classes of older ex MR and LNWR engines.

 The Mersey Electric Railway, which had been an independent concern, had one steam locomotive, No. 3, (an ex LNER J66), which was sent to Stratford for recovery of spare parts, and scrapped without renumbering.

 The LMS had embarked on a comprehensive renumbering of all its engines soon after the grouping. The locomotives were allocated to the four Operating Divisions, which roughly corresponded to the boundaries of the constituent companies. They were Midland (MR, LTSR and NSR), Nos. 1-4999; Western (LNWR), Nos. 5000-9999; Central (L&Y, FR, M&CR and C&WR), Nos.10000-12999; and Northern (CR, G&SWR and HR), Nos. 14000-17997. Within each the locomotives were numbered in the following order – Passenger Tender engines, Passenger Tank, Freight Tank, Freight Tender. Within each type the engines were numbered in order of age within ascending order of power.

 Initially there were enough gaps in the numbers for new engines to be numbered in blocks but eventually, in 1934, a more radical renumbering was required to make room for the modern Stanier engines coming on stream. It had been decided that all new engines should carry four figure numbers so, to make way for this, some older MR and LNWR engines were renumbered into the 2xxxx series by adding 20000 to their numbers.

 In 1948 further space were required so that all the unrenumbered ex MR 2F 0-6-0s and ex LNWR 0-6-2T Coal Tanks, together with the ex MR 0-4-4Ts were moved into the BR 58xxx range along with the LMS 2xxxx locomotives. The renumbering was in the order of Passenger Tender, Passenger Tank, Freight Tender, Freight Tank, in descending order of power (generally) - a subtle change of order from the 1923 system.


 Numbers would have 60,000 added, the exceptions being the W1 No. 10000, which was renumbered 60700 and the L1 2-6-4Ts, which were renumbered from the 9xxx series to 67700 onwards. B7s and some B16s were subsequently renumbered again to make room for the increasing number of newly built B1s.

 Ex War Department engines, at that time on loan to BR, were to be numbered in the 7xxxx series except for the LMS design 8F 2-8-0s, which were renumbered in the 48xxx series after the ex-LMS engines. The MoS 0-6-0STs had already been acquired by the LNER in 1946 and classified J94 in the number series 8006-8080.

 On the introduction of the BR Standard engines from 1951 the WD engines were then renumbered into the 90xxx series.

 In 1946 the LNER had renumbered its entire stock of locomotives by age within class, with certain exceptions.  The scheme divided the stock into six coupled passenger, 1-999: six coupled mixed traffic, 1000-1999; four coupled tender, 2000-2999; eight coupled tender, 3000-3999; six coupled freight tender, 4000-5999; electric, 6000-6999; passenger tank, 7000-7999; shunting tank, including diesels, 8000-8999; freight and mixed traffic tank, 9000-9999; and W1, 10000. 

 Not the most logical order one must admit. Even then there were anomalies as the V2s were numbered 800 onwards rather than in the 1000-1999 series and the L1s were originally put in at 9000 rather than the passenger tank series. Even the W1 could have been put in at 700.

 There remains a mystery as to how the classes were ordered in the new numbering system. The locomotives had been classified in a reasonably logical order in 1923 so it would be reasonable for the classes to be numbered consecutively within the divisions above ie J1, J2, …J40 or D1, D2…D49. However, this was not to be and the classes within some wheel arrangements were put in a seemingly random order for renumbering. What is apparent is that some classes introduced by Gresley were numbered at the end of the class sequence, (eg, B17, D49, J38) while those introduced by Thompson appeared at the beginning, (eg, B1, K1).


  All diesel engines were grouped together into the 1xxxx series regardless of origin, in descending order of power. Thus the two LMS diesels retained their LMS numbers. Gaps were left for planned but not yet delivered locomotives.

 The two gas turbine locomotives ordered by the Western Region were numbered 18000 and 18100.

 Electric locomotives (a grand total of 17) were put in the 2xxxx series. In fact only a handful of these saw regular use – the three ex SR third rail Co-Cos and the two ex NER Tyneside ES1 Bo-Bo shunters. The NER Class EB1 saw little use due to the decline in traffic for which they were intended and the 2-Co-2 Class EE1 had never worked since 1923, as the line from York to Newcastle was never electrified. It spent all its time in a shed but, nevertheless, duly received its BR number, while still in NER livery, before it was regrettably scrapped.  



