LNER Class A4

LNER Class A4
LNER Class A4
60009 Union of South Africa in 1951
Power type Steam
Designer H. N. Gresley
Builder LNER Doncaster Works
Build date 1935–1938
Total produced 35
Configuration 4-6-2
UIC classification 2'C1h
Gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Leading wheel
3 ft 2 in (0.965 m)
Driver diameter 6 ft 8 in (2.032 m)
Trailing wheel
3 ft 8 in (1.118 m)
Locomotive weight 102 tons 19 cwt (230,600 lb or 104.6 t)
Locomotive & tender
combined weight
167 tons 2 cwt (374,300 lb or 169.8 t)
Fuel type Coal
Fuel capacity 8 tons 0 cwt (17,900 lb or 8.1 t)
Water capacity 5,000 imperial gallons (23,000 l; 6,000 US gal)
Boiler pressure 250 psi (1.72 MPa)
Cylinders Three
Cylinder size 18.5 × 26 in (470 × 660 mm)
Top speed 90 mph in Regular Service (126.4 mph maximum recorded)
Tractive effort 35,455 lbf (157.71 kN)
Locomotive brakes Vacuum
Train brakes Vacuum
60009, 60007 & 60019 have been fitted with Air Brakes[1]
Career LNER, BR
Class A4
Power class BR: 8P6F
Number in class 35
Number LNER: 2509–2512, 4462–4469, 4482–4500, 4900–4903,
LNER 1–34 (not in order),
BR: 60001–60034
Nicknames "Streak"
Withdrawn 1942, 1962–1966
Disposition 6 Preserved

The Class A4 is a class of streamlined 4-6-2 steam locomotive, designed by Nigel Gresley for the London and North Eastern Railway in 1935. Their streamlined design gave them high-speed capability as well as making them instantly recognizable, and one of the class, 4468 Mallard, still claims the official record as the fastest steam locomotive in the world. 35 of the class were built to haul express passenger trains on the East Coast Main Line route from London Kings Cross via York and Newcastle Upon Tyne to Edinburgh, Scotland. They remained in service on the East Coast mainline until the early 1960s when they were replaced by Deltic diesel locomotives. Several A4s saw out their remaining days until 1966 in Scotland, particularly on the Aberdeen - Glasgow 3-hour express services (for which they were used improve the timing from 3.5 hours).



Gresley introduced the Class A4 locomotives in 1935 to be integrated into a new streamlined train called the Silver Jubilee that was to run between London King's Cross and Newcastle. The new service was named in celebration of King George V's 25th year of reign.

During a visit to Germany in 1933, Gresley had been inspired by the high-speed, streamlined "Flying Hamburger" diesel multiple unit trains, and indeed the LNER had considered purchasing similar trains for use from London to Newcastle. However, the diesel units of the time did not have the desired passenger carrying capacity and the capital investment in the new technology was prohibitive.

Gresley was sure that steam could do the job equally well and with a decent fare-paying load behind the locomotive and so, following trials in 1935 with one of Gresley's A3 Pacifics No.2750 Papyrus, which recorded a new maximum of 108 mph (173.8 km/h), and completed the journey in under four hours, the LNER authorised Gresley to produce a streamlined development of the A3.[citation needed] Initially four locomotives were built, all with the word 'silver' as part of their names, the first being 2509 Silver Link; the others being 2510 Quicksilver, 2511 Silver King and 2512 Silver Fox. During a press run to publicise the service, Silver Link twice achieved a speed of 112.5 mph (181.1 km/h), breaking the British speed record and sustained an average of 100 mph (160.9 km/h), over a distance of 43 mi (69.2 km).[2]

Following the commercial success of the Silver Jubilee train, other streamlined services were introduced: the Coronation (London-Edinburgh, July 1937) and the West Riding Limited (Bradford & Leeds-London & return, November 1937) for which more A4s were specially built. In August 1936 the Silver Jubilee train on the descent of Stoke Bank headed by 2512 Silver Fox driven by George Henry Haygreen achieved a maximum of 113 mph (181.9 km/h), then the highest speed ever attained in Britain with an ordinary passenger train.[citation needed]


