[Sir] Herbert Nigel Gresley

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Pointers to main content (following Introduction):
Gresley own papers
Gresley's patents
Gresley's contribution to other's papers
Main biography
son: Roger
Other pertinent extracts
Listing of main sources
Gresley locomotives
Gresley Pacifics

Le Fleming neatly summarises his career, but failed to note his Crewe apprenticeship. He was locomotive superintendent of the Great Northern Rly. from 1911 until 1923 and thereafter CME of the L. & N .E.R. until his death. He used three cylinders for all except small engines, the inside valves being operated by the simple form of conjugated gear associated with his name, and also applied in America. The first of his Pacifics came out in 1922 and the type was steadily developed during his regime. One of them, Mallard, attained a record speed of 126 m.p.h. on a trial run in 1938. New types introduced into Britain were the 2-8-2 for freight (1925) and the Cock of the North for express passenger (1934), also the 2-6-2 for mixed traffic (1936). In 1925 the first six-cylinder Garratt was built and in 1929 an experimental 4-6-4 No. 10000 appeared. This was a high-pressure four-cylinder compound with 450 lb. pressure and water-tube boiler. Many current developments were given a thorough trial on his engines including the booster, various poppet valve gears and feed-water heaters. He was also an exponent of articulated coaching stock and tried a similar arrangement by uniting the back of the engine and tender front over a common bogie.
Shortly after our marriage in 1961 KPJ's wife saw her first A4 as it barked its way up on the final part of its journey to Leeds, and asked "Was it the latest in diesel locomotives?" The A4s looked modern and typify all that was best in Art Deco, and it is not surprising that a model of one, together with Sir Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird formed exhibits at a serious art exhibition staged in London's Hayward Gallery: the A4 could be regarded as the paradigm for the engineering maxim "if it looks right, it is right". Mallard still manages to look modern whilst most of its diesel successors look like yesterday's Fords. Only Cock o' the North looked better, and if any locomotive deserves to be disintered then it is this one as it appeared before dismemberment and made a vast impression upon a small boy when seen in Dundee on an incoming train. The A4s were Gresley's masterpiece: the P2s required modification, or transfer southwards to assist with War effort.
Gresley was surprisingly born in Edinburgh on 19 June 1876 (his mother was receiving medical attention there) and his home was Netherseal in Derbyshire where his father, Nigel, was Rector. Hughes' biography is very strong on the distinguished ancestry of the Gresleys. He died at his home in Watton-at-Stone, Hertfordshire, on 5 April 1941. He was educated at Marlborough and at Crewe under Webb: Gresley clearly had a great admiration for Webb (see his Inaugural Address to the Leeds centre) and the men shared a similar background. He then moved to Horwich under Aspinall. For a time he was running shed foreman at Blackpool and was appointed Assistant Works Manager at the L&YR Carriage & Wagon Works at Newton Heath in 1902. In 1905 he was appointed as Carriage & Wagon Superintendent on the GNR under H.A. Ivatt whom he succeeded in 1911 as Locomotive Engineer. Following the Grouping he became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER, although the new Company had given some initial consideration to dividing responsibility for mechanical engineering, as it did for civil engineering (on a regional basis).
Geoffrey Hughes biography is probably as good as we are ever going to get, yet (without in anyway wishing to criticise Hughes' magnificent effort) it is not good enough considering the calibre of the subject. It is noteworthy that the approach to Stamford Station (pure Midland Railway) is via a Gresley Way. Gresley entered into British history in a way comparable to the Stephensons and Brunel. This is not to imply a criticism of the author, or the publisher (Oakwood Press), but Gresley is worthy of a multi-volume study. By calibre, I do not merely imply Gresley's towering stature as an engineer (possibly only approached by Churchward, and in some respects by Stanier), but also his human characteristics. He was a prolific inventor, but most biographers fail to analyse this activity in nearly close enough detail (they prefer to chip at his supposedly non-standard designs). He was a keen Institution man, but most biographers fail to study this activity in sufficient detail.
Before leaving Hughes to consider other biographical material, it is worth noting that he is the Author of further studies on Gresley, all of which contribute something further to what will be remembered as his key work
It is a tragedy that H.A.V. Bulleid did not undertake a study of Gresley comparable with his majesterial study of Aspinall and his study of his father which can be amplified by Day-Lewis for the more personal aspects. Nevertheless, H.A.V. Bulleid's Master builders of steam remains a key work in appreciating Gresley's contribution and his relationship to his contemporaries. This is also notable for describing some of Gresley's contributions to the Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers (a body which did not publish its proceedings, although Hughes has compiled the Minutes from what remains).
Until Hughes, no attempt at a complete biographical study of Gresley's life had been published, but a number of references elucidated certain aspects of his personality. The fifth chapter of S. Day-Lewis' Bulleid, last giant of steam describes the period when Bulleid was Gresley's assistant and it is noteworthy for revealing much about the latter's character:."Gresley was in some ways a vain man and in others eccentric. He was also obstinate and absurdly conservative about his original designs, once they had been completed. He clung, for instance, to his conjugated valve gear for three-cylinder engines to the point of oddity. But his sometimes gruff exterior barely concealed his generally kind nature. He was a railway enthusiast as much as an engineer and his wide range of outside interests extended from church architecture to ducks" (page 75)..
Further brief, but highly relevant, personal items are contained in short sketches in C.J. Allen's The London & North Eastern Railway, G. Dow's British steam horses , R. Hough's "Six great raitwaymen" and C.S. Lake's "Some C.M.Es I have known". J.G. Robinson's letter to the Railway Gazette (Sir Nigel Gresley. [Letter]. Rly. Gaz., 1941, 74, 517) appeared to be important because it described how he considered that he was instrumental in Gresley's appointment as Chief Mechanical Engineer, LNER.
Gresley was excellently served by technical reviews of his work. The premier study will always be Bert Spencer's The development of L.N.E.R. locomotive design, 1923-1941. The President (J.S. Tritton) of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers likened it to a handbook (and this should be available as a monograph rather than the picture books of A4 Pacifics). Further information was revealed in the subsequent discussion, especially in the contributions from O.V.S. Bulleid, T.H. Turner and W.O. Skeat. A feature of this paper is the analysis of Gresley's many unfulfilled designs. N. Newsome compiled a similar record of Gresley 's rolling stock policy: "The development of LNER carriage and wagon design, 1923-1941". The late Michael Harris produced an excellent survey of Gresley's carriages which should be very useful for modellers.
The material from the papers considered in the preceding paragraph have formed the basis for F.A.S. Brown's Nigel Gresley. Unfortunately, reference to this work is not facilitated by a poor index and a certain lack of structure within the text. The illustrations are well chosen, however.
The structure of Nock's The locomotives of Sir Nigel Gresley.is more clearly displayed as the author treats his subject chronologically, but an index is lacking. The book originated as a series of Railway Magazine articles in 1941-3 and, therefore, pre-dates Spencer's seminal contribution.
Gresley published a number of papers but these are restricted to a relatively limited number of themes; a recurrent topic being the need for a British locomotive testing station. Other papers considered high boiler pressures, three-cylinder design and high speed train services. In addition, he contributed to the discussion at a number of professional meetings.
Norman McKillop, great engine driver, great trade union man and vivid writer commented upon his initial impression of the Gresley Pacifics: the huge tapered boiler. the tremendous width of the firebox... the 5,000-gal. tank on 8 wheels... nothing could describe the reaction but that much-abused word, colossal!

We went over that engine with a fine-toothed comb, and to us there was only one flaw: Gresley had committed the unpardonable blunder of making his first series of Pacifics right-hand drive. That it was a mistake has been tacitly admitted in the change all his other engines show to left-hand drive. Apart from this it was wonderfully adequate: an almost complete liaison between the Designer and the Engineman.
To obtain the proper perspective it is necessary to have a comparison. We had been used for the most part to the Stephenson's Valve Gear, with inside cylinders. Gresley gave us 99½% of our oiling points comfortably within reach on the outside of the engine. We could hardly believe our eyes when we went underneath and found only a connecting-rod and 6 oiling points to the bogies and driving-wheels.
We had been used to sitting on a few square inches of wood, either too high or too low to let us see properly. Gresley gave us a padded bucket seat with a back to it, and what was more, placed everything within reach. Reversor-, brake- and throttle-handles were just where they should be, and the sensible window was positioned for seeing without our having to corkscrew our bodies or our necks in the process. He gave us a steam-chest pressure-gauge, which we learned in time to consider almost as reliable as a second watch for working the engine. In short the Gresley Pacifics fulfilled 2 of the first principles we desired. They were accessible and comfortable to the men who were going to handle them. It was a foregone conclusion that here was an engine that would make its mark.

