The 17in Coal was the first new design of engine to be built by Webb since he became Chief Engineer of the LNWR in September 1871. A policy of 'low costs' was in force at the LNWR, with running costs per engine mile reduced from 103⁄4d per engine mile in 1857 to 73⁄4d by 1871. The first 17in Coal was constructed in 1873, the first of five hundred built. Ernest L. Ahrons is quoted as regarding the type as "probably the simplest and cheapest locomotives ever made in this country", and O.S. Nock described them as "splendid".
Engine no 1140 (works number 2153 was built from raw materials and in steam within 251⁄2 hours in February 1878
Many aspects of the 17in Coal's design reflected John Ramsbottom's final design: the 0-6-0 Saddle Tank, including the identical wheel diameter and cylinder dimensions, but the new engines had a larger, improved boiler. In February 1878, one engine of this design was built from scratch in 251⁄2 hours.