Self-propelled passenger cars - the WR diesel railcars, the Grimsby & Immingham trams and all EMUs were treated as coaching stock and simply received the relevant regional prefix. (See Coaching Stock section)

 The last remaining L&Y and LNWR steam rail motors were withdrawn very early on and were not renumbered; what a pity neither was preserved. 


 All engines were to carry a cast number plate on the smoke box door in the style of the LMS, and the Midland Railway before it. The plates were to be positioned near the top hinge of the door except for those engines without a centre handle when the plate would be in the centre. The numbers were to be in the standard BR sans serif style picked out in white. The digits were to be 4 1/4” for 5 figure numbers and 5” for four figures and fewer.

 Some ex LMS engines received new smoke box number plates with the BR number in the serif LMS style and some in the LMS ‘Block’ style. Some GWR engines shopped at Crewe, notably the 2021 class, received smoke box number plates in the LMS block style. Swindon produced its first smoke box plates in brass with slimmer than usual numbers.

 Some ER and SR engines had the BR number painted on the front buffer beam (and also the rear on some engines – ER tank engines on the buffer beam (occasionally on the bunker back) and SR on the bunker or tender back panel in the company or standard style, for a time.

 SR pacific 34021 also ran with a BR smokebox and cabside numbers but with S21C121 on the panel above the buffer beam for a time. Many ER and most SR engines received smoke box number plates with non standard rounded 6s and 9s, many of which lasted until the end of steam, but the odd engine had the top of the six ground off in an attempt to match the standard style (eg J39 64964). 

 An N2, No. 69508, ran for several months in 1951 with its smoke box number plate fixed at the bottom of the door.  

 Ex LNWR engines, defiant to the last, never carried BR number plates (very few carried plates in LMS days), nor did the Beyer-Garratts and the ex GER tram engines. The Isle of Wight engines continued to carry their Southern number plates on the back of the bunker and painted numbers on the front buffer beam. Of the narrow gauge railways the W & Ll. L. R. engines carried neither smoke box plates nor BR markings* but engines on the V. of Rh. eventually received plates and emblems. At least one ScR engine received standard transfer numbers on its smoke box door.

.The short-lived Leader class, Nos 36001 and 36002, carried a cast numberplate at both ends at the bottom of the front cab panel. Only 36001 left the works, the remainder being scrapped..


 All engines were to carry a cast oval shed code plate at the bottom of the smoke box door, again in the LMS pattern. All principal sheds were allocated a code; LMR from 1A to 28A, ER 30A – 40A, NER 50A –54A, ScR 60A – 68A, SR 70A – 75A, WR 81A – 89A. LMR sheds kept their LMS codes in the main. Smaller or sub-sheds were given suffixes from B to G, usually the nearest to the principal shed was B with the remainder allocated according to distance. There were variations of course.  This is a case where the largest group was allowed to keep its numbers to save wasteful renumbering. In the course of time sheds closed or were allocated to a different operating region with subsequent change of code.

 Some ScR (ex Caledonian) engines carried their shed plates at the top of the smoke box door for a time.  

 Some ex LNER sheds continued to paint the shed name on the front buffer beam, to the right of the hook, in LNER fashion.  This also was the fashion at a number of ex LMS sheds in Scotland.Even towards the end of steam some English based engines overhauled at Eastfield were returned south with shed names on the buffer beam.


 Each of the ‘Big Four’ had its own system of locomotive classification although it is arguable that the LMS did not have a system at all.

 The most logical was that of the LNER, inherited from the GNR, (and adopted by the GSR in Ireland), which was based purely on the wheel arrangement of the engine. The letters allocated to each wheel arrangement were grouped according to the locomotive type – A-E, passenger tender; F-H passenger tank (not already allocated within tender types); J-T, freight engines; X, single wheelers; Y-Z, small shunters. For passenger tender engines the order was based on the number of wheels, starting with six-coupled (A 4-6-2, B 4-6-0, C 4-4-2, D 4-4-0, E 2-4-0), but for the remainder the order was mixed as preservation of the GNR classifications J, N & O upset the logic of the system. The 2-6-0 arrangement was regarded as a freight engine so they became K rather than C.