With a work of this sort, where the literature is being re-examined as time permits, it is inevitable that some of the views expressed above will change. Re-examination of the High pressure boiler paper (Instn Mechanical Engineers) has shown that this was a glittering occasion with the Chief Engineer of the French State Railways present. Gresley was an internationally important engineer whilst Swindon was declining into becoming a rural backwater under Collett.
Gresley's relaxed response to Musgrave's Address at the Leeds Centre is extremely important: it gives a glimpse of his fondness for his pipe! and to his his coolness towards electric traction, openness to the internal combustion engine and his immediate response to the Schmidt high pressure boiler which Fowler adpoted.
Copyright: Kevin P. Jones
Website Gresley website

Key works about Gresley

There is a vast literature about specific locomotive designs, but this has not been assembled here.

Hillier-Graves, Tim. Gresley and his locomotives: L&NER design history. Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2019.
Reviewed very sharply by RB in Backtrack, 2020, 34, 510

Newsome, N.
The development of L.N.E.R. carriage and wagon design, 1923-1941. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1948, 38, 420-73. Disc.: 473-85 + 8 folding plates. 23 illus., 27 diagrs., 2 tables. (Paper No. 477).

Spencer, B[ert]
The development of L.N.E.R. locomotive design, 1923-1941. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1947, 37, 164-210. Discussions: 210-43; 524-41. (Paper No. 465).
Seminal paper: absolutely key to the history of Gresley's work.

Hughes, Geoffrey
Sir Nigel Gresley: the engineer and his family. Usk (Mon): Oakwood, [2002] .
Vital source contains a substantial bibliography which relates to the Gresley ancestry and to his output of locomotives, and to a lesser extent, rolling stock.
A Gresley anthology. Didcot: Wild Swan/Gresley Society, 1994.
Full contents listed with short abstracts
The Gresley influence. London: Ian Allan, 1983.
Contains some portraits not contained in first source.
LNER. London: Ian Allan, 1986.
Includes colour portrait of Gresley on page 84.

Brown, F.A.S.: Nigel Gresley: Locomotive Engineer. 1961).

Harris, Michael: LNER standard Gresley carriages. Ottershaw (Surrey): Mallard Books, 1998.

Michael Rutherford. Sir Nigel Gresley, the LNER and the 'Big Four'. Backtrack, 1996, 10 242-8.

Gresley's own papers

Alloy steel for coupling and connecting rods. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1921, 11, 579-80. Discussion: 580-3. (Paper No. 106).
A.G. Stamer noted that the reduction of weight would be helpful in the running shed.

Development of high-speed running on railways. Greenock, Greenock Philosophical Society, 1937. 24 p. table. (Papers of the Greenock Philosophical Society—Watt Anniversary Lecture).
A review of world development is followed by a description of the A4 class. The topic of streamlining is accentuated.

High pressure locomotives. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs, 1932, 120, 101 -35. Disc.: 135-206 + 3 folding plates. 7 illus., 16 diagrs.
The experimental high-pressure four-cylinder compound locomotive.

Inaugural address [Chairman of Committee of the Leeds Centre]. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1918, 8, 199-214. [Paper No. 62]
From a historical standpoint this is highly interesting as Gresley made observations about Webb's compounds. He noted that the Greater Britain 2-2-2-2 Queen Empress was known by the footplate staff as the Scarlet Runner and that the white Queen Empress aged like a meerschaum pipe. He noted that Webb's experiments with friction wheels led to showers of sparks and wheel flats. He emphasised the need for large boilers noting the size of that to be introduced with the K3 class. He also observed that some of Ivatt's boilers on the large Atlantics had been in service for sixteen years and had still be scrapped. He could not see any advantage in Belpaire fireboxes as it was possible to direct stay round-top fireboxes. He favoured the use of outside cylinders with Walschaerts valve gear as these were simpler to oil. He also favoured mechanical lubricators and was an advocate of standardisation in principle, and without question the standardisation of wagons. He complained that three quarters of the heat generated in the firebox was wasted up the chimney. He noted the need for feed water heaters: live steam heaters were used in marine applications, and there was a need to develop exhaust steam heaters. There was a need for better grates. He also commented on articulated rolling stock.
"Tractive effort, per se, is useless as a comparative measure of the power of engines. On the Great Northern Railway there are two very instructile examples of this fallacy.
"Mr. Ivatt's first " Atlantic " engines had comparatively small boilers according to present day practice. The heating surface was 1,442 square feet and a grate of 26.75 square feet. The large boiler "Atlantics" have 2,500 square feet of heating surface and 31 square feet of grate. Except for the boilers, the engines are identical so far as boiler pressures, cylinders and wheel diameters are concerned. Therefore the tractive powers are equal, but the large boilered Atlantics have proved to be much more powerful as express engines than the Atlantics with small boilers, and are able to haul much heavier trains and keep time; in fact, there is as much, or more, difference between the large Atlantics and the small ones as there is between the small Atlantics and the old 4-4-0 engines.
Then later on when the 2-6-0 type was introduced the first ten had small boilers-4ft. 8in. diameter. The later ones had boilers gft. 6in. diameter, but the grate area was the same in each case, and the engines in other ways were identical.
During the last year's work the ten engines with the smaller boilers consumed about 5lbs. more of coal per mile for the whole year than the engines with the larger boilers, although they were otherwise similar in every respect."
From Hughes' biography: Gresley reiterated Ivatt's dictum that 'The power of an engine depends on its capacity to boil water, and is therefore without question its most important feature', and commented on 'The many engineers who compare the power of engines by their tractive force only, and ignore the boiler'. Without giving specific reasons, he expressed the view that 'Wide fireboxes last longer, and are more efficient than narrower ones'. He was dismissive of the Belpaire type. 'From a maintenance standpoint, the Belpaire boiler offers no advantages over the direct stayed round topped boiler, whilst undoubtedly its first cost is greater. This view is supported by the experience of American and Continental engineers, where the use of the direct stayed round topped boiler is most generally adopted for all new engines.'

It may be added that a circular firebox is theoretically better at resisting all-round pressure, hence one with a square top, such as the Belpaire, needs stronger staying. On the other hand, the Belpaire type, with its increased steam space, is claimed to offer greater help to the driver in preventing priming. In the last years of the LNER, Gresley's successor, Edward Thompson, differed from Greley in many respects but continued to replace Belpaire boilers on the Great Eastern and Great Central locomotives.

Locomotive experimental stations. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs, 1931, 121, 23-39 Disc.: 40-53. illus., 6 diagrs.

Presidential address. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1927, 17, 558-68
"I think I should remind our mcmbers that this is :an Institution of Locomotive Engineers, not an Institution of Steam Locomotive Engineers; all kinds of locomotives, steam,. oil and electric are our concern.
Gresley accepted that electrification had increased earning capacity on the Southern Railway
He accepted that electric traction in France and Italy was viable in France and Italy where coal was expensive.
Although it was predicted that electricity would become cheaper he believed that improvements in internal combustion and steam traction would continue to make them competitive.
Improvements anticipated in steam

Turbine locomotives so far produced suffer from the same disadvantage as the internal combustion locomotive: high initial cost.
Included an appeal for a locomotive testing station. An elaborate locomotive testing plant existed in America (Gresley did not state at Altoona) and noted the Grunenwald Experimental Department of the German State Railways, and the lack of comparable State support in Britain. Notedt .that Department of Scientific and Industrial Research's activities did not extend to locomotives. Proposed a National Locomotive Testing Plant under DSIR controlled by the Engineering Department of thc Nationa1 Physical Laboratory which already tested models of ships at Teddington.

