Gresley conjugated valve gear

Gresley conjugated valve gear

The Gresley conjugated valve gear was a valve gear for steam locomotives designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, chief mechanical engineer of the LNER, assisted by Harold Holcroft. It enables a three-cylinder locomotive to operate with only the two sets of valve gear for the outside cylinders, and derives the valve motion for the inside cylinder from them by means of levers (the "2 to 1 lever" and "equal lever"). [ [ of Gresley A4 #60019 Bittern] Diagram of Gresley and Walschaerts valve gear arrangement on LNER A4 locomotive] - retrieved 4th October 2006] The gear is sometimes known as the Gresley-Holcroft gear, acknowledging Holcroft's major contributions to its development.


The Gresley conjugated gear is effectively an adding machine, where the position of the valve for the inside cylinder is the sum of the positions of the two outside cylinders, but reversed in direction. It can also be thought of as a rocking lever between one outside cylinder and the inside cylinder, as is common on 4-cylinder steam locomotives, but with the pivot point being moved back and forth by a lever from the other outside cylinder.

Crank angles

Locomotives with Gresley valve gear must have the three pistons operating at precisely 120 degree intervals. In order for the inside crank to clear the leading coupled axle, the inside cylinder of a locomotive with Gresley valve gear is typically positioned higher than the outside cylinders and angled downward. [ [ Public Record Office Victoria photograph of cylinder castings for VR S class] -retrieved 4th October 2006. Note incline of centre cylinder.] To maintain a smooth flow of torque, the crank angles are offset from equal 120 degree spacing to compensate for the angle of the inside cylinder (eg. 120/113/127 degrees). The resultant timing of the blast from steam exiting the cylinders still gives these three-cylinder locomotives a regular exhaust beat.


Although the conjugated design functioned well in a peacetime environment with regular maintenance and inspections, it proved to be poorly suited to the rigours of heavy running and low maintenance levels of World War 2. This gave rise to big-end problems on the center cylinder connecting rod on the famous A4 class of streamlined pacifics, and many of these locomotives were fitted with a reduced diameter piston and had the inside cylinder lined up as a temporary measure. Gresley's successor at the LNER, Edward Thompson, was critical of this particular valve gear. [ [ (LNER) Encyclopedia Edward Thompson page] retrieved 1st October 2006] As well as introducing new two-cylinder designs, he set about rebuilding Gresley locomotives with Walschaerts valve gear on all three cylinders. [ [ (LNER) Encyclopedia A1/1 page] retrieved 1st October 2006]

USA and Australia

Gresley conjugated valve gear was used by the American Locomotive Company under license and the 4-12-2 locomotives they built for the Union Pacific Railroad were the largest locomotives to use this valve gear. It was also used in Australia for the Victorian Railways S class 4-6-2 [ [ AHRS Railway Museum History: 1900 - 1950] retrieved 1st October 2006] and New South Wales Government Railways D57 class 4-8-2. [ [ NSW page] retrieved 1st October 2006]


External links

[ Southern California Chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society] Information on Union Pacific ALCO-built three cylinder 4-12-2 UP9000, including sound recordings and photographs

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Valve gear — The valve gear of a steam engine is the mechanism that operates the inlet and exhaust valves to admit steam into the cylinder and allow exhaust steam to escape, respectively, at the correct points in the cycle. It is sometimes referred to as the… …   Wikipedia

  • LNER Gresley Classes A1 and A3 — Disambiguation: LNER Class A1, LNER Thompson Class A1/1, LNER Peppercorn Class A1 LNER Gresley Classes A1 and A3[ …   Wikipedia

  • Nigel Gresley — For the canal builder, see Sir Nigel Gresley, 6th Baronet. For the A4 class locomotive named after the designer, see LNER Class A4 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley. Herbert Nigel Gresley Born 19 June 1876 Edinburgh …   Wikipedia

  • SR N1 Class — Infobox Locomotive powertype=Steam name = SR N1 class [Haresnape, N1 class ] designer = Richard Maunsell builder = SECR/SR Ashford Works builddate = 1922 (1), 1934 (5) totalproduction = 6 whytetype = 2 6 0 gauge = RailGauge|ussg leadingsize = 3… …   Wikipedia

  • Victorian Railways H class — Infobox Locomotive name = Victorian Railways H class caption = Victorian Railways builder s photograph of H 220, 1941 powertype = steam data for = Victorian Railways H class builder = VR Newport Workshops whytetype = 4 8 4 numinclass = 1 length …   Wikipedia

  • Cylinder (locomotive) — The motion on the left hand side of 60163 Tornado. The black casting to the left houses the cylinder, in which slides the piston; the piston rod is immediately above the wheel. The cylinders of a steam locomotive are the components that convert… …   Wikipedia

  • 4-6-2 — Under the Whyte notation for the classification of steam locomotives, a 4 6 2 locomotive has four leading wheels (generally arranged in a leading truck), six coupled driving wheels and two trailing wheels (often but not always in a trailing… …   Wikipedia

  • LNER Class A4 — 60009 Union of South Africa in 1951 Power type Steam Designer …   Wikipedia

  • NER Class S3 — LNER Class B16 Power type Steam Designer Vicent Raven Builder NER Darlington Build date 1919 1924 Total produced 70 Configuration 4 6 0 Gauge …   Wikipedia

  • Garratt — For people named Garratt, see Garratt (surname) A Garratt is a type of steam locomotive that is articulated in three parts. Its boiler is mounted on the centre frame, and two steam engines are mounted on separate frames, one on each end of the… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”