 Within each wheel arrangement the classes were given a numerical suffix depending on 1) originating company, 2) driving wheel diameter and 3) age. The company order was – GNR, GCR, GER, NER, NBR, GNSR – which meant that some GN engines retained their classification after grouping. Where two or more classes had the same wheel diameter the eldest class received the lowest class number. Variations within the classes were denoted by ‘part numbers’.

 During the Gresley period new classes were given classifications following on from the existing classes eg. D49 or J38, but Thompson deviated from the established system by putting his own designs at the head of the table and reclassifying the original class members thus, for example, the ex GCR 4-6-0s of class B1 became B18 on the introduction of the new class B1.       

 Under BR the ER and NER (and ex LNER Scottish works) continued to mark the engine class on the front buffer beam on the lower left side in the form A-1. When repainted in experimental dark blue in 1948 A4 No. 60028 was unique in having its class in the style ‘A – 4’ applied below the cab side number. Ex LMS standard locomotives and the later BR standards allocated to the ER and NER carried the classification in the style ‘CLASS – 4’ on the buffer beam.

 The GWR used a system where the number of the first engine in a class became the class name. The ‘Castle Class’ was officially the 4073 Class after the number of the first engine. There was a degree of logic in the numbering system so it was possible to recognise an engine’s class by its number.

 The Southern Railway had continued to maintain the classification systems of its three major constituents, the LSWR, SECR and LBSCR.

 The LSWR used two systems, the older system using the number of the first engine of a class, as the GWR, but without the benefit of a sequential numbering system and, the second, using order numbers, similar to the GER, introduced in the Adams era but only for engines constructed at Eastleigh. The system had little logic outside the accounts department as an order number could relate to anything from a bag of nails to an entire class of locomotives. The classification used only the first order number for a class where later batches were ordered under different numbers. The M7 class, for instance, was constructed under fourteen different order numbers. The system becomes slightly more logical if reversed, then a chronologic series becomes apparent from T1 (1T) to H16 (16H) 

 The LBSCR system used a little logic. Each locomotive type was known by a letter, with a numerical suffix, usually defining derivatives of the original design. It was a little confusing as wheel arrangements may not be constant within the classification. For example, the large goods tank engines were class E, hence E1 and E2 0-6-0Ts but classes E3 to E6 were 0-6-2Ts. New wheel arrangements simply used the next available letter and tank engines always used a different letter from tender engines.

 The SECR inherited similar systems from its partners the SER and LCDR. Each used a simple alphabetic system whereby each new class took the next letter in the alphabet and modifications to existing classes received a numeric suffix. The trouble was that a SER class R1 was a goods 0-6-0T while an LCDR class R1 was a passenger 0-4-4T.  Duplications that existed under BR were B4, D1, E1 & R1.

 The Southern Railway continued with the SECR system under Maunsell, although the logic of the system is difficult to establish. A number of his designs were rebuilds or modifications of existing classes and were classified as such. However the L1 class was not a rebuild of the SECR L class. His first purely SR design was the Lord Nelson class known by its initials as LN class. His second was the Q class, which took the now vacant classification following the scrapping of the original Q class of 0-4-4Ts. The next class should have been V as that was the next available letter but the classification Z was given to the 0-8-0Ts. V went to the Schools Class 4-4-0s and W to the 2-6-4T goods engines. There was no X or Y

 Under Bulleid the system changed again. His named engines were known under the initials of the naming system – Merchant Navy (MN), West Country (WC), Battle of Britain (BB), although the two latter were in fact identical. His Q1 seemed to continue the SECR system whereby a rebuild or development of an existing design warranted a suffix '1'. Whether the Q1 was a development of the Q class could be deemed a moot point.  

 The LMS simply continued with its constituents’ class names with the addition of the Midland Railway’s power classification system. The Midland and Caledonian both used the initial number system for classification, the North Stafford used a consecutive letter system, the LNWR and Highland gave their classes descriptive names and the L&Y used a consecutive number system.

 LMS standard engines used the power class with wheel arrangement as its standard classification system with the addition of the CME’s name to differentiate between similar types. The named engines were known by the name of the first of the class except for Stanier’s second class of 4-6-2s, which were Princess Coronations. (?)    