Presidential address. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1934, 24, 617-23.
About six years ago the French engineers, who were fully alive to the benefits which would be derived by the provision of a testing station, were able to persuade the French Government that it was necessary to have such a station. Just over twelve months ago the French station at Vitry, near Paris, was opened, and the following day I [Gresley] had the privilege of seeing one of the largest express passenger engines undergoing tests at over 60 miles per hour on full load in the new station.
This experimental station is the most perfectly equipped in the world for carrying out analytical and scientific reeearch into the working of that most wonderful yet thermally inefficient machine-the railway locomotive. The station has been described in full detail in the technical press. It is of interest to note that the hydraulic brakes, on the wheels of which the driving wheels of the locomotive under test are carried, and which can be regarded as one .of its most essential features, were of English manufacture. These brakes absorb the whole of the power developed by the locomotive, and are of such substantial design that each is capable of absorbing 1,200 h.p. continuously for long periods. The plant is designed to test locomotives having an axle load up to 30 tons running at all speeds up to 100 m.p.h. Provision is made for six hydraulic brakes, so that locomotives having six driving axles and capable of exerting up to 7,200 h.p. can be tested.
There are also four new dynamometer cars fitted with the most modern recording appliances, attached to the station. These are available for use in connection with trials in service on any of the French railways, and can also be used for checking the results of innovations which have been introduced as a result of research in the locomotive experimental station.
The total cost incurred in the construction of the station was about £120,000, exclusive of the dynamometer cars.
The French railways, since the establishment some years ago of the Office Centrale des Etudes de Material in Paris, have made such pronounced progress in: the design and scientific development of their engines that to-day their modern locomotives are second to none. The engines of the Paris Orleans Railway, for example, have achieved results in the haulage of long-distance high-speed trains of great weight over a severely-graded line which had never been attained by engines of similar weight. In preparing the designs of the new eight-wheel coupled express passenger engine recently constructed at Doncaster, I did not hesitate to incorporate some of the outstanding features of the Paris Orleans engine, such as the provision of extra large steam passages and a double blast-pipe. There was no real novelty in these features, but the French engineers had worked out the designs scientifically and had proved them by the results obtained in actual service. The double blast-pipe has two nozzles, each 5¾ins. in diameter, whereas the usual single blast-pipe has one nozzle of about 5¼ins. diameter. The result is that the back pressure on the pistons is reduced from about 7 or SIbs. per square inch to only about 2lbs. when running at speed. The establishment of the great new experimental testing station at Vitry is evidence of the confidence and conviction of the French engineers that progress can only be secured by full and complete research.
What have we here in England? A small locomotive testing plant of 500 h.p. capacity, installed at the Swindon works of the Great Western Railway thirty years ago by Mr. Churchward, whose tragic death last year we all deplore. He was without doubt one of the most eminent railway engineers of recent times, and we see evidence of his influence in the designs of the most up-to-date engines of each of the great railways of this country. The Swindon plant is, however, much too small for modern locomotives.
There are four dynamometer cars in existence on British Railways, all of which I regard as almost obsolete when compared with modern cars.
Before concluding my address, it is appropriate to refer to the tendency to-day towards the speeding up of all trains, and to make some reference to the extra high-speed passenger trains which have recently been introduced abroad. In this matter Germany has taken the lead. In France a similar service has been started on the Nord, between Paris and Lille, and Bugatti cars are running on the Etat and P.L.M. In Holland and Belgium a number of Diesel-electric high-speed units are working, but the speeds attained are not so great as in Germany. On the other hand, it is claimed in the United States that even higher speeds, up to 112 m.p.h. have been reached.
The question is naturally asked, why has nothing been done here beyond speeding up the existing steam-operated trains? The answer, of course, is the difficulty in finding on our congested railways a path for trains of such exceptional speeds. The permanent way of the British railways is well known to be the most perfect in the world, as is also the method of signalling, and there is no question that trains of the highest speed contemplated can be run with safety and comfort on our railways.

It is not suggested that speeds much in excess of 100 m.p.h. can economically be maintained. The air resistance, notwithstanding scientific streamlining, absorbs so much power. Experiments with models of existing types of coaches carried out by the National Physical Laboratory show that the air resistance of trains of average length, say twelve coaches, at 100 m.p.h., is approximately double that of similar trains at 70 m.p.h. In the case of the " Flying Hamburger," in which I recently travelled, it is calculated that 85 per cent. of the power generated by the Diesel engines is absorbed in air resistance when running at 100 m.p.h. Streamlining is essential at extra high speeds because air resistance of trains increases approximately as the cube of the speed, but it is of comparatively negligible value at lower speeds, up to, say, 50 m.p.h. I think that the day is not far distant when heavy trains consisting of one class only will be run at speeds not less than the best speeds of to-day, and that short extra high-speed trains, for which a supplement will be charged, will be run between London and the big industrial centres. The steam locomotive, however, of greatly improved efficiency, as a result of the establishment of a locomotive experimental station, will still continue as the chief power unit operating on our railways. Votes of thanks by Maunsell and Stanier add to ther interest of this paper.

[Presidential address]. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs, 1936, 133, 251-65. 3 tables.
An account of the development of the A4, plus a testing plant appeal.

[Report on the stability of Southern Railway classes K, K1 and N15 when tested on the Great Northern main-line] [in (pp. 34-7)] see Pringle, J.W. "Sevenoaks accident Report
Gresley criticised the riding qualities of the tank engines on curves at high speed plus the vibration experienced with the 4-6-0.

The three-cylinder high-pressure locomotive. Proc. Instn mech. Engrs, 1925, 109, 927-67. Disc.: 968-86. 9 illus., 15 diagrs., 6 tables.
This paper is of great importance as it outlines the reasons for Gresley's strong preference for 3-cylinder designs: Advantages of the three-cylinder locomotive were summarized as under:

  1. Less coal consumption than with the two-cylinder type of similar power.
  2. Increased mileage between general repairs.
  3. Less tyre wear than with the two-cylinder type.
  4. Lighter reciprocating parts can be used, consequently hammer-blow on the rails is reduced, and for equal bridge stresses a greater permissible weight can be allowed on the coupled wheels of the three-cylinder type.
  5. More uniform starting-effort than with either the twocylinder type or the four-cylinder with directly opposed cranks.
  6. Lower permissible factor of adhesion; thus, with a given weight on the coupled wheels, a higher tractive effort can be obtained without increasing the tendency to slip.
  7. Earlier cut-off in full gear..

Valve gear for three-cylinder locomotives. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1921, 11, 584-6. (Paper No. 107). + folding diagram
Extremely concise.

with Sir Henry Fowler
Latest types of steam and internal combustion locomotives [in] : Institution of Civil Engineers. Engineering Conference, 1928.: report of discussions. Part 2. Chiefly machinery and transmission of power. London, Institution of Civil Engineers, 1928. 214 p.
Pp. 147-52 (Disc.: 152.68, 3 tables). A general survey.

[Account of footplate journey from Field to Golden on CPR]. Rly Gaz., 1929, 29 Nov.
See F.A.S. Brown's Nigel Gresley p. 135 and Hughes reproduces as Appendix 3.

Contributions to the discussion on other's papers
The remarks made following the Collins' paper show that Gresley was well aware of development at Swindon and that he had an easy relationship with Churchward.

Collins, G.H.H. J. Instn Loco Engrs., 1934, 24, 772-4. The manufacture and repair of locomotive boiler tubes. 748-72. Disc.: 772-84. (Paper No. 330)
Gresley (772-4) cautioned that he was much more familiar with tubes from the point of view of their use. All locomotive engmeers are greatly indebted to the manufacturers for the perfection to which they have brought the tubes of to-day. I remember the old steel tubes which were used many years ago, and which were very different from the tubes supplied at the present time, So great has been the improvement in steel tubes I do not know whether any manufacturers of copper tubes are present—that copper tubes seem to have entirely disappeared from English railways, notwithstanding the fact that copper has reached a lower price to-day than it has fetched for many years.
In the matter of the repair of tubes, a small point which has interested me is concerned with the flue tubes on the Great Western Railway. The Author has stated that when these were taken out they had the screwed portion at the end removed, and that this could happen three times before the end of the tube was, as it were, closed up again to form a new portion which might be screwed. My own experience is that when a screwed tube has had three runs in the boiler it is not worth the expense of doing any more to it, as it is so much pitted, even in districts where the water is pure and there is no scale. In fact, for a tube to go more than three times is a very rare thing. Some people, I am well aware, go to the expense of filling up these small pit holes electrically, but I consider that the labour and the cost—unless there are only a few odd holes here and there—do not represent money well spent, and it is better to scrap the tube and have a new one of which the engineer is perfectly sure.
The Author has also referred to the stretching of ordinary boiler tubes, This practice has been introduced by the Great Western Railway and has been a very good one indeed. I myself have copied it, as I have copied many Great Western Railway practices. I remember an occasion when I went down to see the works at Swindon and got Mr. Churchward to lend me the drawings so that I could make a stretching bench for myself. Now, however, I consider that the stretching method is not the best one; the cutting off of the ends, and the flash welding of a new end is the cheapest and most effective practice to-day

