LNER / BR 'Footballer' B17/4 Locomotives
LNER / BR 'Footballer' B17/4 Locomotives

Like ships, there has always been a long tradition of naming railway locomotives dating back to the very first locomotive ever built by George Stephenson - "The Rocket". The subjects have varied greatly with examples named after subjects as diverse as Kings & Queens, famous schools and country estates, valliant warships, commercial shipping lines, Battle of Britain fighter squadrons, Army regiments and even types of birds ("Mallard" still holds the World steam locomotive record of 126 mph set in 1938).

The London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) looked to the famous football clubs which they served on the East cost main line for their new class B17/4 locomotives in the 1930s, which were designed by Sir Nigel Gresley for hauling passenger services. Although not quite as glamourous as the A4 locomotives, which hauled the non-stop express trains from London to Scotland, the "Footballers" saw sterling service for many years and often substituted for their bigger brothers at various times.

Unfortunately, none of the locomotives were preserved and all were scrapped after being rebuilt during the 1960s but many of the name plates (splashplates) were salvaged and several have pride of place at various football grounds around the country - "Tottenham Hotspur" can be seen outside the Director's Box at White Hart Lane while "Norwich City" has been installed just inside the player's tunnel at Carrow Road. The nameplates were always attractively painted to match the colours of the club they represented and most featured a bronze football in half relief.

The "Footballer" locomotives have proved to be a popular subject for the model railway enthusiast and Hornby Railways have produced OO guage scale models of most of the examples, both in LNER and BR liveries, over the years.

There are currently plans to build a brand-new B17 from scratch and name it after a current football club.
Here is the full list of B17/4 class locomotives together with their LNER numbers, BR numbers, dates of build and de-commission and naming histories.
LNER B17/4 2862 "Manchester United" in apple green livery
Excited schoolboys examine "Tottenham Hotspur"
Replical "Footballer" splashplates
Hornby model of "Norwich City"
2870 "Manchester City" fresh from the Darlington factory
LNER / BR 'Footballer' B17/4 Locomotives
Details of the LNER/BR Class B17/4 locomotives named after famous English Football League clubs
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B17/4 Bradford City Splashplate
LNER 2839 Norwich City
LNER 2871 Manchester City
LNER 2848 "Arsenal" Hornby 00 guage scale model
'O' Guage hand built model of 2872 West Ham United
61666 Nottingham Forest
2854 Sunderland
Hull City splashplate
2851 Derby County
2865 Leicester City
Image used with kind permission from locos-in-profile