LNER Class A4 4464 Bittern

LNER Class A4 4464 Bittern

Infobox Locomotive

London and North Eastern Railway
builddate=December 18th 1937
roadnumber=4464, renum 19, renum 60019
currentowner=Privately owned
disposition=Operational, certified for mainline use

4464 "Bittern" is a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 steam locomotive. Built for the LNER in 1937 at Doncaster works as works number 1866, it was originally numbered 4464. It was renumbered 19 on August 16th 1946 under the LNER 1946 renumbering scheme and after nationalisation in 1948 BR added 60000 to its number so it became 60019 on October 10th 1948. It is a Pacific 4-6-2 locomotive to the same design by Sir Nigel Gresley as the more famous A4 "Mallard" and one of the 35 strong class. It is one of six to survive into preservation and is currently certified for mainline use.


Like the other members of her class, "Bittern" has worn many liveries throughout her career. When released to traffic on December 18th 1937, "Bittern" was wearing the garter blue livery that was standard for LNER A4 Pacific locomotives at that time. November 14th 1941 saw her repainted into wartime black with LNER markings on the tender. May 22nd 1943 saw the modification to the tender with just the markings NE - to confuse wartime spies. "Bittern" remained in black until March 7th 1947 when she served out the last few months of the 'Big 4' in LNER post-war garter blue with extra red/white lining. "Bittern" was repainted next on July 28th 1950 into British Railways dark blue with black and white lining. The final repaint for "Bittern" was into British Railways brunswick green on February 12th 1952.

"Bittern" had some livery variations applied to her; some of the A4s had red backgrounds applied to their nameplates, which were normally black. "Bittern" was seen with a red background circa 1966. The brunswick green livery had variations. Normally the boiler bands were lined out except for the firebox boiler band, which was plain green. "Bittern", and other Darlington A4s received lining on the firebox boiler band as well.

Some A4s had their shed name marked on the right-hand (looking from the front) buffer. "Bittern" was marked with 'Gateshead' circa 1949 and 'Ferryhill' later in the 1960s.

Technical Details

Like the most other A4s, "Bittern" was fitted with side valances and a single chimney from new. The valances were removed during an overhaul September 22nd - November 14th 1941. Her double chimney with Kylchap double blastpipe was fitted September 6th 1957. Her AWS (Automatic Warning System) was fitted December 13th 1958. "Bittern" was fitted with a full width bogie dust shield in 1950. The speed indicator was fitted September 6th 1960.

"Bittern" has had fourteen boilers in her career, these were: 9020 (from new), 9025 (from the ill-fated 4469 Sir Ralph Wedgewood after she had been destroyed at York depot during the 'Baedecker' air raid.), January 23rd 1941; 9018 (from 4462 ), May 22nd 1943; 8952 (spare), October 14th 1948; 8905 (from 60011), July 28th 1950; 29317 (new build boiler), February 12th 1952; 29298 (from 60020 "Guillemot"), June 12th 1953; 29279 (from 60009 Union of South Africa), November 30th 1954; 29320 (from 60020 "Guillemot"), May 25th 1956; 29315 ((from 60022 Mallard), September 6th 1957; 29319 (from 60009 Union of South Africa), December 13th 1958; 29355 (newbuild boiler), March 16th 1960; 27971 (from 60017 "Silver Fox"), April 27th 1962 and finally 29332 (spare), March 24th 1965.

"Bittern" has had just one tender throughout her career: 5638, of the non-corridor design. This has recently been rebuilt as a corridor version to allow extra flexibility of operations.


Initially "Bittern" was based at Heaton in Newcastle and served the famous Flying Scotsman train in the section between King's Cross and Newcastle. Early in her career, "Bittern" suffered some collision damage, necessitating a general overhaul at Doncaster from 3rd - 4th January 1938. Bittern was transferred to Gateshead on March 28th 1943. With world war two the named expresses were cut back as the country went to war. Bittern lost its garter blue paint for a wartime black and was required to pull longer than normal and therefore very heavy passenger trains. As the war continued the A4 locomotives also were to be seen hauling heavy freight and coal trains. This was not a task that the locomotives had been built for. The heavy loads and poor maintenance conditions took their toll and by the end of the war the A4 locomotives were in a poor state.