Clayton, J. Engine failures. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1928, 18, 409-24. Disc.: 424-31; 610-22 (Paper No. 232)
Gresley: "I think this Paper we have had from Mr. Clayton is one of the best I have had the opportunity of listening to, and has been of most valuable educational and instructive interest to all. Had it not been for this Centre being formed, I venture to think there are many who would not have travelled to Leeds to hear this Paper read and many would not have otherwise had this opportunity of learning of the machinery which should be employed in the recording of engine failures, which has been so excellently set forth by Mr. Clayton. There is very little indeed in the Paper to which I can take exception, and I would like to compliment the Author on the excellence of it.
Mr. Clayton has shown his examples of the forms used on the Southern Railway, classifying failures under various headings and sub-dividing them into classes of engines.
The criticism I would make in regard to the forms is that some of the headings are superfluous. I refer to the headings for axle and tyre faiIures. If a fracture of either occurs it is a very serious matter and special investigations are always made. Then there is the heading “ Cylinders.” We do not often have broken cylinders, and this, I think, could also be omitted. The return we use on the L.N.E.R. has fewer headings, these being to cover failures most frequently arising.
Another point Mr. Clayton referred to was the periodical examinations. I want to say this, that although these may be made, I have found that difficulty arises in recording them. Cases have occurred where valves have failed, and it has then been discovered that the monthly examination has not been made for some two or three months, perhaps, whereas if the rule had been carried out the failure would not have occurred. 1 think the best method of recording is the card system, the cards to be kept in a box, and transferred to anomther box as the examinations are made ; at the end of the month perhaps three or four cards would be found left in the box, which engines had not been examined, and the matter could then be put in order by the inspection of these engines to complete the number at the shed.
The definition of a "Failure” caused me trouble, and I am afraid I cannot agree with the one Mr. Clayton has proffered. It seems to me that if an engine is a minute or two late it should not be called an engine failure, even if the slight delay was due to some mechanical defect. Supposing some joint had blown out, and made it difficult to maintain steam? Even if five minutes were lost I do not think it could be termed an engine failure. Rather should the enginemen be complimented on their good work in getting the engine to its destination under difficulties. I quite agree with the card system for engine drivers reporting repairs when finishing duty, and they have this system in France. When the engine arrives at the shed the driver reports defects on a card, and this is given to a mechanic, who immediately examines the engine and writes on a card w-hich defects should be attended to at once, which should be deferred, and which are quite frivolous. He also observes any other defects which the driver has missed, and the complete list is then handed to a fitter, who attends to the repairs as required. With reference to the pooling of engines, I consider we could go in more for double-manning in this Country, but do not recommend more than two men to an engine. I refer more particularly to express engines.
Mr. Clayton objects to mechanical lubricators, but my opinion is that apart from the actual supply of oil they are most advantageous in the interests of economy. The running superintendents give me definite assurance on this point, and it is even suggested we should have shunting engines fitted with these lubricators. Springs are a great trouble, and there are far too many spring failures. Motor engineers have been studying these failures, and locomotive engineers are now doing the same. In motor cars, failures in this respect are eliminated in the high class models by the. grinding of all springs plates, which would be too expensive for the railways. If, by improving the qualities of the steel and the design of the springs, the formation of surface cracks could be eliminated, I think failures would decrease. If you make an examination of springs, you will be surprised to find how many are badly designed.
I am afraid I have taken up a lot of time, but failures of locomotives is a subject on which much time can be spent, and anything that can be done at this Centre in Newcastle in regard to improving results so far as engine failures are concerned you may be sure will be of great benefit to the Institution, and to the railways.

Fowler, Sir Henry Superheating steam in locomotives (Min Proc. Instn Civil Engrs, 196, 139)
The general trend of the discussion was towards a higher degree of superheat than that adopted by Swindon, to which Churchward had objected, and this statement was strongly challenged by Gresley.

Fry, Lawford Some constructional details of a high-pressure locomotive. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1928, 18, 329
Pp. 996-8 : Notes on superheating and water-tube boilers.

Graham, E. (Paper No. 284) Progressive methods applied to a modern overhaul shop for electric rolling stock. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1932, 22, 4-62. Disc.: 62-7.
Account of the highly organized and productive workshops at Acton enjoyed by London Transport. In the discussion (pp. 62-3) Gresley was very impressed by the high mileages achieved by the rolling stock, but was informed that tyre life (70,000 miles) was short. He also noted the very hard tyres and that it was possible to employ Ferodo brake blocks because of the high mileage in tunnel.

McDermid, W.F. (Paper No. 337). Brakes for streamlined railway vehicles. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1935, 25, Disc.: 342-4..
Factors which influence braking performance include journal friction; rolling friction; track resistance; flange action; air resistance and the effcet of wind. Brakes are affected by adhesion and notably by wheels skidding. Measures to evaluate braking efficieny (the rate of retardation) are examined. The friction of brake blocks is influenced by pressure, temperature, speed and hardness. There are several references to the work of Douglas Galton. The wear of brake blocks is related to their hardness. Gresley chaired the meeting and introduced the discussion (pp. 342-4) who considered that the author had placed too great stress on cast iron brake blocks. He noted that the German high speed trains, Flying Hamburger, are fitted with electro-pneumatic brakes, slipper brakes, of the type fitted to tramcars. These are cobined with Ferodo drum barkes, He commented on Michelin railcars fitted with pneumatic tyres and commented favourably on their performance on wet rais. See A4 class: Gresley contributed to discussion. "Streamlined" implied high speed rather than streamlined per se

Musgrave, G.A. Chairman's Address North-Eastern Centre. J. Instn. Loco. Engrs. 1927, 17, 682-5.
Other than the concluding paragraph this is reproduced in full: I (Mr. H. N. Gresley) have listened with great interest to the admirable Address which has been given to you by your new Chairman. I was the first chairman of this North-Eastern .Centre in Leeds, and I have recollections of the meetings we used to have in a very cold place, where we could not smoke, known as the Philosophical Hall, surrounded by ancient things of Rome and Egypt. However, I see that since those days you have come to much more comfortable quarters. I think we should have been frozen if we had had an address of an hour's length there, whereas here we have been very nice and comfortable and I have listened to the Address with the greatest interest.
I would like to add my tribute also to those who have already spoken of the excellent work which Mr. Alcock, your late Chairman, has done. I feel sure that this Centre of the Institution. could not have progressed unless it had been for the good work of all the chairmen, and not only the chairmen, but the assistance which you must give them. No matter how well a chairman may work, if you do not turn up at the meetings the thing is going to be a failure, and if the papers are uninteresting, too. I can only conclude you have had good addresses and interesting papers.
Now that I occupy the proud position of being President of the Institution, it means a certain amount of my time., and as much as ever I can afford, will be given up to the Institution.
Last night we had a very good Paper [No. 220] at a meeting of the Institution in London; the discussion lasted for two hours and there was material in that Paper for two or three hours. The discussion was extremely good, and I think if I had not put a stop to it after about two bours, some of us would have had a job to get home. I do not want to have the same thing said about me in my few remarks this evening.
I think this Address you have had from your Chairman suggests many papers and that none of you need go very far to find a subject. There are so many subjects in his Address, each of which can form an excellent topic of discussion and for further interchange of views.
Of course, the principal thing to-day that I must refer to is our visit to Airedale Foundry. It has been a great privilege to all of us to see the result of this courageous enterprise carried out by Colonel Kitson Clark on behalf of the Airedale Foundry, in providing an entirely novel type of locomotive. It is an historic day, and this will be mentioned I hope in text-books in time to come, as being the day of the evolution of the" Kitson-Still" engine.
Colonel Kitson Clark knew what he was backing, because he knew the "Still" engine, was a very wonderful engine and that it has been the most economical engine that has ever been introduced and applied to a steamship. It has been run with less fuel consumption than any other internal combustion engine, and in that case it has got a good start. He has applied that principle to a locomotive, and if he has succeeded, he has done something ,of which he and Leeds will be proud. I thank Colonel Kitson Clark very much for giving this Institution the opportunity of seeing this engine on its birthday. , There are many little points and important ones in connection with the Address I should like to mention, but I must not detain you very long. I would like to say one or two things however.
Talking of one subject—Evolution. Mr. Musgrave has spoken of how locomotives have grown in size. I venture to say, I think the size of the locomotive in Englanq has nearly reached its limit, and I rather hope to see the size decreasing with the retention of the same amount of power. I would like to see a smaller boiler. I do not know whether we shall get down to the "fancy" little boiler we saw at the Airedale Foundry. It means this, that if you get a smaller boiler you are requiring less steam, and the trend of locomotive design now is to try and get the engines more efficient, that is, for the given. amount of power, to be able to produce that power with a less consumption of fuel, and therefore you may expect to work with a smaller engine. There is no necessity for the large and heavy engine if you can work with the smaller.

Unfortunately the Germans are ahead of us in certain things, and they are ahead of us in that great revolutionary alteration in the design of locomotives through the introduction of the superheater. I do not want them to continue to be ahead of us in new things that are coming along. I was over in Germany a short time ago and I had the opportunity of seeing a very wonderful engine, which they have produced there. This engine is an extra high pressure locomotive, it is complicated—it has three pressures; it has three boilers, as it were, one inside the other. It is rather difficult to describe without a drawing, but it has a firebox which consists of water tubes in a closed circuit, full of distilled water. The water in these tubes passes through a coil into a drum along the top of the boiler, and the pressure in this drum is 900 lbs. per sq. in. The pressure in the tubes which go into the drum varies from the front of the box to the back of the box to something between 1,300 to 1,800 lbs. per sq. in. The product of another section was a pressure of 200 lbs. Thus there are boiler pressures of 1,700, 900 and 200 lbs. The water from the 1,700 section of the boiler is never fully evaporated; the steam from the 900 lbs. goes to the high pressure cylinder, and the exhaust steam from this goes into the low pressure cylinder. In order to maintain that at the 200 lbs., it is supplemented by steam from the low pressure boiler. It all sounds very complicated, but it is not as bad as it sounds. I think it has possibilities, because it is so extraordinarily efficient. It has been tried by the German State Railways, and they show from tests which have been carried out that this locomotive requires a consumption of about 18 lbs. of steam per drawbar horse-power, or equivalent to about 2 lbs. of coal per drawbar horse-power. The figures for the ordinary standard English engines, such as have been running quite up to date, are in the nature of about 30 lbs. (and in many cases more) water, as against 18 lbs., and 4 lbs. of coal as against 2 lbs. Now that is a very remarkable result and it is a result which the "Kitson-StilI " engine will be up against. This German engine is very expensive, but it is certainly a revolutionary design. The more the steam locomotive can be improved, the more remote appears to me to be the probability of the electrification of our lines. If the steam engine does not stand still and unless the electricians are able to supply plant at very much lower rates than we have to pay at the present time, the less chance there is of electricity superseding steam, but if the steam engine stands still and electricity comes very much cheaper, then we. shall have to turn our attention more to electricity.
This Institution is not an Institution of Steam-Locomotive Engineers, it is the Institution of Locomotive Engineers, be they steam locomotives, or oil locomotives, or a com.bination of the two, or even electric locomotives; we have to come up to date. We must turn our attention to electric locomotives, if the steam locomotive is going to be superseded but I think there is a great field for the steam and oil locomotives.