 BR standard locomotives were classified on the LMS system using the power class and wheel arrangement.

 A lost opportunity at the time was to reclassify the entire locomotive stock. Only the LNER had a logical system that was easily understood and had quickly superseded the previous pregrouping class names. It could have been adapted for the entire locomotive stock by simply adding a regional letter to the code. Eg an A4 would become E-A4, a Princess an M-A1/1, a King a W-B4, and a Merchant Navy an S-A1. It would be an interesting academic exercise to retro-classify BR’s stock on this basis!


 This initial period was marked by experimentation in liveries for those engines that were not to remain plain black. There were many schemes tried in the period January 1948 - January 1949 until a decision was made. The engines, liveries and dates involved were -

 At a trial on 30th January at Addison Road Station in London there was a parade of LMS Class 5 4-6-0s, three of which were in company express passenger livery albeit, because of the tight time scale, incomplete.

  M4762 - SR Malachite green, including wheels, lined in yellow and black on the left side. Some sources say it was unlined, but it is illustrated as lined in ‘Locomotives of the LMS’. This engine was unique in that the lettering and numbering was in SR ‘Sunshine’ style (at least on the LHS). The lettering was changed to conform with the others soon after.

  M4763 - LNER Apple green, including wheels, lined in LNER style on the ends and left side.

  M4764 - GWR Chrome green, lined in orange and black on one side and white and black (?) on the other. The ‘white’ was probably the chalk lines put on by the painter prior to lining out.

  M5292 - black, style of lining still to be confirmed – either lined in red LMS style, or red/cream/grey LNWR style. Written reports differ.

 After the trial the green engines went back to Crewe Works for the lining to be completed.

 At a trial on 6th April at Marylebone Station there were an A3, a B1 and 45292 (now renumbered and with additional lining on the tender frames) again,

  60091 - dark blue, lined in yellow.

  61661 - light green, lined in yellow.

  45292 - black lined in the LNWR style of red, cream and grey.

 The precise style of lining on 60091 seems to have gone unrecorded but was probably the same style as 61661. No.61661 was lined in double yellow lines in a similar manner to the later standard style but without the central black line. The back of the tender was lined, the cylinders were green with a single yellow line just set in from the front and rear edges and the valances were green with a single yellow line just above the bottom edge. The splasher tops and faces were green, lined top and bottom but, although a ‘Footballer’, there were no club colours on the nameplate splashers. The buffer casings, in LNER tradition, were painted black.

The two ER locomotives were clearly unsatisfactory as they appeared at another viewing on 27th April at King’s Cross.

  60091, dark blue, lined in red, cream and grey.

  61661, light green, lined in red, cream and grey (although in photographs the lining looks orange).

 Mr Riddles, being an ex LNWR man seemed to be very keen to see the old LNW lining style applied to the maximum number of engines as these two styles went into production with a total of 20 class 7P engines receiving the blue livery and 29 class 5XP and 6P engines the light green, by way of trials in service. The engines were chosen to gain the maximum public exposure to the new liveries. They were coupled with numerous trains of coaches painted in the experimental near-LNWR and GWR styles and diagrammed to cover the most populous areas of the country. More details of these trains can be found in ‘Backtrack, Vol 1 No 3’.

 The locomotives were – 7P in dark blue -

 King - 6001,9,25,26.

 Merchant Navy - 35024.

 Princess Coronation - 46224, 27, 30, 31, 32, 41, 44.

 A4 - 60024, 27, 28. A3 - 60036, 45, 71, 74, 84, 91.

 5XP & 6P in light green -

 Castle – 4089, 91, 5010, 21, 234, 7010 – 13.

 Lord Nelson – 30856, 61, 64.

 West Country/Battle of Britain – 34011, 56, 64, 65, 86, 87, 88.

 Rebuilt Patriot – 45531, 40.

 Jubilee – 45565, 604, 94.

 B17 – 61661, 65.   

 The application of the two liveries differed from the later standards in that cylinders were painted in the body colour, firebox cladding bands were lined on some engines and the entire casing of Bulleid Pacifics was coloured, ie. no black panel below the cut-out level.  What were to become regional variations from the standard were not yet apparent as Kings, Castles and A4s had lined valances and ER A1, A2 and A3s had lined cylinders. The A1, A2 and A3 also continued the LNER tradition of having black buffer casings. The Bulleid Pacifics’ boiler side lining was red, cream and grey at standard spacing, the upper lining having the red at the bottom and the lower with the red at the top.

