LNER Class A4 4464 Bittern
|Builder||LNER, Doncaster Works|
|Build date||18 December 1937|
|Gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|3 ft 2 in (0.965 m)|
|Driver diameter||6 ft 8 in (2.032 m)|
|3 ft 8 in (1.118 m)|
|Boiler pressure||250 psi (1.72 MPa)|
|Cylinder size||18.5 × 26 in (470 × 660 mm)|
|Tractive effort||35,455 lbf (157.7 kN)|
|Train brakes||LNER/BR: Vacuum
Current: Dual air and Vacuum
|Railroad(s)||LNER, British Railways|
|Number in class||24 of 35|
|Current owner||Privately owned (Jeremy Hosking)|
|Disposition||Operational, certified for mainline use|
4464 Bittern is a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 steam locomotive. Built for the LNER in 1937 at Doncaster Works as works number 1866, it was originally numbered 4464. It was renumbered 19 on 16 August 1946 under the LNER 1946 renumbering scheme and after nationalisation in 1948 BR added 60000 to its number so it became 60019 on 10 October 1948. It is a Pacific 4-6-2 locomotive to the same design by Sir Nigel Gresley as the more famous A4 Mallard and one of the 35 strong class. It is one of six to survive into preservation and is one of three currently certified for mainline use.
In preservation, the locomotive has also worn the identities of a number of its scrapped classmates, including first of the A4 class 2509 Silver Link and most recently as 4492 Dominion of New Zealand.
Like the other members of her class, Bittern has worn many liveries throughout her career. When released to traffic on 18 December 1937, Bittern was wearing the garter blue livery that was standard for LNER A4 Pacific locomotives at that time. 14 November 1941 saw her repainted into wartime black with LNER markings on the tender. 22 May 1943 saw the modification to the tender with just the markings NE. It has sometimes been said that this was to confuse wartime spies, but the generally accepted view is that it was to save scarce materials and labour by reducing the number of letters by half. It has also been said that the change was to satisfy the vanity of the new Chief Mechanical Engineer, Edward Thompson, who was a product of the former North Eastern Railway, but this claim is widely discounted. Bittern remained in black until 7 March 1947 when she served out the last few months of the "Big Four" in LNER post-war garter blue with extra red/white lining. Bittern was repainted next on 28 July 1950 into British Railways dark blue with black and white lining. The final repaint for Bittern was into British Railways brunswick green on 12 February 1952.
Bittern had some livery variations applied to her; some of the A4s had red backgrounds applied to their nameplates, which were normally black. Bittern was seen with a red background circa 1966. The Brunswick green livery had variations. Normally the boiler bands were lined out except for the firebox boiler band, which was plain green. Bittern, and other Darlington A4s received lining on the firebox boiler band as well.
Some A4s had their shed name marked on the right-hand (looking from the front) buffer. Bittern was marked with 'Gateshead' circa 1949 and 'Ferryhill' later in the 1960s.
Like most other A4s, Bittern was fitted with side valances and a single chimney from new. The valances were removed during an overhaul 22 September – 14 November 1941. Her double chimney with a Kylchap double blastpipe was fitted on 6 September 1957. Her AWS (Automatic Warning System) was fitted 13 December 1958. Bittern was fitted with a full width bogie dust shield in 1950. The speed indicator was fitted 6 September 1960.
Bittern has had fourteen boilers in her career, these were: 9020 (from new), 9025 (from the ill-fated 4469 Sir Ralph Wedgewood after it had been destroyed at York depot during the 'Baedecker' air raid.), 23 January 1941; 9018 (from 4462 ), 22 May 1943; 8952 (spare), 14 October 1948; 8905 (from 60011), 28 July 1950; 29317 (new build boiler), 12 February 1952; 29298 (from 60020 Guillemot), 12 June 1953; 29279 (from 60009 Union of South Africa), 30 November 1954; 29320 (from 60020 Guillemot), 25 May 1956; 29315 (from 60022 Mallard), 6 September 1957; 29319 (from 60009 Union of South Africa), 13 December 1958; 29355 (newbuild boiler), 16 March 1960; 27971 (from 60017 Silver Fox), 27 April 1962 and finally 29332 (spare), 24 March 1965.
Bittern has had just one tender throughout her career: 5638, of the non-corridor design. During the major overhaul which returned the engine to traffic in 2007 the tender was rebuilt as a corridor version to allow extra flexibility of operations.