Place's Locomotive testing plants (with special reference to the Testing Plant at Vitry)—an obvious favourite Gresley theme.

Shove, N.A.  Grease lubrication, and notes on the working of locomotives in Canada and the United States. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1927, 17, 655-6. (Paper No. 220)
Shove had visited the two major Candian railroads and examined the two major railroads (New York Central and Pennsylvania) which entered New York to study locomotive pooling which at that time was being considered for railways in India.. As well as describing grease lubrication, Shove discussed the pooling of locomotives, the design of running sheds, turntables (three-point type), lighting, welding, machine tools, spray cleaning, ash handling and coaling. Power operated fire doors as supplied by the Franklin Co., rocking grates, ashpans, "King" metallic packing and Duplex automatic stokers. Boiler feed pumps were favoured over injectors. Gresley chaired the meeting and concluded the discussion (655-6): he had made experiments with grease lubrication but had not been impressed, as the locomotives had run hot and coal consumption had increased. He had found German manufactured cast iron packing to be excellent on superheated locomotives. He considered that only locomotives burning in excess of 5,000 lbs per hour require mechanical stokers.

Vallantin, R. Compound locomotives of the P.L.M. Rly. J. Instn Loco Engrs., 1931, 21, 280-1
The next point is what degree of superheat was obtained in the high-pressure cylinders, and particularly what amount of residual superheat there is in the low-pressure steam chest. I am particularly interested in this, because in the case of the compound engine No. 10000, which is running in this Country, I have not yet got any satisfactory data as to the amount of residual superheat we are getting in the low-pressure steam chest.

Vote of thanks to: Stanier's Recent developments in locomotive design. (Instn Loco. Engrs, 1936)
In this paper Stanier declared his debt to Churchward. In the subsequent vote of thanks Gresley echoed Stanier's appreciation.

Vote of thanks to Bulleid's Preidential Address. J. Instn. Loco. Engrs., 1940, 30, 7-12.
Bulleid had noted Gresley's involvement as Chairman of WW2 Committee of Mechanical and Electrical Engineers.

Wagner, R.P.
High speed and the steam locomotive. J. Instn Loco. Engrs, 1935, 25, 254-69. Disc.: 269-85. 5 illus., 6 diagrs. (Paper No. 336).
Gresley was critical of Wagner's large (7 ft 6 in) driving wheels, the ratio of locomotive weight to that of the train (120 : 220 tons), low degree of superheating, the lack of a double blast-pipe, and the small combustion chamber.

Gresley, H.N.
[Discussion at:]
International Railway Congress Association. 11th Session, Madrid, 1930. 2nd Section. Question 5. Locomotives for new types. Bull Int. Rly Congr. Ass., 1931, 13, 103-4.
Comment on water-tube boilers.

Gresley, H.N., compiler.
The question of improvements in the steam locomotive: Report No. 4 (Great Britain, Northern Ireland, India, Dominions, Protectorates and Colonies) : Subsection 6 for discussion at the 11th Session of the Inter national Railway Congress Association, Madrid, 1930. Bull Int. Rly Congr. Ass., 1929, 11, 2689-819.2 illus., 28 diagrs., 52 tables.
A world review, with some accent on LNER activity.

Gresley, H.N., compiler.
Recent improvements in steam locomotives... [and]  testing locomotives... Question 5 of the 13th Session of the International Railway Congress Association, Paris, 1937. Bull Int. Rly Congr. Ass., 1936, 18, 1291-445 + 2 folding plates. 13 illus., 100 diagrs., 49 tables.
World review of development from 1930.

Gresley, H.N., compiler.
Recent improvements in steam locomotives... [and] testing locomotives... Question 5 of the 13th Session of the International Railway Congress Association, Paris, 1937. Bull. Int. Rly Congr. Ass., 1937, 19, 1521-7.
Compilation of reports from Parmantier, Dugas and Mascini. A significant section is given to testing.

Gresley: Chairman of Board of Trade Inquiry into sinking of the steam ships Blairgowrie and Usworth
See F.A.S. Brown's Nigel Gresley p. 136

British Patents (in part from list compiled by Philip Atkins, NRM, for Geoff Hughes in 1987). Red numbers indicate that first page of document has been seen. Most now seen via official sources.

4512/1907 2 January 1908. [Applied for 23 February 1907]
Improvements in or relating to railway and tramway vehicles [Articulated rolling stock]
17,147/1910 15 December 1910: [Applied for 19 July 1910]
Improvements in or relating to railway and tramway vehicles [Couplings, axle-trucks used as linkages of adjacent vehicles] .
8000/1912 27 March 1913 [Applied for 2 April 1912]. Improvements in or relating to locomotive pony trucks and other bogies
4837/1913 25 February 1914 [Applied for 25 February 1913]. Improvements in steam superheaters for locomotive and other like fire tube boilers
Twin tube superheater . As applied to GNR J22 locomotive Locomotive Mag., 1918, 24, 27
2170/1915 with Isaac Stephen West Groom 25 November 1915  [Applied for 10 February 1915]. Improvements in lubricators.
15,769/1915 12 October 1916 [Applied for 8 November 1915] Improvements in valve gear for locomotives and other steam engines. [derived valve gear for three-cylinder locomotives]
Complete specification deposited 8 May 1916. The relevant Patent by Harold Holcroft is 7859 granted on 29 November 1909 and filed on 2 April 1909. See also Yorkshire Engine Co. locomotives built for Spain.
106,303 14 May 1917 [applied for 12 May 1916]. Improvements in or relating to feed water heating and purifying apparatus for locomotive and other boilers
top feed for locomotives [incorporated in "double dome] . As applied to GNR J22 locomotive Locomotive Mag., 1918, 24, 27 (also Gresley superheater)
170,448 with Leeds Forge Co. Ltd. 18 August 1920. Couplings, axle-trucks used as, and supporting defective vehicles by. [not in Atkins' list]
185,991 Applied 7 November 1921, , Published 21 September 1922. Improvements in valve gear for locomotive and other steam engines
197,461 with Leeds Forge Co. Ltd. 6 March 1922. Combined buffer and draw-gear; couplings, axle trucks used as. [articulated vehicles] [not in Atkins' list]
185,991 21 September 1922 [applied for 7 November 1921]
Improvements in valve gear for locomotives and other steam engines. [Refinements to 2:1 derived valve gear for 3-cylinder locomotives] .
232,447 23 February 1925.  [applied for 16 June 1924]. Improvements in or relating to steam or other locomotives comprising booster engines or motors
264,765 with Leeds Forge Co. Ltd 27 January 1927 [applied for 11 October 1926]
Improvements in or relating to railway and tramway vehicles. [Articulated coaches]
Refers back to 4512 of 1907.
USP 1,731,856. 30 August 1928. [applied for 15 November 1927]. Corridor tender
Have been unable to trace British equivalent: it is not BP 296229
303,284 with Harold Yarrow. 3 January 1929. applied 17 January 1928. Improvements in locomotive boilers
Water-tube boiler
309,891 Applied 17 January 1925 Published 17 April 1929. Improvements in locomotive valve gear
Arrangement for independently operating valves for high and low pressure cylinders: related to high pressure locomotive
333,113 applied 1 November 1929. Published 7 August 1930. Improvements relating to the preheating of the air supply to locomotive water tube boiler furnaces
Pre-heating air supply to ashpan

