Thomas the Tank Engine’s Murdoch

Murdoch of Thomas and Friends

As almost anybody who watches Thomas the Blue Tank engine can tell you. Murdoch is quite well-known. In Thomas and Friends, MURDOCH was one of the largest and strongest tender engines of Sodor. He was loved as a gentle giant, being shy and preferring the countryside to the noisy area of the industry. He was painted dull orange with red and green lining. He had smoke deflectors. These had red nameplates with his name in gold. He hauled goods trains on the Main Line. He lived at the two-berth Knapford Sheds, a 7-road engine shed in Knapford Yards. The place was windy, near the sea, so tender engines needed to be set properly on the turntable to maintain their balance.

Murdoch was big and strong and was brought to help the engines with their heavy workloads. Murdoch did not like the noisy chatter of some engines in the yard and the bustle in the docks. He became cross with the noisy engines. He preferred the long hauls through the quiet countryside. Once, his journey was interrupted by a flock of noisy sheep. Murdoch had to wait with the noisy sheep until Toby, one of the older engines, brought the farmer to lead his sheep away.

Although he was impatient and became annoyed if he did not have time for himself, being a reserved engine and an independent worker, he helped and offered advice and did join in activities. Despite his size and strength, he was not prone to being the center of attention, like being decorated for the May Day festivities.


Murdoch was based on a British Railway Standard Class 9F with a BR1G tender engine that was used for fast, heavy goods trains. He was a big and powerful engine with ten drive wheels.

This class was one of the most successful steam engines that ran in the UK. The BR Standard Class 9F was the _last _of the standardized steam locomotives series used on fast, heavy freight trains across long distances. The 9Fs were capable of reaching speeds of up to 90 miles per hour. It was among the most powerful steam locomotives built for British Railways. The 9F was designed to operate freight trains of up to 900 tons at 35 mph. Production was shared by Crewe and Swindon Works from 1950 to 1960. Around 251 standard 9F locomotives were built.

The purpose of their design can be traced to the plan of the British Transport Commission for the immediate electrification and dieselization of the network through the 1950s and 1960s. But British Railways ordered a new fleet of ‘standard’ steam locomotive designs as a transitional motive power solution before electrification. About a thousand of these standard design locomotives were built mainly for mixed traffic and express passenger duties of different designs.

Many were slow and heavy locomotives. Although reliable, they lacked speed. A new design for a faster freight locomotive was requested by the Eastern region of the British Rail Network. A faster locomotive that would fit the crew hours that could operate the locomotives in 8 hours, capable of shifting heavy loads at fast speed during round trips between remote destinations and provide fast services needed because of the pending introduction of the diesel locomotives.


Robert Riddle. then-Chief Mechanical Engineer of British Railways who served with the War Department took the challenge as the designer. Initially, he designed a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement. In the end, he designed it to replicate the 2-10-0 wheel arrangement that he implemented in a small number of the War Department austerity locomotives; some were still operating on the British Railway in Scotland.

In the 1950s, the 9Fs worked passenger trains successfully. The versatile design was considered to represent the ultimate in British steam development. Although they were labeled “standard”, there were experimental adaptations and minor variations, to get more efficiency out of their design.

One being the experimental Italian style, preheated boiler to help with efficiency. Experimental variants were constructed to reduce costs and maintenance, but these had varying degrees of success, and sometimes had major issues, and were rebuilt into a more natural form, such as retaining the smaller boilers. Class 9F was among the last of the British Railway Standards and the final steam engine class built by British Railways. “Evening Star” was the last one, built in March 1960.

The class was given nicknames, such as “Spaceships” because of their size and shape. Eight BR Standard Class 9Fs have been preserved. One 9F, “Black Prince” holds the record for hauling the heaviest steam-hauled train, at 2,198 tons, in the entire area of England, Scotland, and Wales. The last steam locomotive “Evening Star”, which was built by BR, is part of the National Collection.

  • In 1964, the class began its withdrawal. The final locomotives were withdrawn from service in 1968. 1968 was the last year of steam traction on British Railways. Several have survived into the preservation era, including Evening Star. The class was regarded as a very successful locomotive class.

O.S. Nock (BR signal engineer) once stated that in all of the British steam locomotives, the ‘9F’ was one of the most original and most distinctive. Not only were they the most successful but they had an astonishing capacity for heavy freight haulage and the speed by which they traveled.

The steam locomotives were coming to their final years, but with glory. Several engines still worked on passenger duties, even with their heavy freight design. The locomotives also succeeded in express passenger duties, mainly during summer as interregional express trains. Some were used as standby express trains, in South Wales.

The Standard Class 9F locomotives were some of the last to go, the first 9F being withdrawn in 1964. The final steam locomotive was withdrawn from UK service in 1968. None of the 9F had more than 16 to 17 years of service.. Among the surviving Standard Class 9F locomotives, there are working and display locomotives.

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