George Heppell had a largely unacknowledged hand in the design of nearly every locomotive class built for the North Eastern Railway (NER) after the retirement of the venerable Edward Fletcher in 1882, with the notable exceptions of the two four-cylinder compound 4-4-2s of 1906, and the Raven 4-6-2s which were designed three years after his retirement, by his successor as chief draughtsman, during 1922.
Undoubtedly prompted by the imminent centenary celebrations of the opening of the ground-breaking Stockton & Darlington Railway, in May 1925 Heppell was moved to set down his own first-hand account of his remarkable, but quite unpublicised career. To this vivid and historically illuminating narrative he added a few amendments several years later shortly before his death in January 1934. The memoirs were probably acquired thereafter by JS MacLean, who had first published a book on NER locomotives when still quite young in 1906. Following the latter’s death much of MacLean’s material was acquired by the late John M Fleming of Newcastle, a founder member of the North
Eastern Railway Association. Following Mr Fleming’s own death in 2006 his Collection has remained in the care of his son, Charles, who in 2010 very kindly made the Heppell memoirs available for study and to whom the NERA is therefore greatly indebted.