Main Biography

Herbert Nigel Gresley was born 19 June 1876 in Dublin Street, Edinburgh. He was the youngest of five children of the Rev. Nigel Gresley, Rector of Netherseale in Derbyshire, and his wife Joanna Beatrice. His grandfather was Sir William Nigel Gresley, ninth baronet.(Hughes writes at considerable lengh about the Gresley family history).
Cox notes that Gresley was the most patrician of all the CMEs being related to a hereditary baronetcy which reached back to the year 1611. A younger son of a younger son, his father was a country rector, but well heeled enough to send his son to Marlborough. While yet at school there descended upon him, from nowhere at all, a lifelong love of railway engineering, a mysterious circumstance which had befallen many others having no direct connections with railways. It is perhaps strange that Gresley did not opt for Swindon (nor did the similarly Marlborough-educated Thompson), but like a number of his distinguished contemporaries he started his training at Crewe, and like the majority of them gained a wholesome respect for the organisation, methods, and achievements of the workshops, but could not find much to admire in the current design practice. Cox states: 'Hear Gresley on this subject after he had begun to make his own mark upon the locomotive world:'
It is now just 25 years since I started at Crewe Works in an atmosphere of compounding in the locomotive engineering profession. When the 2-2-2-2 type Greater Britain was built it was thought that the limit in size and power of the locomotive had been almost reached, and when, in an excess of loyal zeal she was painted crimson, and another engine of the same class, Queen Empress was painted white at the time of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, surely the limits of artistic resource of the locomotive engineer were attained. How long they ran in their splendour I do not recollect, but I remember Greater Britain was rechristened by the men the Scarlet Runner and the delicate hue of the Queen Empress began to darken like a well behaved Meerschaum pipe. But there was no lack of enterprise in those days at Crewe; a triple expansion engine was tried, a figure-eight firebox and several boilers with a water space underneath and at the sides of the ashpan were built. Although it would not appear that the evaporative capacity of the ashpan was likely to lead to much increased efficiency, it at any rate provided a suitable receptacle for the accumulation of sludge and scale.
Then I remember an attempt to do away with coupling rods by the provision of a friction wheel held up tightly between the coupled wheels by a steam cylinder, and which was to be released when once the engine got away with its train. But this proved to be a failure, for when the driving wheels began to slip, instead of the trailing wheels revolving at the same speed, a shower of sparks indicated the formation of a flat on the friction wheel.
What Cox did not write is that the young Gresley whilst being bemused by friction wheels and compounding may have been highly impressed by the potential usefulness of three cylinders. To complete his training Gresley moved on to Horwich as a pupil of that very great engineer, John Aspinall, and there he gained some experience which inspired him towards a special interest which remained with him throughout his professional life, namely the nature and use of materials. Said he,

I well remember that when I was serving and when I had finished my time, I had the advantage of going to the testing department of the railway on which I completed my time. I was there for a matter of less than a year, but I always regard the time spent in the Testing Department as being one of the most valuable periods of my training, not only because I learned something of the strength of materials, but I also learned a considerable amount about methods of manufacture.. You may have to decide a question as to why tyres, axles or parts of a locomotive break, whether it is due to faulty design and type of material or to to material of improper manufacture. Unless you have some intimate knowledge of the methods of manufacture of the materials, it is very difficult to come to a right conclusion. Therefore I endorse the suggestion that those who deserve it should have the opportunity of being in the Inspection Departnent, and so far as my pupils are concerned, they have that opportunity and I think they appreciate it. It may be worth developing the relationship between Gresley and Turner, the LNER's Chemist and metallurgist.

Dow notes that by 1902 Gresley had attained the position of Assistant Superintendent in the L&YR Carriage and Wagon Department and three years later he was appointed Carriage and Wagon Superintendent of the Great Northern. Then in 1911, at the unusually early age of 35, he succeeded H.A. Ivatt as Locomotive Engineer, becoming the first Chief Mechanical Engineer of the newly-formed LNER on 1st January 1923, a post which he held until his death in 1941. Thus for thirty consecutive years he was locomotive chief of two important railways, the nearest parallel to which is probably afforded by the career of Dugald Drummond.
Like Ivatt, his able predecessor, Gresley was a firm believer in the big boiler with, whenever possible, a wide firebox with ample grate area. He was also a strong advocate of three-cylinder locomotives and although some of his three-cylinder designs without trailing wheels—4-4-0, 2-6-0, 4-6-0 and 2-8-0—have been criticized for their rough-riding propensities, they possessed, in common with his other types, a capacity for doing more than the work for which they were designed.
Although he did not initiate or carry out standardization to anything like the same extent that Robinson did on the Great Central, or Churchward on the Great Western—it must be remembered that as C.M.E of the LNER he had an incomparably larger and more varied stud of engines under his control—yet his inventiveness was greater than Robinson's and, like Churchward, he was an enthusiastic experimenter constantly in search of improvements, irrespective of the source. Excellent examples of this were his readiness to take advantage of Swindon practice after the GWR/LNER locomotive exchange trials of 1925 by modifying the valve setting on his Pacifics; his adoption of principles evolved by Chapelon, the famous French locomotive designer, for whom he had a deep admiration; and his persistent advocacy of a British locomotive testing station which, at long last, was completed at Rugby in 1948.
During his tenure of office his locomotives brought undying fame to the LNER. It became the first British railway to construct Pacifics on a big scale and when nationalization came it owned more of this type than all the other companies put to gether. It was the first railway in this country to build 2-8-2 types both for passenger and freight traffic. It has for many years owned the most powerful locomotive in Great Britain. It is still the only railway in the world to use corridor tenders on regular train services. And it was the first British railway to introduce streamlined locomotives, one of which, Class A4 Pacific Mallard, still holds the world speed record for steam traction.
It should be added that Gresley's innovations in carriage and wagon design almost equalled those on the locomotive side. He put the LNER—and British railways—on top of the railway world and the knighthood he was awarded in 1936 was richly deserved: see Loco. Mag... 1936, 42, 229.
Of a stature appropriate for a man of his great attainments, Sir Nigel possessed a kindly, bluff disposition and exercised towards his staff a benevolent despotism similar to that practised by Stroudley at Brighton. He did not suffer fools gladly. Around him both at Doncaster and King's Cross he built up a team of experts whose ability and unswerving loyalty became proverbial and in this respect he accomplished what Churchward had done earlier at Swindon.
Like Robinson, he would discuss cab comfort and kindred matters with his enginemen. There is a characteristic story about this. At the time corridor tenders for the London-Edinburgh non-stop runs were being considered one of Sir Nigel's daughters found her father one evening on all fours in the family dining-room, squeezing his great bulk through the narrow space formed between a wall and a row of chairs, set side by side. To his daughter's astonished exclamation, 'What on earth are you doing, father?' came the reply, 'If I can get through this, my biggest engineman can'

Witness to Weir Committee on Railway Electrification.

His great talents, and the coincidence of his activity with a time in which railway publicity methods reached new heights, assured Nigel Gresley of his place as the most celebrated of British inter-war locomotive designers. From 1911 to his death in 1941 Gresley was the Locomotive Engineer of the GNR and then the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the LNER (it should be noted that for much of this time the LNER lacked a Chief Civil Engineer. His streamlined Pacific, Mallard holds the official speed record for a steam locomotive (126 mile/h), achieved in 1938. His earlier Pacific, Flying Scotsman, was equally celebrated. Gresley designed a whole range of other types, among them being the V2 2-6-2, the K3 2-6-0, and the D49 4-4-0. His preference for three-cylinder types, fitted with his own conjugated valve gear, resulted in smooth-running machines which, however, were very vulnerable to poor maintenance. The resulting high failure rate during the Second World War persuaded Gresley's successors to build no more Gresley designs.
Gresley's work in the Carriage & Wagon Department (described by Newsome and at a less technical level by Harris) was no less outstanding. Although his carriage bogie with its springs inside the frames was criticised from a maintenance aspect, his bow-ended teak carriages were among the smoothest riding ever built. It could be argued that the use of timber body frames, even using teak, was outmoded following World War I. It was undoubtedly a contributory factor in Gresley's aversion to gas for cooking and the adoption of electricity for this purpose.
The excellence of the relationship which Gresley enjoyed with the Company's Chairman, William Whitelaw, was shown in the report of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers' Annual Dinner which took place in 1934 following the visit of Cock o' the North to Vitry when Gresley was at the pinnacle of his career.
Jenkinson (Backtrack 11 556) quoted from a long conversation with Roland Bond: "... the late Roland Bond (LMS at the time but appointed by Gresley and Stanier to head up their embryonic jointly-owned Rugby Test Plant) stated to the author in a long conversation in 1979 that he formed the opinion when he first met Gresicy (in 1939) that he (Gresley) was a thoroughly delightful man and very easy to get to know, but that his key staff were rather apprehensive of him and reluctant to join in debate or even offer the mildest form of criticism. If this be even half true, any changes which Thompson instituted were almost bound to be viewed with a degree of questioning.

