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London & North Eastern Gresley classes A1 and A3
Great Britain | 1922 | 79 produced
A1 No. 1475 “Flying Fox”
A1 No. 1475 “Flying Fox”
collection Alan Burkwood

Since at the beginning of the 1920s the Atlantic express locomotives of the Great Northern Railway could no longer cope with the increasing train weights, Sir Nigel Gresley began to develop a Pacific locomotive. The first attempt to expand the Atlantics with another coupled axle was quickly dropped. Gresley eventually took inspiration from the Pennsylvania Railroad's K4 and developed a locomotive that just barely fit into the gauge and weight limits.

Schematic drawing of the A1 with dimensions
Schematic drawing of the A1 with dimensions
Locomotive Magazine, May 1922

From the American locomotive he took over the large firebox, which was mounted above the trailing axle, a roof of the firebox that sloped towards the rear and a boiler that tapered towards the front. What was new was the introduction of a combustion chamber, which at the same time limited the length of the smoke tubes to a tolerable level. There were three cylinders, all acting on the second coupled axle. So that the inner cylinder did not get in the way of the front coupled axle, it together with the associated connecting rod were tilted upwards by about seven degrees. Furthermore, Gresley's valve gear was used, which did not require any control mechanism on the inside and instead transmitted the valve movements of the outer cylinders to the inner cylinder via a lever mechanism.

A3 No. 4472/60103 “Flying Scotsman” in York
A3 No. 4472/60103 “Flying Scotsman” in York
Train Photos / 60103 Flying Scotsman at York NRM

The first two locomotives with the numbers 1470 and 1471 were completed in 1922 and formed the basis for the production machines. These were not completed until after the 1923 grouping and were given the class designation A1 by the LNER. Although they were actually developed for the GNR, they were used throughout the LNER network. The locomotives that were to cover longer distances were given a four-axle tender. The locomotives for the Flying Scotsman were given new types of corridor tenders, which allowed passage to the train. In order to achieve the long non-stop routes, various improvements were made to some locomotives, which were mainly in the area of control. Soon the boiler pressure was also increased from 180 to 220 psi. One of these locomotives was the first to achieve a proven speed in excess of 100 mph as the 1904 record of GWR 3700 No. 3440 “City of Truro” is not confirmed with certainty. Later, 108 mph were also reached.

A3 with corridor tender
A3 with corridor tender
Die Lokomotive, November 1928

Based on the subsequently introduced improvements, the further developed A3 was built from 1928. It also had a boiler pressure of 220psi, optimized valve gear and lubrication, better weight distribution, and slightly smaller cylinders with a higher degree of superheating. The driver's seat was moved from right to left to allow a better view of the trackside signals. The conversion of the existing class A1 locomotives soon began, but this took until 1949. This resulted in a total of 51 converted A1 and 27 newly created A3. In 1945, Gresley's successor, Thompson, significantly modified an A1 into a one-off A1/1.

Around 1960, the locomotives, which were still almost complete, were modernized further. This included a double Kylchap exhaust system and various smoke deflectors. This should allow the machines to keep to the same timetables as diesel locomotives, but their number thinned out noticeably from 1962 and the last example was retired in 1966. Today, the A3 4472 “Flying Scotsman” is the only one preserved. After undergoing a major overhaul between 2006 and 2016, it is back in service and bears the BR number 60103, which it received in 1948.

ManufacturerDoncaster, North British
Axle config4-6-2 (Pacific) 
Gauge4 ft 8 1/2 in (Standard gauge)
Dimensions and Weights
Length70 ft 4 7/8 in
Wheelbase35 ft 9 in
Fixed wheelbase14 ft 6 in
Total wheelbase60 ft 10 1/2 in
Service weight207,100 lbs215,500 lbs
Adhesive weight134,400 lbs148,287 lbs
Total weight333,192 lbs
Axle load44,800 lbs49,392 lbs
Water capacity6,005 us gal
Fuel capacity17,920 lbs (coal)
Power sourcesteam
Estimated power2,200 hp (1,641 kW)2,400 hp (1,790 kW)
Optimal speed47 mph50 mph
Top speed90 mph
Starting effort29,835 lbf30,363 lbf
Power Plant
Driver diameter80 in
Boiler pressure180 psi220 psi
Expansion typesimple
Cylindersthree, 20 x 26 inthree, 18 1/4 x 26 in
Grate area43.5 sq ft
Firebox area215 sq ft
Tube heating area2,715 sq ft
Evaporative heating area2,930 sq ft
Superheater area525 sq ft636.3 sq ft
Total heating area3,455 sq ft3,566.3 sq ft
Calculated Values
steam locomotive
Herbert Nigel Gresley
last changed: 04/2022

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