The A4 Pacifics (with the 4-6-2 wheel arrangement) were designed for high-speed passenger services. The application of internal streamlining to the steam circuit, higher boiler pressure and the extension of the firebox to form a combustion chamber all contributed to a more efficient locomotive than the A3, consumption of both coal and water being reduced. A further improvement to the design was the fitting of a Kylchap double-chimney first introduced on 4468 Mallard, built in March 1938. This device improved the free-steaming capabilities of the locomotives further, and the final three locomotives of the class (4901 Capercaillie, 4902 Seagull and 4903 Peregrine) were fitted with the Kylchap exhaust from new; and eventually the rest of the class acquired it in the late 1950s.

This class of locomotive was also noted for its streamlined design, which not only improved its aerodynamics, thus increasing its speed capabilities, but also created an updraught to lift smoke away from the driver's vision, a problem inherent in the earlier A3 design.[citation needed] The distinctive design made it a particularly attractive subject for artists, photographers and film-makers. The A4 Class locomotives were known affectionately by train spotters as "streaks".

The streamlining side skirts (valances) that were designed by Oliver Bulleid to aerofoil shape, and fitted to all the A4 locomotives, were removed during the Second World War to improve access to the valve gear for maintenance and were not replaced.[3] This apart, the A4 was one of very few streamlined steam locomotive designs in the world to retain its casing throughout its existence.

World record

Plaque on Mallard in commemoration of breaking the world speed record of 126 mph

On 3 July 1938 4468 Mallard; the first of the class to enter service with the Kylchap exhaust, set a world speed record of 126 mph (202.8 km/h), pulling six coaches and a dynamometer car.

Although the dynamometer car indicated a top speed of 126 mph (202.8 km/h), Sir Nigel Gresley never accepted this as the record-breaking maximum. He claimed this speed could only have been attained over a few yards, though he was comfortable that the German speed record of 124.5 mph (200.4 km/h) had been surpassed.[citation needed] Close analysis of the data of the record runs, however, does not confirm his confidence, although the Mallard's speed most probably equalled that of the German BR 05 002.[4] The Mallard record has also been questioned because it reached its maximum speed only on a downhill run and actually failed technically in due course, whereas 05 002's journey was on level grade and the engine did not yet seem to be at its limit.[4]

At the end of Mallard's record attempt, the middle big end (part of the motion for the inside cylinder) was found to have run hot (indicated by the bursting of a heat-sensitive "stink bomb" placed in the bearing for warning purposes), the bearing metal having melted, which meant that the locomotive had to stop at Peterborough rather than continue on to London.[5] Deficiencies in the alignment of the Gresley-Holcroft derived motion meant that the inside cylinder of the A4 did more work at high speed than the two outside cylinders - indeed on at least one occasion this led to the middle big end wearing to such an extent that the increased piston travel knocked the ends off the middle cylinder[6] - and this overloading was mostly responsible for the failure.[citation needed]

Post-war history

No. 60034 Lord Faringdon hauling a train at Peterborough railway station in 1959.

Although newer Pacifics had been introduced since the war, and although the streamlined trains were never reinstated, the A4s continued on top link duties, notable on the London to Edinburgh services.

Improved methods of aligning the Gresley conjugated valve gear in the 1950s led to tighter tolerances for the bearings used within it and consequently to almost total eradication of the overloading of the middle cylinder.[citation needed] History repeated itself with the inside big end being replaced by one of the Great Western type, after which there was no more trouble, provided maintenance routines were respected.[7]

The wholesale application of double Kylchap chimneys to the entire class was entirely due to the persistence of P N Townend, the Assistant Motive Power Superintendent at King's Cross from 1956. He at first met with considerable resistance from higher authority. When permission was eventually given, it was found that the economy obtained over the single chimney A4s was from 6-7 pounds of coal per mile, which more than justified the expense of the conversion.[8]

These improvements led to greatly increased availability.