Initially Bittern was based at Heaton in Newcastle and served the famous Flying Scotsman train in the section between King's Cross and Newcastle. Early in her career, Bittern suffered some collision damage, necessitating a general overhaul at Doncaster from 3–4 January 1938. Bittern was transferred to Gateshead on 28 March 1943. With World War II, the named expresses were cut back as the country went to war. Bittern lost her garter-blue paint for a wartime black and was required to pull longer-than-normal, and therefore very heavy, passenger trains. As the war continued the A4 locomotives were also to be seen hauling heavy freight and coal trains. This was not a task that the locomotives had been built for. The heavy loads and poor maintenance conditions took their toll, and by the end of the war the A4 locomotives were in a poor state.
With the end of the war and nationalisation came better maintenance and the A4 class saw a return to the high-speed expresses of the pre-war years. Now in BR green Bittern pulled the Talisman express from Kings Cross to Edinburgh. Bittern was transferred to St Margarets on 28 October 1963. The A4 revival was short-lived, as the steam-pulled services were replaced by diesel-hauled services and Bittern was moved to Scotland and put into storage. After a short period Bittern was moved to Ferryhill at Aberdeen on 10 November 1963 and ran to Edinburgh and Glasgow. This service only lasted three years. Bittern has the dubious honour of heading the last A4 Glasgow to Aberdeen and thus bring the curtain down on 30 years of service.
When she was bought for preservation, 'Bittern' had several major problems, such as the frames being cracked quite badly. These problems were known to BR, but were only lightly repaired, since with the end of steam it would have been uneconomic to completely repair the loco. This in turn affected her life in preservation and only now have the important repairs been done so that she is up to mainline standard. The final day in service for Bittern was 3 September 1966.
Bittern was withdrawn from British Railways traffic on 5 September 1966 and was bought by Geoff Drury on 12 September 1966. Bittern initially operated from York depot (site of the National Railway Museum today) on various steam charters, but the cracked frames and other symptoms of her long career soon spelled an end to her mainline career. In consequence Drury bought LNER Peppercorn Class A2 60532 Blue Peter from British Rail in 1968, and this loco is still owned by the Drury family.
Bittern and 60532 were moved to the Dinting Railway Centre, near Glossop. Neither locomotive did much running, and in late 1987 the NELPG took charge of both locomotives on long-term loan from the Drury family. While 60532 was moved to the Imperial Chemical Industries works at Wilton on Teesside, and restored to mainline running from December 1991; Bittern with its greater repair need was cosmetically restored to represent pioneer and long-gone sister 2509 Silver Link. It was initially displayed at the Stephenson Railway Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in this livery.
Silver Link was displayed at the National Railway Museum, York and on 3 July 1988 was displayed outside with 4468 Mallard and 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley. Mallard had just worked a charter train up from Doncaster, and Sir Nigel Gresley was discreetly used to make steam appear to come from Silver Link to give the impression she was in steam. 60009 Union of South Africa was unable to attend due to an overhaul. On the weekend of 5 July 2008, Bittern joined her three sisters for the first time ever on display at the National Railway Museum in York on the 70th anniversary of sister Mallard's run.
In 1995, Silver Link was moved to the Great Central Railway in Loughborough to undergo restoration to working order, but this reached only a partial stage of dismantling. In 1997, Bittern was bought by Dr Tony Marchington, and based at the Southall Railway Centre alongside his other locomotive which was also being overhauled at the time, LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman. In 2000, after the over budgeted £1million restoration of Flying Scotsman was complete, Marchington sold Bittern to Jeremy Hosking, who moved her to the Mid-Hants Railway in Hampshire in January 2001, for full restoration.
On 19 May 2007, Bittern was steamed for the first time since the 1970s. In authentic British Railways lined green livery and carrying her British Railways number, 60019, she hauled her first service train since the 1970s on 7 July 2007 after six years of restoration, numerous tests and modifications. She departed at one o'clock on 7 July 2007, during the Watercress Line's 'End of Southern Steam Gala', hauling their rake of dining coaches from Alresford to Alton. Since then she has been 'run in' and has been used on normal services, Santa specials and on 21, 22 and 23 March 2008 ran as 'Spencer' from the Thomas The Tank Engine stories during the Watercress Line's 'Day out with Thomas'. (She was also booked as 'Spencer' from 9–17 August 2008.)
Bittern was then sent to Southall depot near London, where she was configured to run with her water tender and support coach, both having originally been used with Flying Scotsman. After that, she completed brake and speed tests on a run to Bristol and soon after made her official return to mainline working on Saturday 1 December 2007 on a charter from London Kings Cross to York, and since then has hauled several more 'Railtours' around Britain.