 All the engines initially had BRITISH RAILWAYS on their tenders (WR engines now in the standard Gill Sans style) and smoke box number plates. Some engines later had the then experimental ‘Cycling Ferret’.

 The hoped-for public response, by all accounts, was somewhat muted. Neither scheme was adopted. The dark blue (ultramarine) weathered to a near black and the green was altogether too sickly with not enough contrast in the lining for it to show up. One wonders why it was selected at all. There must have been strong feelings that the future BR livery for its most important passenger engines should not reflect any of the Big Four.

The appearance of No 45292 in LNWR livery sealed the fate of mixed traffic and secondary passenger engine liveries until the end of steam on BR. Notwithstanding Riddles’s determination it was an odd decision to adopt such an expensive lining style for secondary engines especially during a period of post-war austerity. As a matter of interest on this first engine the lining was applied for the full height of the cab sides, the firebox cladding bands were lined and the front buffer beam even carried the LNW rectangular black lining panel. The lining on the tender was carried much closer to the edge than in the standard version and, additionally, the tender frames were lined.     

 From mid 1948 a number of ex LMS Royal Scots, Patriots, Jubilees, Princesses and Coronations were turned out from Crewe in LNWR livery, (in retaliation against years of Derby domination?). At that time many secondary passenger engines were receiving the lined black livery as a matter of course although it was not yet official policy.

 In September 1948 the blue theme continued as Coronation class No 46244 was painted a much lighter shade of blue (Sky Blue), including cylinder casing, with black and white lining and with the new Lion and Wheel emblem on the tender. The blue was said to be similar to Caledonian Blue (itself somewhat variable).

 Later in the year Merchant Navy No 35024 was painted in the same shade of blue (complete with blue wheels) with three red body side stripes. Within a very short time the stripes were repainted black and white.


On 20th December there was a further exhibition of liveries at Marylebone Station. Present were -

  46201 in LNWR livery

  45540 in lined green (shade not recorded but probably GWR Green


 Finally at Addison Road on 10th January 1949 four engines were on show -

  46201 again,

  5067 in GWR Mid Chrome Green lined in black and orange

  46244 in Sky Blue, lined in black and white.

  30853 in SR Malachite Green lined in black and yellow.


 During 1948 the various works continued to turn out coaches in the livery of the originating company. The only concession to the new regime was, from mid February, the absence of ownership markings and the addition of a prefix (M, E, W or S) to the coach number. The prefix was either in the company style or, later in the year, the sans serif BR style.

 Before the Railway Executive decided on a livery for passenger stock there were, as with locomotives, a number of exhibitions and experiments but these were not as comprehensive. Only two styles appeared for public appraisal and neither was chosen.

 At Addison Road station on 30th January 1948 there were exhibited three GWR coaches in maroon and cream with black and gold lining, an LMS coach in Crimson Lake (maroon) with black and white lining and a SR EMU in green.

 On 6th April at Marylebone there was an eight coach set of LMS coaches in what was in effect the LNWR colours ie dark maroon and off white (plum and spilt milk), two GWR coaches in Chocolate and Cream and seven LMS non-corridors in Crimson (Carmine)with a yellow waist line.

 Soon after this it was announced that 18 trains would be formed from stock painted in the trial colours and the public were invited to give their views to the Railway Executive. There were nine sets painted in plum and spilt milk and nine in chocolate and cream and all diagrammed, together with the experimentally liveried engines mentioned above, to gain maximum coverage of the railway system.

 The photographic record of these coaches is rather sparse and it must be presumed that the style of painting must have differed with the design of coach. The only photographs that I have seen show low window LMS stock painted in chocolate and cream with a deep cant rail panel in chocolate. In the plum and spilt milk scheme there was no cant rail panel. According to J N Maskelyne the waist lining was yellow/maroon/yellow with a thin line of ‘milk’ separating the yellow from the maroon.    