With the end of the war and nationalisation came better maintenance and the A4 class saw a return to the high speed expresses of the pre-war years. Now in BR green "Bittern" pulled the "Talisman" express from Kings Cross to Edinburgh. Bittern was transferred to St Margarets on October 28th 1963. The A4 revival was short lived as the steam pulled services were replaced by diesel hauled services and "Bittern" was moved to Scotland and put into storage. After a short period "Bittern" was moved to Ferryhill at Aberdeen on November 10th 1963 and ran to Edinburgh and Glasgow. This service only lasted three years. "Bittern" has the dubious honour of heading the last A4 Glasgow to Aberdeen and thus bring the curtain down on 30 years of service.

When it was bought for preservation the A4 had several major problems, such as the frames being cracked quite badly. These were known to BR, but only lightly repaired since with the end of steam it would have been a false economy to completely repair it. This in turn affected its life in preservation and only now have the important repairs been done so that it is up to mainline standard. The final day in service for "Bittern" was September 3rd 1966.


"Bittern" was withdrawn from British Railways traffic on 5th September 1966 and was bought by Geoff Dury on 12th September 1966. "Bittern" initially operated from York depot (site of the National Railway Museum today) on various steam charters, but the cracked frames and other symptoms of her long career soon spelt an end to her mainline career.

"Bittern" was moved to the Dinting railway centre, near Glossop. Here she was joined by Peppercorn LNER A2 Pacific "Blue Peter", which had been repainted into non-authentic LNER apple green as 532. "Bittern" stayed at Dinting until the late 1980s, when the site was run down and closing. "Bittern" was placed under the custodial ownership of NELPG, the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group, which cosmetically restored "Bittern" to represent pioneer and long gone sister 2509 "Silver Link".

"Silver Link" was displayed at the National Railway Museum, York and on July 3rd 1988 was displayed outside with 4468 Mallard and 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley. "Mallard" had just worked a charter train up from Doncaster, and "Sir Nigel Gresley" was discreetly used to make steam appear to come from "Silver Link" to give the impression she was in steam. Sadly, 60009 Union of South Africa was unable to attend. On the weekend of the 5th of July 2008, Bittern joined her three sisters for the first time ever on display at the National Railway Museum in York on the anniversary of sister Mallard's run.

In 1995, "Silver Link" was moved to the Great Central Railway in Loughborough to undergo restoration to working order, but this reached only a partial stage of dismantling. "Bittern" was moved to the Mid-Hants Railway in Hampshire in January 2001 for full restoration. On 19th May 2007 "Bittern" was steamed for the first time since the 1970s. In authentic British Railways lined green livery and carrying her British Railways number, 60019. She hauled her first Service Train since the 1970s on the 7th July 2007 after 6 years of restoration, steaming and then all of the numerous tests and modifications. It hauled its first train at One o'clock on the 7th July 2007, during the Watercress Line's 'End of Southern Steam Gala', hauling the Watercress Lines rake of Dining coaches from Alresford to Alton. Since then she has been 'Run In' and has been used on normal services, santa specials and on the 21, 22, 23 March 2008 will be seen running as 'Spencer' from the Thomas The Tank Engine' stories during the Watercress Lines 'Day out with Thomas (She is also booked as 'Spencer' from the 9th to 17th August 2008).

After being run in Bittern was sent to 'Southhall' near London where she was configured to run with her Water Tender and Support coach, both originally used with the Flying Scotsman. After that she completed Brake and Speed tests on a run to Bristol and soon after made its official return to mainline working on Saturday 1st December 2007 on a charter from London Kings Cross to York, and since then had hauled several more 'Railtours' around the country. The Water Tender was not certified for main line running and now resides at Ropley MPD wilst "Bittern" is both on and off the line.

The Bittern was recently spotted on Platform 1 at London's Kings Cross mainline station on the evening of 6th July 2008, leaving the platform around 10:30pm.



* cite book
first = David
last = Clarke
title = Locomotives in Detail: 3 Gresley 4-6-2- A4 Class.
publisher = Ian Allan Publishing
ISBN 0 7110 3085 5
year = 2005
An overall history of the Gresley A4 class, as well as unparalleled details about the class and individual members.

* cite book
first = W.B.
last = Yeadon
title = Yeadon's Register of LNER Locomotives: Volume Two: Gresley A4 and W1 classes.
publisher = Booklaw/Railbus is association with Challenger
ISBN 1 871608 15 5
year = 2001
Histories of the A4 and W1 classes of locomotive with details of repairs and liveries etc.

*Steam railway issue 332
*Bittern information page

External links

* [http://homepage.ntlworld.com/clan.doyle/bittern/ Bittern information page]
* [http://www.watercressline.co.uk/tw/index.htm Mid Hants Railway Loco Shed updates on Bitterns progress]

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