75 Years a Record Breaker

Published 30th July 2012

Author: Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Trust

Publisher: Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Trust

Pages and dimensions: Softback. 32 pages. 21mm X 29mm approx

Cover price: £7.50. P&P: £1.50 in the UK. £3.50 within Europe and £5 worldwide.

Available from: Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Trust. 75th Anniversary Booklet, Hollins Farmhouse, Eskdaleside, Grosmont, Whitby YO22 5PS

Review by Phil Marsh

This book does what it says on the cover: It celebrates the 75th anniversary of possibly Britain’s favourite steam locomotive, Number 4498/60007 Sir Nigel Gresley.

It is a record breaking member of the LNER ‘A4’ class Pacific built in Doncaster Works in November 1937. The engine broke and still holds, the post-war speed record for steam traction achieved on 23 May 1959 reaching 112mph.

It has been entirely written and produced by volunteer members to celebrate a milestone in the engine’s history. The foreword has been written by the former Kings Cross Shedmaster, Peter Townend one of the last ‘A4’ managers still alive today.

The 32 page booklet contains a comprehensive history of the engine in words and pictures, colour where possible and some very historic black and white reproductions.

The engine was the 100th Gresley designed Pacific to be built and was duly named after Gresley and the opening full page picture is of the locomotive and the man posing together.

The booklet covers the genesis of the A4s from 1922, over a decade before the streamlined A4s came into existence. The construction of 4498 is chronicled as is its, and the history of the rest of the class up to 1939. Wartime service and alterations are also covered.

The history from nationalisation in 1948 to 1963 is documented in some detail along with photographs of No. 7 on a test plant at Rugby. There are comprehensive records of mileage and overhauls given here leading up to transfer to Scotland at the end of 1963.

The engine was stored for eight months out of use from November 1963 to July 1964 and then went back to express passenger work between Glasgow and Aberdeen in what is known as the swansong of steam. The engine’s last British Railways run in January 1964 is described as is one a few months earlier when a startling discovery was made by the footplate crew on a fund raising charter train promoted by the A4 Preservation Society.

The preservation era is well covered with rare photographs taken behind the scenes including BR management’s decision to ban steam on the main line which forced No. 7 to find a new home. This was after the engine managed 96mph on a charter train from Crewe!

The record breaker was back at work based at Carnforth and Marylebone between 1977 and 1994 with moments of more fame at a stamp launch with Terence Cuneo in 1985. In fact, it was the steam services from Marylebone that helped the station from being closed in the late 1980s!

The move north to Grosmont on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is looked at in the 1995 to 2012 section with the attendant overhauls and new era of privatised main line railway running.

The last overhaul cost in the region of £800,000 and was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The next one is looming and will probably cost over £500,000 in three years’ time. All proceeds from this booklet will go towards the overhaul so there is no better cause to support.

The record breaking run of 1959 has its own chapter as does the Tender Corridor arrangement and is worth buying the book for in itself. This is a fabulous book and is very strongly recommended, well designed, well printed and the origination is also a very high standard.


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