The reference for locomotives and railcars
Great Northern (UK) Stirling Single
Great Britain | 1870 | 53 produced
ETH Zürich

Patrick Stirling believed that locomotives with large wheels would not only be suitable for higher speeds, but would also achieve better traction. So he borrowed a 2-2-2 locomotive from the Great Eastern and used it to develop a significantly larger locomotive. By adding a two-axle leading bogie, guidance at higher speeds was improved and the increased weight was better distributed.

The no longer operational No. 1 in July 2003 in Doncaster
The no longer operational No. 1 in July 2003 in Doncaster
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The driving wheels were eight feet and one inch in diameter, equivalent to 2,464 mm. The cylinders were very large at 18 by 28 inches in order to still be able to convert enough steam at the lower rotational speeds of the large wheels. In order to be able to position the boiler low despite the large cylinders and also to avoid the problems with cranked axles and high forces, the cylinders were arranged on the outside. Between 1870 and 1895 a total of 53 were manufactured, which became increasingly heavier and had a higher boiler pressure.

sectional drawing
sectional drawing
Locomotive Magazine, February 1902

The Singles were also used on heavier trains on the flat line between London and York with an average speed of around 50 mph or 80 km/h. Trains with ten to 16 three-axle coaches that weighed between 150 and 240 tons in total were common on lines that rarely had a gradient of more than 1 in 200 and a maximum of 1 in 95. With lighter trains, they could reach speeds of up to 85 mph or 137 km/h.

In the “Race to the North” they ran lighter trains at average speeds of more than 60 mph or 97 km/h. Even with heavier trains, there were strict instructions not to use pilot locomotives in order to showcase the performance of the Singles. After there were two derailments in 1895 and 1896 due to the high axle load on the driving axle, the weight was reduced.

At the turn of the century, the trains became too heavy for the Singles, so pilot locomotives were now used. With the introduction of Ivatt's Atlantics in 1898, the area of operation also shifted to less important trains. Nevertheless, some received a larger domed boiler by Ivatt. After the last ones were retired by 1916, only number 1 remained as the oldest Single from 1870. It ran for the last time in 1985 and is now in the National Railway Museum in York.

Variant1870 variant1884 variant1894 variant
Axle config4-2-2 (Single) 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Length50 ft 7 in
Length loco29 ft29 ft 11 in
Wheelbase22 ft 10 in22 ft 1 in23 ft 3 in
Fixed wheelbase8 ft 8 in9 ft
Service weight86,128 lbs101,136 lbs110,992 lbs
Adhesive weight33,600 lbs38,080 lbs43,904 lbs
Total weight146,608 lbs175,924 lbs204,400 lbs
Axle load33,600 lbs38,080 lbs43,904 lbs
Water capacity3,223 us gal3,483 us gal4,624 us gal
Fuel capacity7,840 lbs (coal)11,200 lbs (coal)
Power sourcesteam
Estimated power550 hp (410 kW)575 hp (429 kW)650 hp (485 kW)
Optimal speed32 mph29 mph26 mph
Starting effort11,130 lbf12,654 lbf15,965 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter97 in97.5 in
Boiler pressure140 psi160 psi172 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylinderstwo, 18 x 28 intwo, 19 1/2 x 28 in
Grate area17.6 sq ft17.8 sq ft20 sq ft
Firebox area122 sq ft109 sq ft121.7 sq ft
Tube heating area1,043 sq ft936 sq ft910 sq ft
Evaporative heating area1,165 sq ft1,045 sq ft1,031.7 sq ft
Total heating area1,165 sq ft1,045 sq ft1,031.7 sq ft
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
Patrick Stirling
last changed: 01/2024

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