Locomotive data

British Railways Number Doncaster Works number[10] Original Name (Rename(s)) Entered Service Withdrawn
2509 60014 1818 Silver Link 01935-09-07 7 September 1935 01962-12-29 29 December 1962
2510 60015 1819 Quicksilver 01935-09-21 21 September 1935 01963-04-25 25 April 1963
2511 60016 1821 Silver King 01935-11-05 5 November 1935 01965-03-19 19 March 1965
2512 60017 1823 Silver Fox 01935-12-18 18 December 1935 01963-10-20 20 October 1963
4482 60023 1847 Golden Eagle 01936-12-22 22 December 1936 01964-10-30 30 October 1964
60024 1848 Kingfisher 01936-12-26 26 December 1936 01966-09-05 5 September 1966
60025 1849 Falcon 01937-01-23 23 January 1937 01963-10-20 20 October 1963
60026 1850 Kestrel
(Miles Beevor from November 1947)
01937-03-20 20 March 1937 01965-12-21 21 December 1965
60027 1851 Merlin 01937-03-13 13 March 1937 01965-09-03 3 September 1965
4487 60028 1852 Sea Eagle
(Walter K. Whigham from October 1947)
01937-03-20 20 March 1937 01962-12-29 29 December 1962
4488 60009 1853 Union of South Africa 01937-06-29 29 June 1937 01966-06-01 1 June 1966
4489 60010 1854 Dominion of Canada 01937-05-04 4 May 1937 01965-05-29 29 May 1965
4490 60011 1855 Empire of India 01937-06-25 25 June 1937 01964-05-11 11 May 1964
4491 60012 1856 Commonwealth of Australia 01937-06-22 22 June 1937 01964-08-20 20 August 1964
4492 60013 1857 Dominion of New Zealand 01937-06-27 27 June 1937 01963-04-18 18 April 1963
4493 60029 1858 Woodcock 01937-07-26 26 July 1937 01963-10-20 20 October 1963
4494 60003 1859 Osprey
(Andrew K. McCosh from October 1942)
01937-08-12 12 August 1937 01962-12-29 29 December 1962
4495 60030 1860 Great Snipe (I)
(Golden Fleece from September 1937)
01937-08-30 30 August 1937 01962-12-29 29 December 1962
4496 60008 1861 Golden Shuttle
(Dwight D. Eisenhower from September 1945)
01937-09-04 4 September 1937 01963-07-20 20 July 1963
4497 60031 1862 Golden Plover 01937-10-02 2 October 1937 01965-10-29 29 October 1965
4498 60007 1863 Sir Nigel Gresley 01937-10-30 30 October 1937 01966-02-01 1 February 1966
4462 60004 1864 Great Snipe (II)
(William Whitelaw from July 1941)
01937-12-10 10 December 1937 01966-07-17 17 July 1966
4463 60018 1865 Sparrow Hawk 01937-11-27 27 November 1937 01963-06-19 19 June 1963
4464 60019 1866 Bittern 01937-12-18 18 December 1937 01966-09-05 5 September 1966
4465 60020 1867 Guillemot 01938-01-08 8 January 1938 01964-03-20 20 March 1964
60006 1868 Herring Gull
(Sir Ralph Wedgwood
(II) from January 1944)
01938-01-26 26 January 1938 01965-09-03 3 September 1965
4467 60021 1869 Wild Swan 01938-02-19 19 February 1938 01963-10-20 20 October 1963
4468 60022 1870 Mallard 01938-03-03 3 March 1938 01963-04-25 25 April 1963
4469 1871 Gadwall
(Sir Ralph Wedgwood
(I) from March 1939)
01938-08-30 30 August 1938 01942-06-06 6 June 1942
4499 60002 1872 Pochard
(Sir Murrough Wilson from April 1939)
01938-04-12 12 April 1938 01964-05-04 4 May 1964
4500 60001 1873 Garganey
(Sir Ronald Matthews from March 1939)
01938-04-26 26 April 1938 01964-10-12 12 October 1964
4900 60032 1874 Gannet 01938-05-17 17 May 1938 01963-10-20 20 October 1963
4901 60005 1875 Capercaillie
(Charles H. Newton from September 1942)
(Sir Charles Newton from June 1943)
01938-06-08 8 June 1938 01964-03-12 12 March 1964
4902 60033 1876 Seagull 01938-06-28 28 June 1938 01963-12-29 29 December 1963
4903 60034 1877 Peregrine
(Lord Faringdon from March 1948)
01938-07-01 1 July 1938 01966-08-24 24 August 1966