 As mentioned above, the public response was disappointing and so at the 20th December exhibition a further set of eleven LMS coaches were prepared - eight in crimson (carmine) and cream, and three in crimson (the Crimson was NOT Crimson Lake and was a good deal more red than MR/LMS Crimson Lake). As we know, the former became the familiar ‘blood and custard’ for corridor coaches and the latter plain ‘blood’ for non-corridor stock. Thus, for coaches at least, the Railway Executive succeeded in establishing a livery that did not have a precedent in the Big Four. It was the intention to line out the non-corridor stock in precisely the same style as the corridor stock but, apart from a few examples spread through the regions, this stock was generally turned out without lining.   


Principal Express Passenger engines of class 7P to be Sky Blue with black and white lining.

LMR – Princess and Princess Coronation

ER & NER - A1, A3, A4 and W1

WR - King

SR - Merchant Navy

The new blue shade was possibly chosen in the belief that with a greater proportion of white the colour would weather better. In fact, in a very short time it was found that the blue pigment faded very quickly making it impossible to touch up the paintwork. The livery was abandoned in mid 1951.


Other express passenger engines to be Mid Chrome Green with orange and black lining.

LMR - Patriot, Jubilee and Royal Scot

ER & NER - A2, B2 and B17

WR - Star and Castle

SR - WC/BB, Lord Nelson and King Arthur


Secondary passenger and mixed traffic engines were to be black with red, cream and grey lining.

A large number of classes were eligible to receive this livery, usually newer mixed traffic types and older small passenger tender and tank engines. Because of the variety of designs this led to some difficulty in interpreting the BR standard style. The Western Region, after painting a few engines in the style, decided that plain black would suit them.


All other engines were to be unlined black.

 Period 0 was notable for the inevitable hybrid liveries as the various works got to grips with the new styles. The commonest form was for passenger engines to be turned out in their full company livery but with BRITISH RAILWAYS on the tender or tanks. Other engines would appear with the full BR number applied on top of a company style. Where tenders were shopped on a different cycle from the engines there were many instances of different livery pairings until sufficient stocks were built up. Black engines were often just patch painted over the old markings and number, which looked terrible when just done but, of course, as they were never cleaned the new black paint quickly assumed the shade of the remainder. Ex GW shunting engines received no treatment at all for years, as they did not have to be renumbered, so that the GWR lettering remained visible into the early 1960s. 

 There were some engines on the SR, which had been repainted into lined black but were still numbered in the Southern Bulleid style. A number of engines painted at Brighton Works were given numbers with a comma eg Schools Class 30,903 and E5 32,584. In most cases these were soon painted out.

 There were few cases of engines in company livery carrying the BR lion emblem. Examples that have come to light include D16s 62618 and 62614, which were painted in LNER green in October and November 1949 and given the emblem. They were repainted in lined black in October 1951 and April 1952. D2 62000 which hauled the LNER inspection saloon was painted in a special version of the LNER livery. This engine was given the first emblem in 1949, which it carried until scrapped in 1951. These engines were deliberately painted in LNER livery and given the emblem.

 Coronation Class 46247 wore the emblem while still in LMS 1946 livery.  

 On the SR engines in the malachite green livery which were given the BR emblem were L class 31766, West Country 34036 and Battle of Britain 34071, 079 and 090.



During 1947, in the run up to nationalisation, various committees from the railway companies had met to decide on common policies for the future. One decision was that all engines should carry a cast plate on the cab side giving the power class and route availability number. The LMS Power Classification system and the LNER Route Availability system were to be used. In the event no cast plates were carried and (initially) only the LMR and ScR displayed the former and only the ER, NER and ScR (ex LNER) displayed the latter.

All engines were allocated a Power Classification (PC) based generally on their tractive effort (and ability to maintain it) thus giving a reasonable comparison between the multitude of classes. The range was 0P - 7P (including 5XP) for passenger engines, 0F - 8F for freight and 2 - 5 for mixed traffic (NO LETTERING ‘MT’ USED, EXCEPT IN SCOTLAND). Very small engines (eg SR Class P, ER Class Y1, Y3, J65, J71 etc) were ‘Unclassified’ and the most powerful engines (the LMS and LNER Garratts, and the Lickey Banker) were ‘Not Classified’.

