Leeds Engine:More Reading: Articulation


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Over the years as locomotives have been developed and made more powerful it has been necessary to aid traction by putting the power to the rail on more driven wheels. In the early years many locos only had a single powered axle with other wheels to add support for the weight of the loco. Initially the favoured layout was to have a six wheeled loco with a pair of axles coupled together and the third as support. When locos get longer, bigger and more powerful they run on more axles many of which are coupled together.

One of the largest locos built were the Russian AA class 4-14-4 with a coupled wheelbase of 33 feet as you can imagine they struggled to keep the loco on the track whilst going round curved tracks. The solution to this problem is to build an articulated loco. Below are some of the methods used by various designers to get powerful locos to travel on curved tracks. The other costly solution to the problem is to provide many smaller locos running together.


Porthmadog on Ffestiniog Railway with ex SAR NGG16 as used on Welsh Highland (Photo AM Johnson)

Porthmadog on Ffestiniog Railway with ex SAR NGG16 as used on Welsh Highland (Photo AM Johnson)

In 1907 Herbert William Garratt designed and took out patents for this type of articulation. There are three sections to a Garratt loco. In the middle is the boiler on a rigid frame, this is supported at each end by the power bogies. These bogies pivot towards the end of the frame allowing the boiler to have a firebox to the maximum dimensions permitted within the loading gauge.
Most of Garratt's patent locos were built by Beyer Peacock at Gorton in Manchester and are often described as Beyer Garratt locos. When Beyer Peacock were struggling financially the last NGG16 2-6-2+2-6-2 2' gauge locos were built by Hunslet-Taylor (in South Africa) with boilers supplied from Hunslet in Leeds. These are listed in our loco database.

Note that each loco type may be more suitable for different applications and must not look upon the Garratt as the best because of the quantities built or the Mallet as the one of the most powerful. Recently on the Welsh Highland it has been possible to compare Mallet, Garratt and Fairlie locos together.

Donald Binns, Ktson Meyer Articulated Locomotives
AE Durrant, Garratt Locomotives of the World
David Joy, Engines that bend - NG articulated locomotives
André Chapelon, La Locomotiva a Vapeur

This article was produced by Andrew Johnson, feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.