The first four locomotives included the word 'silver' in their names, because they were intended to haul the 'Silver Jubilee' train. No 2512 Silver Fox of this batch carried a stainless-steel fox near the centre of the streamline casing on each side, which were made by the Sheffield steelmakers Samuel Fox and Company.[11] The next batch of A4s were named after birds, particularly those that were fast flyers; Gresley being a keen bird-watcher. Five (4488–92) were named after Commonwealth countries to haul the new Anglo-Scottish 'Coronation' train; and two (4495/6), intended to haul the new 'West Riding Limited', received names connected to the wool trade: Golden Fleece and Golden Shuttle.[12]

A rare gathering of three ex-LNER A4 locomotives at Grosmont, North Yorkshire Moors Railway, 60009 Union of South Africa, 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley and 60019 Bittern line up alongside each other

A4 No.4498 was the hundredth Gresley Pacific to be built and someone had the idea of naming it after the designer himself. This did however start a rash of renamings of other A4s, usually of directors of the LNER and many of the more obscure bird names (and a few of the better ones: Kestrel, Osprey for example) were exchanged for somewhat less inspiring names.[citation needed]

One locomotive was withdrawn after being damaged beyond repair in a German bombing raid on York on 29 April 1942 during World War II - No.4469 Sir Ralph Wedgwood, which at the time had been overhauled and was based at Gateshead. It was running local trains to run it in, and was stabled in York North Shed (now the National Railway Museum) where it suffered a direct hit. However, its tender survived and was later coupled to a Thompson A2/1.

The first five withdrawals, in December 1963, were: 60014 Silver Link, 60028 Walter K. Whigham, 60003 Andrew K. McCosh, 60030 Golden Fleece and 60033 "Seagull". The rest of the class was withdrawn between 1963 and 1966. The last six in service were: 60004 William Whitelaw, 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, 60009 Union Of South Africa, 60019 Bittern, 60024 Kingfisher and 60034 "Lord Faringdon", 60019 and 60024 being the last to be withdrwan, in September 1966.


Six of these Pacific locomotives have been preserved, four of them in the U.K and all of those examples have run on the BR Mainlines at some point during their preservation career. Another two examples have been preserved in the U.S.A and Canada, rather appropriately due to their names.

Numbers Name Current location Condition Image
Original LNER 1946 BR
4464 19 60019 Bittern Southall (as of 9 November 2011 (2011 -11-09)) Approved for mainline use

NB currently running in guise of 4492 'Dominion of New Zealand'

LNER Class A4 60019 Bittern.jpg
4468 22 60022 Mallard National Railway Museum Static display (operational during late 1980s for two years) Mallard locomotive 625.jpg
4488 9 60009 Union of South Africa Located at Crewe Heritage Centre Undergoing major overhaul Union-of-South-Africa.jpg
4489 10 60010 Dominion of Canada Canadian Railway Museum Static display vert
4496 8 60008 Dwight D Eisenhower National Railroad Museum, Green Bay, Wisconsin Static display LNER Class A4 4496 Dwight D Eisenhower at NRM.jpg
4498 7 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley North Yorkshire Moors Railway Approved for mainline use Sir Nigel Gresley.jpg

In popular culture

A4s have appeared numerous times in popular culture, both during and after preservation. The class's first film appearance was 2509 Silver Link, which appears in a scene in the Will Hay film, Oh! Mr. Porter, in which Hay accidentally ruins its naming ceremony. Post war, A4 No.60017 Silver Fox features heavily in the 1954 British Transport Film Elizabethan Express, which follows the revival of non-stop London to Edinburgh runs and features footage of the water trough and corridor tender in use. A few years later, the 1959 version of The Thirty-Nine Steps features colour photography of A4 No.60010 Dominion of Canada amongst others in their post-war British Railways Brunswick green livery. This scene was subsequently parodied in the 1961 film Carry on Regardless.