Officially all engines should have displayed their allocated PC on the cab side but at first only ex LMS engines did so. Initially these were displayed below the number as they had been in the final LMS livery, or on the upper cab side. The position was later standardised so that the 2” PC number and letter were placed 2” above the engine number. The numbers were in the same style as the engine numbers ie Gill Sans in cream with a black border.

Some Scottish Region engines carried the PC much higher above the number and sometimes in front of the cab cut out. Ex LNER ScR engines also carried a PC. Two variations were introduced in that region - tank engines had a suffix T to their PC and mixed traffic engines were classed ‘MT’ (or MTT if a tank engine). Some carried stops between the letters, eg  M.T.T.

Some ex Midland Railway engines still carried their cast brass PC No on the upper cab side as well as the BR PC. During the early days the brass number was suffixed with a transfer P or F before the PC was standardised above the number.

In January 1951 the system was rationalised to remove the anomalous 5XP by calling it 6P, changing 6P to 7P and 7P to 8P. At the end of 1953 the PC system was revised again for the other regions so that it matched the LMS system better by taking into account boiler and steaming capacity to give a truer indication of a locomotive’s abilities. As a consequence, there were minor changes to the classifications on all regions. For example, ex LMS Crabs started life as 4P5F, then 5 and finally 6P5F.

The WR continued to use the GWR system of power class letters within the route restriction colour disc. The letter was black in the disc but if the engine was unrestricted and therefore did not have a disc, the letter was cream or white, occasionally within a white circle ie. not a disc. The system ran from A to E (the most powerful) and was based on tractive effort. The Kings were outside the range and were classed as ‘Special’.

The SR did not adopt the PC system until after the reclassifications at the end of 1953 when there was a flurry of stencilled markings, incidentally introducing further regional variations. The region did not use a mixed traffic PC eg 5 or 5MT, instead it used 5P5F or 5P/5F. Many engines received the dual coding; for example a West Country was Class 6 (unmarked) from 1st January 1949 then 7P5F from 1st December 1953. In November 1957 the unrebuilt engines were reclassified again as 7P6F (but the cab side markings were unchanged) and finally the rebuilt engines became 7P6F from November 1961. Some classifications were quite anomalous, as the Beattie Well Tanks, which had spent nearly 50 years hauling freight in Cornwall, were classed 0P.

Prior to 1954 ex LSWR engines carried the old LSWR PC letter below the number. This had been painted on the valance behind the buffer beam in LSWR and SR days.

The ER used a system of load classification for freight engines but no markings were carried on the engine. A few B1s carried ‘L5’ on the buffer beam number in the early days.

Two regions used supplementary markings to indicate variations from the allocated power class. On the WR, Hall, County, 30xx, 38xx and 47xx engines carried a white X above the number plate denoting an engine able to haul more than its indicated power class. Engines whose draughting had been improved carried ‘ID’ at the front end of the valance.

The SR used the suffix letter A to denote that the class was restricted to a smaller load on loose coupled freight due to lack of braking capacity eg H15 - 6P5FA and West Country - 7P5FA. The letter B was used to denote those classes which could haul more than was indicated over certain routes eg E1R - 1P2FB and E4 - 2P2FB. These ex LBSC locomotives had the Westinghouse brake. 

BR Standard Class 4 2-6-4Ts built at Derby carried their PC under the cab window rather than above the number.


Only the ex LNER engines carried the Route Availability Number on the cab side generally just above the footplate adjacent to the cab entrance, but on the GE section it was placed centrally below the number and on some (ex GNR) tank engines it appeared on the opposite side of the cab entranceon the bunker side. The coding ranged from RA 1 to RA 9 (most restricted) and appeared as cream 2” transfer characters. (Some areas used 1” nos.)  

LMS and BR Standard locomotives allocated to ER and NER usually carried the RA number. Other LMR engine classes that habitually worked into ex LNER territory were allocated RA numbers but did not carry them.

The WR continued to use the GWR route restriction coloured disc markings. This consisted of a 4 1/2” diameter red, blue or yellow disc above the number plate. The red was the most restrictive and yellow the least. Some engines, eg Dean Goods, were not restricted and either did not carry a disc or they had a white circle with a white power class letter within; while the most restricted engines, the Kings, wore two red discs side by side above the number plate. Some engines, notably Large Prairies, had the disc below the number plate. 

