The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA

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3 January 2006

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The Work of the Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Trust
by Keith and Joan Jackson
11 March 2002

Ian Harrison introduced our husband and wife team of speakers by quoting some notable facts of the LNER. The salary of the Chairman in 1923, Ralph Wedgewood, was £10,000 p..a. (equivalent to £350,000 at today's rates), it employed 220,000 people, generated no dividends for its shareholders, but still managed to persuade its financial backers to come up with the money to introduce its world-beating streamlined trains and special stock.

For our talk on 11 March, we were treated to a double act, by Keith and Joan Jackson, who took turns in filling in the history of the Society. It all started with a letter to the railway press in 1965, proposing the formation of a society to preserve an A4 in operating condition on the main line and calling for a monthly contribution of 6s. In May 1966, Sir Nigel Gresley was purchased for £4500 from BR. It had run 1,500,000 miles since its construction and was in a very run-down state. An overhaul commenced in August at Crewe. On 5 March 1967, the A4 Locomotive Society was formally instituted at the time of the engine's release from Crewe. The first run from Crewe took place on1 April , with a high speed run - in fact so fast that the signalman at Warrington saw the track indicators moving so quickly that he thought it was an electrically hauled train. There were some further running in turns from Crewe on parcels trains following this first overhaul. The engine was allocated to one diver, Bert Stuart who became very familiar with running the engine to give its full performance. At that time, there was no support crew, the engine being maintained by BR.

In 1968 steam died on the mainline, and Sir Nigel Gresley was exiled to Philadelphia sidings in the North East. Here, the support crew were established, one of whom was John Graham, the current chief engineer of the society. For many years Julian Riddick was the Chairman of the A4 Locomotive Society, and a major driver in the project. Gradually things eased, and 1972 saw the return on a Newcastle-Carlisle run, followed by several others. These were organised by David Ward at BR. In late 1970s the engine went to Carnforth, where two further overhauls were done. These didn't cost too much, which is just as well as the income was not great. However, the overhauls had caused the society to go into debt, but they were bailed out by a member. As a result of lineside fires during its runs over the Settle and Carlisle, spark arresters had to be installed. A series or experiments has had to be made to perfect these and is still continuing.

The post office issued their famous-engines stamps in 1985, and they wanted Sir Nigel Gresley in steam at Marylebone. Their power as a major railway customer effectively broke the ban on steam in London. The original naming ceremony was on 26 Nov. 1937 at Marylebone by William Whitelaw, Chairman of the LNER, and this was repeated at the Post Office event with a renaming ceremony, presided over by the present William Whitelaw (the original's grandson). As a result of the Post Office's initiative several things happened - regular steam excursions started from London, and Keith and Joan married! Several tours from Marylebone were organised by the Cambridge University Railway Circle. Haddenham and Thame station was even opened with a special to Marylebone hauled by Sir Nigel Gresley. On one memorable occasion, Mallard, Sir Nigel Gresley and Flying Scotsman were all on Marylebone specials and positioned outside the servicing shed.

The engine then moved to the Great Central, where they put the loco into BR blue livery and put the commemorative post war speed record plaque. While at the Great Central they decided to go for charitable status and changed the name to Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Society Trust Ltd. Joan became a trustee, with society members becoming members of the trust. Later, the engine moved via the East Lancs to NYMR, a number of members live nearby and provide the core of the support crew.

Privatisation has removed the restricted on the loco, and opened up the possibility to run on their own ground. The main difficulty is the technical supervision of the engine. A Railtrack approved maintenance plan is needed with the support of competent people involved. This makes the whole thing more professional. The loco has visited many preserved railways, which allows more income in a week than in a whole year on the main line. However this produces more wear and tear. The latest overhaul is to Railtrack main line operating standard MT276 being carried out at Grosmont and involving approved contractors. There will be train air brakes and TPWS. A series of photographs taken during the last overhaul at Carnforth showed the components of the engine and Keith described the current state of each of these - most now needing major refurbishment or replacement. One interesting point was the inside of the mainframes, which is painted white, in an attempt to reflect as much light as possible as no natural light gets down past the streamlined casing - it stays that way for at least a few weeks!

To fund the latest overhaul they made a case to Heritage Lottery Fund, and got a grant of £294,000. There is a carefully approved restoration programme, overseen by Richard Gibbon, and paid for in stages in arrears. The trust is an educational organisation which gives talks over the country.

Philip Brown proposed the vote of thanks, recalling his time as engine cleaner, as recorded by Keith, and the particular need to ensure that the brass surround for window of the tender corridor was polished.