Extract from Bellwood & Jenkinson:
Often the subject of criticism for having three cylinders with conjugate valve gear, when other engineers preferred two or four-cylinder arrangements, Gresley locomotives were nevertheless capable and economical 'work-horses' as well as being 'record-breakers'. In the V2 class of 1936 all the best Gresley features were utilised to produce what was almost certainly the finest heavy mixed-traffic locomotive ever built in Britain. Unlike some CMEs, Gresley took a keen, active and detailed interest in locomotive and carriage design. An inventor in his own right and the holder of several patents, he was continually searching for means to improve the performance and low overall efficiency of the basic Stephenson type locomotive. His adoption of ideas originating at  Swindon, in France, Germany and America are examples of his awareness of worldwide developments in the fields of both locomotive and general engineering. He continued to build locomotives to designs other than his own for a number of years after the grouping, and subsequently improved the performance of others by a process of judicious modernisation and rebuilding. Considerable progress was made in standardisation of components, if not (by LMS standards) in locomotive types. Even so, the building of 1518 new locomotives (1153 to Gresley designs) enabled 2393 older ones to be withdrawn up to the end of 1941 and the number of classes reduced from 236 to 164.
It is to him that the major credit for the eventual provision of the modern locomotive testing facilities at Rugby is also due.
Gresley took more than passing interest in diesel and electric traction. In the early 1930s he personally attended a demonstration of a diesel-electric shunter and sampled both the German 'Flying Hamburger' and French Bugatti railcars. During the same period the LNER put into service three diesel-electric railcars and a diesel rail-bus. He was involved in two major electrification schemes and the design of the new multiple-unit stock for the North Tyneside lines. His prototype 1500 volt DC 1870 HP Bo-Bo electric locomotive No 6701 became the standard traction unit for Britain's first main electrification scheme.
[and as quoted by Sean Day-Lewis: Bulleid where the final sentence is added to the quotation] O.V.S. Bulleid, who probably knew Gresley as an engineer better than anyone else, wrote of him thus: 'He was incapable of ill-temper, but what I appreciated most was his wide interest in all engineering. He was always ready to adopt any suggestions, but only after consideration. It could be felt that if he agreed to try anything it would almost certainly be a success. He had a wonderful memory, was extremely observant and amongst other things could read a drawing in a way given to few. Disloyalty was the one thing he would not tolerate'. A fitting epitaph indeed.

Langridge Under ten CMEs p. 109 notes that he had been informed by Cocks that Gresley would sit at a draughtsman's board discussing something, quite oblivious of the passing of the 'Knocking-off' time; he was one of the very few designing CMEs.


See Robert Humm J. Rly Canal Hist. Soc., 2015, 38, 252:  large plaque in ticket hall at Waverley station in Edinburgh, blue plaques at Old Rectory in Netherseal and in King's Cross station beneath his office. 


Sir Nigel Gresley, C.B.E., D.Sc. Locomotive Mag., 1941, 47, 97-9


John Farmer was a Premium Apprentice at Stratford Works from 1933. When he was a novice on the bolt lathe Gresley made one of his relatively rare visits to the Works the writer had the "misfortune" to be observed by the Works Manger, Mr Baister, and by Gresley, but after what seemed like an eternity the party moved on and he heard Gresley chuckle. Eighteen months later Farmer had to be interviewed by Gresley as he was to be awarded an LNER Railway Scholarship. At the end of Gresley's introduction he said "I hope, Farmer, that by now, you have acquired more skill in turning". This shows Gresley's great powers of observation, his retentive memory and his feeling for people: a key attribute for engineers. Stratford then & now. John Farmer. Rly Mag., 129, 306-7.  Beavor paints a very similar picture of Gresley's "kindly manner" when he was applying for a scholarship to London University. This "kindly manner" is probably an attribute of many men blessed with daughters.

Gresley's friendship with the brilliant American diplomat and railway enthusiast is mentioned in Pennoyer's Institution of Locomotive Engineers' obituary. The obituarist suggests that Pennoyer may have suggested the Prairie (V2) type to Gresley


Hoole (North Road locomotive works) which extends into the LNER/BR period notes that there was much work on standardization during the 1930s, notably the replacement of the Westinghouse brake by the vacuum type and the switch to left hand-drive. The former may in retrospect be regarded as a retrograde move, but reflected the overall view of the other Grouped railways. He also records the similarities between the D49 and B17 designs: "These three-cylinder engines [B17] were a six-coupled version of the "Shire" class but considering the fact that the design was prepared in two different drawing offices the similarity is remarkable".

Other bits & pieces

Trials of the vacuum brake for long freight trains. Locomotive Mag., 1922, 28, 55-6.
Organized jointly by Sir Henry Fowler of the Midland Railway and H.N. Gresley between Peterborough and Firsby notable for its flatness to test a Westinghouse accelerator valve. A GNR 2-6-0 No. 1646 powered the trains between 14 June and 20 July 1919. Demonstrated that 100 wagon trains could be worked.
Le Clair of Westinghouse had the privilege of taking some small part in the equipment of a fair amount of the rolling stock described by Newsome, and had many contacts with Sir Nigel Gresley and his staff during the years covered by Newsome. Some of the outstanding contacts occurred during the brake trials men tioned between London and Peterborough. He had the privilege of taking part in all of these trials which were conducted on Sundays, and as Newsome had stated, the trial on Sunday the 3rd July 1938 when with the locomotive "Mallard" a speed of 125 miles per hour was attained was indeed a memorable occasion.
Newsome gave the speed attained - as 125 miles per hour, but the speaker was under the impression, that for a short distance a speed of 126 miles per hour was attained. Of course, as many of his friends knew, he was a fisherman and possibly from force of habit he never liked to see an understatement! Perhaps the Author would state whether the dynamometer car records really did reach he higher figures. The dynamometer car was next to the engine, a nd at the peak of the run he was seated over the leading bogie in he next saloon with a full cup of tea on the table and he remembered remarking that there was not a ripple on the surface, which spoke well for the riding quality of the coach.

In carrying out the brake trials it was realised by Sir Nigel Gresley's staff and that of the Westinghouse Brake Company that the results obtained must be accurate beyond doubt, and therefore every care was taken by providing accurately calibrated recording instruments. The pens for the charts were operated electrically throughout the train from a switch on the footplate when brakes were applied or released. Warning lights were flashed to all concerned to get - ready as an approach was made to the section the line selected over which the test was to take place.

Carling, D.R. in Peter Towned. LNER Pacifics remembered. Chapter 8.
Noted that Gresley came to observe tests involving his original Pacifics being conducted between Newcastle and Edinburgh when an International was being played at Murrayfield.

T. Henry Turner (Chief Chemist & Metallurist) in the discussion on Newsome's paper noted that: Sir Nigel was clever in gathering to him Mr. O. V. Bulleid, the late Mr. F. Day, Mr. B. Spencer, Mr. N. Newsome, and, in the works, Mr. R. A. Thom, Mr. W. H. Brown and Mr. D. R. Edge. Everything was of the best in those days and one could not help feeling "a longing for the fleshpots of Egypt" when one recalled those exciting developments in which nothing could be too good for the chief.

Influence of John Hookham, Locomotive Engineer NSR: See Railway Archive (3) page 41. where caption by Basil Jeuda notes that Hookham was considered a leader in using cast iron packing rings, supplying Gresley with information leading to their use on the GNR and LNER.

Bulleid, O.V.S. discussion on Shields, T.H.: The evolution of locomotive valve gears. J. Instn Loco. Engrs., 1943, 33, 368. (Paper No. 443).
Pp. 454-6:

On one occasion when he happened to be in the Nord railway offices, he asked why anyone ever invented that gear, and the answer was amusing. It appeared that the Nord never found it necessary to borrow ideas from other people, and. so M. Cossart was ordered, he believed by Baron Rothschild, to invent a valve gear. To maintain the tradition of not copying. anything used anywhere else, therefore, the Cossart valve gear was evolved, and it was a very good valve gear. On one occasion Sir Nigel Gresley, who at one time had an unfortunate reputation in France — they called him the " Jonah," because whenever he travelled by the boat train from Calais it was almost certain that something would happen between Calais and Paris, and they even went so far as to suggest that they would prefer him to travel via Le Havre — was on the train and the engine failed at Creil, and the train had to be taken on to Paris by an 8-coupled tank engine fitted with the Cossart gear. He was very surprised to run into Paris behind this suburban tank engine at about two minutes under the normal time with a Pacific, and after that he was very interested in the Cossart gear, its performance having been rather startling. - ..

Duffy, M.C. Technomorphology and the Stephenson traction system. Trans. Newcomen Soc., 1982, 54,55-74. Disc.: 74-8.
Notes that Gresley's initial Pacific design would have been a failure, and it was only through Gresley's understanding of the significanace of Goss's work as expressed in American Locomotive Company's No. 50,000 that GNR No. 1470 was such a successful design.

Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
Gresley appears to have been very friendly with Captain Howey, the original owner of the RHDR as is shown by his presence at the opening of the line. He was also there sitting on the tender when the Duke of York, the future King George VI travelled on the uncompleted line. This latter must have been covered by the national newspapers. Both events are covered in Snell's excellent One man's railway, but one of the best photographs of Gresley (on the tender) and the Duke of York forms a sort of end plaate in the combined edition of Nock's The Gresley Pacifics (page 280 facing the not-very-good index). Clearly the locomotive stock of the RHDR is a wonderful reflection of Gresley's Pacifics brilliantly reduced to become effective miniature locomotives by Henry Greenly.
Opening of Romney Hythe and Light Dymchurch Railway. Rly Mag., 1926, 59, 213-18. 5 illus.
Opening ceremony is described: Gresley had a prominent place in the proceedings due to his friendship with Captain Howey, owner of the line.