On 25 July 2009, Bittern made a 188-mile run from King's Cross to York non-stop using a second tender to avoid the need to stop en route to take on water and change crews, carrying the headboard "The Brighton Belle" to publicise the launch of the Brighton Belle restoration project by the 5BEL Trust. With the first tender having a water capacity of 5,000 gallons and coal, and the second tender only used for carrying an extra 9,000 gallons of water, it was thought that this would give Bittern a range of about 250 miles; occasional stops are desirable in any case, for things such as mechanical checks and coal redistribution in the tender and firebox. A non-stop run on the East Coast Main Line had not been achieved since the 1968 Kings Cross to Edinburgh run by Flying Scotsman, also with a second tender. In June in the Top Gear Race to the North, a run using the newly built locomotive No. 60163 Tornado had been achieved from London to Edinburgh on the ECML with water stops but no station stops, also a first since the 1968 run of No. 4472.
During the winter of 2010/2011 the locomotive received maintenance which included the cosmetic renaming and renumbering of the locomotive as scrapped classmate 4492 Dominion of New Zealand (BR number 60013). This conversion also included repainting the locomotive in LNER garter blue, the fitting of Gresley's original side valances (most of the valancing is from when the locomotive was masquerading as 2509 Silver Link) and the painting of its wheels in their original Coronation red colouring. As the original 4492 had a New Zealand Government Railways five-chime whistle fitted shortly after its introduction to service in 1937, a suitable whistle was borrowed from the Glenbrook Vintage Railway in New Zealand.
The original Dominion of New Zealand was one of five A4s named after Commonwealth countries to pull "The Coronation" service, so named to celebrate the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. Two of the five "Coronation"-named A4s survive in preservation - Dominion of Canada at Exporail in Delson, Quebec, and Union of South Africa, owned by John Cameron and which makes regular appearances on the main line.
The locomotive was due to remain in this livery for three years.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of sister locomotive Mallard completing its record breaking 126 mph run, 'Bittern' is due to make three special charter runs along the East Coast Main Line in June and July 2013, when it will be the first locomotive in preservation to be allowed to break the 75 mph speed limit that steam locomotives have on the UK mainline. Network Rail has allowed 4464 to run up to 90 mph, as long as it passes some rigorous tests beforehand. All of these charters will involve 'Bittern' operating to and from York so it can also still be displayed along with the five other preserved A4s (including 'Mallard') at the National Railway Museum.
On 29 June 2013, Bittern set a new record for British preserved steam locomotive speed on the Main Line railway, when, according to official timers on the footplate, it achieved a maximum speed of 92.8 miles per hour (149.3 km/h) near Arlesey, Bedfordshire on the first of its planned "high speed" runs.
Bachmann released a model of 60019 while she was still in BR Brunswick Green and in 2013 Hornby will also release a limited edition model of 60019 along with the other 5 surviving A4's.
- Clarke, David (2005). Locomotives in Detail: 3 Gresley 4-6-2- A4 Class. Ian Allan Publishing. ISBN 0-7110-3085-5. An overall history of the Gresley A4 class, as well as unparalleled details about the class and individual members.
- Yeadon, W.B. (2001). Yeadon's Register of LNER Locomotives: Volume Two: Gresley A4 and W1 classes. Booklaw/Railbus is association with Challenger. ISBN 1-871608-15-5. Histories of the A4 and W1 classes of locomotive with details of repairs and liveries etc.
- [dead link]
- "The Peppercorn A2 Pacifics". Lner.info. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- "About NELPG". Nelpg.org.uk. 2009-02-15. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- "Scotsman flying high". BBC News. 14 April 1999. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "LNER Class A4 4464 Bittern". Clan Doyle. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- The Railway Magazine, August 2009 issue, 1 July 2009
- "Dominion of New Zealand: it's here!", Heritage Railway 14 April 2011
- This whistle was donated by the NZGR and equipped to the locomotive in place of its original chime whistle in 1937. When the locomotive was withdrawn in 1963 as BR 60013, the whistle was supposedly 'stolen' before the locomotive was scrapped.
- 4492 Dominion of New Zealand[dead link]
- Jones, Robin (24 April 2013). "Bittern heads three 90mph Main Line trips". Heritage Railway (Mortons Media Group). Retrieved 2013-04-24.
- "Mallard anniversary: Steam locomotive Bittern marks record run". BBC News England. 29 June 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
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