Some LMS and BR Standard engines allocated to the WR were given route restriction discs, generally placed below the cab number.


Some ex MR and LMS 2P, 3P and 4P 4-4-0s were modified with a Stanier pattern chimney, which was taller than the original, which put them out of gauge for certain routes in Scotland. These engines carried a WR style blue disc above the Power Class to indicate the restriction.

Engines that were considered to have self-cleaning smoke boxes carried a rectangular plate below the shed code with the letters SC on it.

Some LMR Class 8Fs had their wheels specially balanced for working fast freight. These engines carried a cream five pointed star below the number.



During this period the background colour to the nameplates of green or blue engines was officially to be black with the raised lettering polished. Black engines were to have nameplates with red backgrounds. This rule was, however, broken on the introduction of the Britannia Class in 1951, which appeared with red backgrounds to their nameplates, possibly because the plates were placed on the black deflectors. The Brits allocated to the WR however had black backed nameplates.

Western Region number plates were likewise to be black - except those that weren’t! On lined black named engines the plates were mostly red but in regard to the rest the situation is confusing. As mentioned above, those repainted at Crewe received red plates, as did a number of plain black engines turned out of Swindon. Red plates for all black engines may have been official policy but it was not universally applied and eventually Swindon decreed that all plates were to be black because of legibility problems with red plates. A number of Large Prairies were turned out from Tyseley (with at least three different styles of lining) with black number plates lined in red. The outer edge of GWR number plates was painted in the engine body colour.

Sky Blue Kings had their number plates lined in white, Light Green Castles in red, standard Green Castles, Kings and Stars in orange, Experimental Blue Kings in red.

WR engines with cast iron number plates had the figures and the raised rim painted in the standard cream colour. Occasionally (rarely) WR engines ran without a number plate in which case the number was painted on in GWR style within a painted panel.

Painted names, generally in the Scottish Region, were hand painted in the official Gill Sans style in cream.  

All other cast iron plates - tender numbers, water capacity, works plates, SC plates, shed codes and smoke box numbers had their raised lettering and edge beading picked out in white, but not always. Note that smoke box number plates had no edge beading but it was common in the ScR for the edge of the number plate to be picked out.  


The ER A4 engines named after Commonwealth countries, the original five Garter Blue engines for working the ‘Coronation’, - Empire of India, Dominion of Canada, Commonwealth of Australia, Union of South Africa, Dominion of New Zealand carried that country’s coat of arms hand painted on a rectangular panel mounted on the cab side below the number (the distinctive Doncaster works plates being mounted inside the cab, under the roof). Canada lost hers in October 1948 after a light repair and South Africa’s were removed at the last repair before withdrawal.

A number of other A4s received various embellishments. ‘Silver Fox’ carried a stainless steel fox midway along the boiler casing. ‘Merlin’ received plaques depicting badges from HMS Merlin in 1946. Until June 1948 these were positioned below the numbers on the cab side but were then moved to a central position on the boiler casing. In March 1948 E22 ‘Mallard’ finally received recognition of the World Speed Record (nearly ten years after the event) by the fixing of commemorative plaques on its casing. In April 1954 60009 had a stainless steel plate depicting a springbok fitted to the left-hand side only. (It received another plate for the other side after preservation). Finally 60024 was presented with plaques of the badge of HMS Kingfisher in October 1954.

Three engines had been presented with American style bells that they continued to carry during the BR period. Ex GWR 6000 carried its bell above the front buffer beam while ex LNER 60010 carried its bell in front of the chimney until November 1957 when it was removed to facilitate the fitting of a double chimney. No 6000 also carried two small plaques above its number plates to commemorate its visit to the USA. Ex LMS 46100 carried its bell until rebuilding in 1950 when it also lost its front nameplate for a standard number plate.

ER B17 class engines named after football teams once again wore the club colours with a brass football on their centre splashers.

On the SR BB Class No. 34050 ‘Royal Observer Corps’ carried a framed plaque with the letters ROC under the cab number.

There were a number of unofficial embellishments applied to engines, especially in the Scottish Region. There it was common to scrape the paint off smoke box door rings and hinges, pick out the edge of number plates and front buffers, scratch out a star at the base of the smoke box door handle, etc.

On ex LNER lines engines that pulled the Royal Train sometimes had their cab roofs painted white.