Naming of locomotive 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley

BackTrack, 18, page 529 group photograph of Gresley with his staff following naming ceremony of Sir Nigel Gresley on 26 November 1937: see letter by KPJ on page 655 concerning identity of some of those shown. John Massey (18 page 125) added some more & noted that F.A.S. Brown's Nigel Gresley had included some. The picture has been published many times before, but he doubts if any has included a full caption. KPJ can identify eighteen heads with Sir Nigel Gresley at number 12 (from left). The ones now known to him, or taken from Nock's The Gresley Pacifics, or P.N. Townend's East Coast Pacifics at work are:  1. W. Massey (Gresley's former Chief Clerk); 2. Harry Harper, Gresley's Chief Clerk; 3. Bert Spencer; 4. G.A. Musgrave (Locomotive Running Superintendent, Scotland); 5. behind and not named in caption; 6. W.B. Brown, Carriage & Wagon Works Manager, York; 8. D.R. Edge; 10. A.H. Peppercorn; 11. F. Wintour; 12 Gresley; 13. R.A. Thom (all remainder Townend); 14. O.V.S. Bulleid; 15. H. Broughton; 16. F.H. Eggleshaw; 17. Edward Thompson; 18 T.A. Street. KPJ considers that number 5 might be George Dow (but now consider that this is unlikely) and number 7 (who clearly was "not in the picture") may have been KPJ's father (Frank Jones) who might have been acting as "bag-carrier" for someone just out of the picture. A further point is that the picture must have been taken after the actual naming, as this was performed by William Whitelaw, as Chairman of the LNER. Thom is the bossy wee man who got the A4s built in a remarkably short time. An e-mail from Geof Hughes (to KPJ) suggests that A.C.Stamer is said to be the chap on Bert Spencer's right; Locomotive Mag., 1937, 43, 400 reproduces the photograph with a key


See also Hughes especially for colour portrait in his book on the LNER. Dow (plate 12) shows a relaxed Gresley with pipe at the window of one of his coaches, a sleeping car, perhaps.

Portrait on page 533 (bottom) of Gresley with daughters on footplate of 10000 in Rutherford's Heroes, villains and ordinary men. BackTrack 9, 528. repeated in Brown's Hush-Hush

Cox: Locomotive panorama v.1 fp. 4: shows Gresley with L&YR officer and former officers: with Fowler, O'Brien, Hughes, and Aspinall (Gresley is to the right of him) at a formal function in 1912.

William Whitelaw with HNG at Doncaster sports day (T. Henry Turner) in Hughes, G. The Gresley influence p. 47
The photographer should be noted: both look like country gentlemen at a duck shoot.

Gresley with camera at Stevenage to photograph demonstration run of new Flying Scotsman train behind 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley alongside Stirling 4-2-2 Single No. 1 on train of 1888 rolling stock in summer of 1938 (photograph taken by C.C.B. Herbert). Trains Ann., 1949, page 47.

Sir Nigel Gresley's other greyhound. David Hayward. Steam Wld, 2002, (176), 47.
Herbert Nigel Gresley acquired a Chevrolet Model 490 Touring Car in 1921, registration C 2302, whilst resident at Avenue Road, Doncaster. The writer naively states that he had not thought that locomotive engineers needed a private car.

Beames with Crewe pupils and premiums including Gresley: group photograph taken on 27 May 1927: Talbot. Pictorial tribute to Crewe Works. PLATE 30

Yorkshire Engine Co, locomotives for Spain with Gresley derived motion
Gresley valve gear E-mail received 27 May 2005 from Guillermo Bas in Spain
Firstly, let me tell you that your website is excellent and provides invaluable informations for the enthusiasts of British steam locomotives. Secondly, I am would like to discuss with you the aplication of the Gresley/Holcroft derivated valve gear.
In 1921 Yorkshire Engine supplied a three cylinder 4-8-0 to Spain (Norte Railway nO 4301) and then 15 more examples were built in my country. According to Spanish sources, the gear for the inside cylinder was a copy of that applied to Prussian G12 2-10-0, itself a copy of that of the S10.2 4- 6-0.
The S10.2 were introduced in 1914 and, judging for the descriptions I have found of them, it was a similar to the Gresley device. However, Gresley patent is dated 1916 and 2-8-0 No. 461 did not appear until a couple of years later.
In spite of that, the first patent of Holcroft dates back to 1909 so in my opinion German locomotives followed this pattern.
I think that No. 4301 and her sisters were built according to the Gresley 1916 patent and had nothing to do with the German engines although they share a similar valve gear.
Is this possible? Had Gresley some relationship with the Yorkshire Engine? As far as I know, nobody has treated with great attention the aplication of Gresley valve gear outside the LNER (except perhaps for the SR Maunsell Moguls) though it was used even in the USA. I think that the Spanish engines were the first examples built for outside with that arrangement.
KPJ: Does this add something on (1) utilsation of Gresley gear and (2) an associtaion  with the Yorshire Engine Co.?

Further sources

Hough, R. Six great railwaymen: Stephenson, Hudson, Denison, Huish, Stephen and Gresley. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1955. 200 p. + 6 plates. 6 illus. (ports.), 3 maps. Bibliog.
This work, which is intended for teenagers, contains fresh biographical material gathered from Gresley's children. The author experiences difficulty in technical terminology (e.g. valve gearing sic)
Lake, C.S. Some C.M.Es I have known: VIII : Sir H.N. Gresley. Rly Mag., 1944, 90, 74-8. 6 illus. (incl. port)
This article is based on impressions gained from a number of meetings with Gresley.
The LATE Sir Nigel Gresley. Railways, 1941, 2, 171.
George W. Carpenter biography in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 23 pp. 771-2
Riemsdijk, J.T. van. The engineer as hero (George Stephenson Bientenary Lecture). Proc. Instn Mech. Engrs., 1981, 195, 261-9,
Now to living memory. When attending meetings in this theatre [at the Institution of Mechanical Enginees] I have usually sat with friends somewhere close beneath the portrait of Sir Nigel Gresley. I met him once, when I was very young indeed and no doubt tongue tied in the great man's presence. His name was one of the first I ever learned to articulate, because I was born beside a branch line of the LNER, which had, a few months before, been a branch line of the GNR. The 0-6-2 tanks which passed the bottom of the garden were either Ivatt or Gresley, and to me the former was the late monarch and the latter the reigning one. After all these years, and close acquaintance with other locomotives than Gresley's, in Britain and continental Europe, I am not, I think, partisan in this matter, but I have no doubt that Gresley was cast in the heroic mould. He had imagination and courage, the ability to convince his board of directors (hard pressed as they were for every penny) and inspire great loyalty. He gave his railway speed and style, and his scientific curiosity made the LNER the scene of many experiments and innovations—not all successful, but all worth trying in the pursuit of greater experience and understanding. So the image of him which I especially appreciate is of him standing beside the crew of No. 10000 his inconclusive experiment with a high pressure water tube boiler (Fig. 6). Characteristically he did not take the centre of the stage, or, rather, the bufferbeam. A certain gentlemanly diffidence is beginning to show itself. a new spirit of the age, perhaps. There was a world depression and this was no time for vainglory: the engineer was trying, as always, to do the best job in the most economical way.
History does not repeat itself with any exactness, and I can confidently say that we will never see another Gresley. For one thing, industrial organization no longer allows any man to be a Chief Mechanical Engineer for thirty years. For another, engineering projects require so much team work that the individual seldom achieves the same importance. Even if he does, he is unlikely to have a public image at all and his name is unlikely to be known outside a small circle. But this does not mean that he has any less need of the heroic qualities of imagination, courage and skill.

Gresley, Roger
Born 15 July 1906 in Doncaster (Hughes). Educated Uppingham; apprenticed to Taylor Brothers at their Trafford Park Steel Works. Subsequently joined Metropolitan Cammell. In 1935 joined George Stephenson & Co. Became a Director of company. Died 1 August 1960. Obit: J. Instn Looco. Engrs., 1960, 50, 394.

Yarrow, Sir Harold
Chairman of Yarrow & Co. Son of Sir Alfred Fernandez Yarrow whom the obituarist in the Proc. Instn Mech Engrs, 1932, 122, 740-2. stated "Was justly one of the great figures of the engineering profession. At the advanced age of 90 years, at which he died on 24 January 1932, his memory of early days of engineering progress extended further than most men’s, but he looked back on them not merely as one who had seen the beginnings of noteworthy developments, but as one who had taken, entirely on his own initiative, a leading part in them. For he founded the great firm which bears his name in the most modest circumstances, with nothing more than his own outstanding talent as an advantage". Sir Alfred was one of the first to carry out, the introduction of the Yarrow-Schlick-Tweedy system of balancing for high-speed reciprocating engines, and the development of the Yarrow straight-tube water-tube boiler. The works were moved from Poplar to the Clyde in 1907.  Sir Harold Edgar was born on 11 August 1884 and died on 18 April 1962. As noted above was joint Patent holder (with Gresley) of water tube boiler design exploited in W1 class locomotive. See also John Atwell


Updated: 2023-03-03

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