The Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust LtdSubscribe to 60007

Registered Charity Nº1079591


An A4 by Any Other Name

Part One

A couple of queries have arisen, the first asking why the A4s named Capercaille, Garganey and Pochard are not shown in B.R. lists, and the second asking why all the engine numbers shown in pre-war pictures are different from the numbers on the engines in B.R. days. The very simple and straightforward answer is that some A4s were renamed and all the A4s (except one) were re-numbered twice (and a few three times). Well that was me finished, or so I thought, the Editor has a somewhat different point of view, it being the less I do the harder She has to work to fill the pages, so would I please Apply myself and expand and further clarify the above answer.

For engines built by Doncaster Works, several numbers were applied in order to correctly identify the engines throughout the Design, Construction and Operating periods.

When the Directors finally gave their approval for the construction of a new engine, an Engine Order Number (E/O Nº) was issued. These were usually for batches of ten engines. (I think this is a carry over from Great Northern practice.) It also allowed the accountants (yes, they were busy in those days too) to keep a close check on expenditure, and not allow costs to be hidden and carried over to the end of possibly long construction periods. The L.N.E.R. was always short of money, especially during the period when the A4s were being built, as in fact the whole country was struggling to climb out of an economic depression.

The E/O Nºappears on the drawing along with the Class of engine to which that drawing applies. For a Standard Component drawing many E/O Nos and Class Nos were added over the years.

Once construction started the engine was given a Works Number (Wks. Nº). This was usually the next number on the sequential construction list. It could be said to be its birth certificate. The Wks. Nºwas used to identify the engine whilst under construction, ensuring that the correct materials and components were used, and that the appropriate skilled labour could be allocated as required. A plate showing the company name (or logo), the name of the Works, the Works Number and date of building was usually fixed to every engine on completion.

The final act before the engine left the Works was for it to be painted in the company colour specified for that particular class of engine. [Known as 'livery'.] At this stage a large number was painted (or applied by transfers) to the cabside, this was the Running Number, this identified the engine for the rest of its working life (unless it was renumbered of course), and was used when allocating work and crews. An Engine Record Card bearing the Running Number was also opened; upon this was listed all the maintenance, repair, and overhaul work, along with the date when this was undertaken.

Let us look at how the above was applied to the construction of the A4s. In 1934 the L.N.E.R. had been looking at proposals to introduce a "streamlined" service between London and Newcastle. The "new train" would start operating to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Coronation of King George V, in September 1935, and so most appropriately the train would be named the Silver Jubilee. There had been some thought given to running the service with High Speed Diesel Powered Multiple Unit Sets (the idea, I suppose, finally came to fruition 40 years later with the 125 HSTs). There were Units running in Germany, but they would have needed to be fitted with new, untried higher powered engines.

With the clear view of hindsight it was fortunate that this option was not taken. Just imagine the consequences to the L.N.E.R. when the War came in 1939, with a shortage of fuel due to the "U Boat" blockade; and even if there was fuel, it's a certainty that there would be no spare parts coming out of Germany.

Gresley guaranteed that the service could be worked by steam, the Directors seemed to take a long time in giving their approval to the scheme and finally having been pushed by Sir Ralph Wedgwood [the General Manager] E/O Nº338 for four engines only was issued in March 1935. The four engines only was not due to the financial parsimony of the Directors, but in line with Gresley's policy for each new design of only building a handful of prototype engines, see how they went, iron out the snags, then go into full production. Also in this instance four engines would have been adequate to successfully operate the service, and if it proved to be a commercial disaster not a great deal would have been lost.

With E/O Nº338 only being issued in March, and the start date for the Silver Jubilee remaining September, this left only five months to construct the engines. Some preparatory work had been done in the Drawing Office. In March 1934 a Diagram for a New Pacific Engine had been prepared along with the Diagram for the new P2 Class engine, the outlines of the two engines being very similar. In March and April 1935 further diagrams appeared, both of which had very ugly outlines (these may have been produced in conjunction with the wind tunnel tests) and one of which appears to feature a bogie tender. Exactly when the final shape of the engine was decided I am still researching, but it is a known fact that certain areas were more or less done "freehand" ("if it looks right it is right") on the shop floor.

The first engine was given Wks Nº1818, and the frames were laid on 26th June and 74 days later the engine left the Works. The engine had been given a three-tone grey livery. The boiler casing, cab and tender were a silver grey, the valances were what was termed Battleship Grey, and the smokebox front was said to be a very dark charcoal grey ('black' may have been nearer the mark). The dark paint to the smokebox front was carried round to the sides of the smokebox by some three to four inches and paralleled the curve of the front, being finished off by a small radius curve into the footplate adjacent to the lamp irons. A cast nameplate was fixed to the side of the smokebox. The above paint scheme gave a very angular appearance to the front end and was changed to the now familiar parabolic curve from chimney to footplate. The cast nameplate was also removed and the name Silver Link was painted on to the centre cladding panel of the casing . The name, running number (2509) and company logo (L.N.E.R.) were all applied in silver paint with blue shading.

All the glowing testimonials to the work of 2509 during the first three weeks of operation on the Silver Jubilee make out that this singular feat of endurance was due to the second engine (2510) not being ready to share in the work. This I contend is not strictly true, so let us look at the facts.

The frames for the second engine, Wks Nº1819, were laid on the 15th July, 19 days after 1818 (2509), and construction was complete and engine Nº2510 named Quicksilver left the Works on 21st September, 14 days after 2509 and 69 days after the frames were laid, a gain of five days in the construction time.

2509 had two weeks of running-in turns before being called upon to do some high speed work in conjunction with brake tests on 22nd September.

The now almost legendary Publicity and Press run was made on the 27th September, and the inaugural run of the Silver Jubilee was on 30th September.

If a similar programme of running-in turns was undertaken by 2510 as performed by 2509, then two weeks after leaving the Works, say 4th October, the engine could have done high speed running, if so required. Looking at the above dates it would appear that maybe only during the first week the Silver Jubilee operated was 2510 unavailable to be stand-by engine. That first week of running was not entirely trouble free; the brick arch kept collapsing and the problem was only solved during the first weekend when the engine could be worked upon without the need to urgently get it ready for its next run.

The third and fourth engines duly appeared, Wks Nº1821 - 2511 Silver King on 5th November, and Wks Nº1823 - 2512 Silver Fox on 18th December. The engines and trains were a success both mechanically and commercially, so much so that an extra coach had to be added to the formation.

Researched and written by Mel Haigh,
Education Officer, Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust Ltd.
First published in Chime 119, Spring 2001
Continue to Part Two
Return to 'An A4 by Any Other Name' Title Page

Return to top

Page updated on 12 January 2015   Visitor Counter

Copyright © The Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust Ltd