In The Railway Series books by the Rev. W Awdry, the A4 No. 4468 Mallard is alluded to in the book Gordon the High Speed Engine by Christopher Awdry as one of Gordon's "Doncaster cousins" who did 126 miles an hour. Mallard appears as a character in the later book Thomas and the Great Railway Show. In the subsequent television series Thomas and Friends, the A4-based character Spencer, appears occasionally. Spencer bears a strong resemblance to Silver Link and is portrayed as a rather snooty character. Olwin from the children's series, Chuggington, resembles an A4 minus the tender making her a tank engine. A painting of 22 Mallard by Paul Gribble appears on the cover of the 1993 Blur album Modern Life is Rubbish.


The distinctive shape of the A4 has made it an obvious choice for model manufacturers, with examples being made in the majority of the popular scales, including a wooden example for the Brio wooden railway. Notably, one of the first two Hornby Dublo locomotive models produced, in 1938, was an A4,[13] and in 2004[citation needed] Hornby produced an 'OO'-scale live steam version, that used an electrically-heated boiler to produce steam – not previously possible in such a small model. Trix produced an OO gauge model A4 from 1970; it was re-branded as a Liliput model in 1974 and survives to this day in modified form as a Bachmann model - Kader, Bachmann's parent company, had bought Liliput in 1993.[14]


  1. ^ Fox, Peter; Hall, Peter & Pritchard, Robert (2007). Preserved Locomotives of British Railways (Twelfth edition). Platform 5, Sheffield. ISBN 9 781902 336572. 
  2. ^ Nock, O.S.: The Locomotives of Sir Nigel Gresley (London: The Railway Publishing Co., 1945) p. 129
  3. ^ Robertson, Kevin: The Leader Project: Fiasco or Triumph? (Oxford: Oxford Publishing Company, 2007) ISBN 0860936066
  4. ^ a b Was German 05 002 The World's Fastest Steam Loco?
  5. ^ Boddy, Neve & Yeadon 1973, pp. 103,126
  6. ^ Allen, CJ, "Two Million Miles of Train Travel", ISBN 0711002983
  7. ^ Scott & Reed: ibid, p.166
  8. ^ Rogers, Col. H.C.B., Thompson & Peppercorn Locomotive Engineers (Ian Allan, London UK 1979 ISBN 0 77110 0910 4.) p.52
  9. ^ The ABC of L.N.E.R. LOCOMOTIVES (Renumbering Edition), Ian Allan, 1946
  10. ^ Boddy, Neve & Yeadon 1973, fold-out sheet inside rear cover
  11. ^ Boddy, Neve & Yeadon 1973, p. 120
  12. ^ Boddy et al. 1963, p. 52
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Ramsay, John; Hammond, Pat (2002) [1998]. King, John. ed. Ramsay's British Model Trains Catalogue (3rd ed.). Felixstowe: Swapmeet Publications. pp. 298,302,33. ISBN 0 9528352 7 4. 


  • Boddy, M.G.; Fry, E.V.; Hennigan, W.; Proud, P.; Yeadon, W.B. (July 1963). Fry, E.V.. ed. Locomotives of the L.N.E.R., part 1: Preliminary Survey. Potters Bar: RCTS. 
  • Boddy, M.G.; Neve, E.; Yeadon, W.B. (April 1973). Fry, E.V.. ed. Locomotives of the L.N.E.R., part 2A: Tender Engines - Classes A1 to A10. Kenilworth: RCTS. ISBN 0 901115 25 8. 

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