LNER Class A4 4464 Bittern

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60019 Bittern at Flyfish Crossing.jpg
60019 Bittern running on the ECML with a second tender in 2010.
Type and origin
Power typeSteam
BuilderDoncaster Works
Serial number1866
Build date18 December 1937
 • Whyte4-6-2
 • UIC2'C1h3
Gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Leading dia.3 ft 2 in (0.965 m)
Driver dia.6 ft 8 in (2.032 m)
Trailing dia.3 ft 8 in (1.118 m)
Boiler pressure250 psi (1.72 MPa)
Cylinder size18.5 in × 26 in (470 mm × 660 mm)
Loco brakeSteam
Train brakesLNER/BR: Vacuum
Current: Dual air and Vacuum
Performance figures
Tractive effort35,455 lbf (157.7 kN)
OperatorsLNER, British Railways
Number in class24 of 35
NumbersLNER 4464
BR 60019
Official nameBittern
Current ownerJeremy Hosking
Official Website - Bittern on Icons Of Steam

4464 Bittern is a London & 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. Renumbered 19 on 16 August 1946 under the LNER 1946 renumbering scheme, it was renumbered 60019 by British Railways on 10 October 1948, after nationalisation. A Pacific 4-6-2 locomotive to the same design by Nigel Gresley as the more famous A4 Mallard and one of the 35 strong class, it is one of six to survive into preservation but is one of only two currently scheduled to be certified for mainline use.

In preservation, the locomotive has also worn the identities of a number of its scrapped classmates, including the first of the A4 class 2509 Silver Link and most recently as 4492 Dominion of New Zealand.


Like the other members of its class, Bittern has worn many liveries throughout its 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. On 14 November 1941 it was repainted into wartime black with LNER markings on the tender. On 22 May 1943 the tender was modified 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 repainted 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 green on 12 February 1952.

Bittern had some livery variations applied; 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 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 based 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 shed (Aberdeen) later in the 1960s.

Technical details[edit]

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. 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 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 hauled the famous Flying Scotsman train on the section between London King's Cross and Newcastle. Early in her career, Bittern suffered some collision damage, necessitating a general overhaul at Doncaster Works 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 hauled the Talisman from King's 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, 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. Bittern was withdrawn on 3 September 1966.

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.


Bittern was sold to Geoff Drury on 12 September 1966. It 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.[1]

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.[2] 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 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,[3] Marchington sold Bittern to Jeremy Hosking, who moved her to the Mid-Hants Railway in Hampshire in January 2001, for full restoration.[4]

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 13:00 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 in 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 King's Cross to York, and since then has hauled several more railtours around Britain.

4464 Bittern masquerading as scrapped classmate 4492 Dominion of New Zealand with a railtour at Sheffield[when?]. Note the second tender.

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.[5] 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.[5] A non-stop run on the East Coast Main Line had not been achieved since the 1968 King's Cross to Edinburgh hauled by 4472 Flying Scotsman, also with a second tender.[5] In June in the Top Gear Race to the North, a run using the newly built locomotive 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.

Bittern crossing the Forth Bridge

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] Two of the five "Coronation"-named A4s survive in preservation - 4489 Dominion of Canada at the Canadian Railway Museum in Delson, Quebec, and 60009 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,[6] however when 4464 emerged from its winter maintenance in 2012, The locomotive had reverted to its LNER identity as 4464 Bittern in gold leaf lettering.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of sister locomotive Mallard completing its record breaking 126 mph run, Bittern ran three special charter runs along the East Coast Main Line, during which it became 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 allowed 4464 to run up to 90 mph, as long as it passed some rigorous tests beforehand. All of these charters involved Bittern operating to and from York so it could still be displayed along with the five other preserved A4s (including Mallard) at the National Railway Museum.[9]

On 29 June 2013, Bittern set a new speed record for a British preserved steam locomotive, and according to official timers on the footplate, it achieved a maximum speed of 92.8 miles per hour (149.3 km/h)[10] near Arlesey, Bedfordshire on the first of its planned "high speed" runs, "The Ebor Streak" that ran from London King's Cross to York. The remaining two runs were originally scheduled for July, but the heatwave during the summer, as well as further weather issues later in the year, caused the services, the York-Newcastle "Tyne Tees Streak" and the York-London King's Cross "Capital Streak" to be rescheduled for 5 December and 7 December 2013 respectively. During the "Tyne Tees Streak" run, Bittern broke its own speed record set just a few months prior by reaching a maximum speed of 93 mph (149.7 km/h).[citation needed]

In 2014, Bittern was fitted with two commemorative plaques, similar to those worn by sister locomotives Mallard and Sir Nigel Gresley, in honour of her 90 mph runs. Just prior to the expiry of its mainline certificate on 1 January 2015, the locomotive was moved again to the Mid-Hants Railway, where it ran during 2015 before being withdrawn from service for a major overhaul at LNWR, Crewe.

As of May 2018 Bittern is stored in the queue of engines awaiting workshop space, as Crewe LSL is focused on getting 60532 and 70000 back mainline.[11][12]


Bachmann released a model of 60019 while it was still in BR Green. In 2013 Hornby released a limited edition of 1,000 models of Bittern as 60019 in Green, with double tenders, as for its non-stop run from London to York in 2009.[13] This was followed in 2014 by a very limited edition set of the six surviving A4s as 'The Great Goodbye' collection, including Bittern as 4464 in Garter Blue and with full valances.[14] In 2019 Hornby are releasing limited edition models of engines in the 1:1 collection, including Bittern in LNER Garter Blue with two tenders and gold lettering, as preserved. [15]


  • 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.


  1. ^ "North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group". Archived from the original on 30 April 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "About NELPG". Nelpg.org.uk. 15 February 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Scotsman flying high". BBC News. 14 April 1999. Retrieved 16 January 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "LNER Class A4 4464 Bittern". Clan Doyle. Archived from the original on 28 June 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b c The Railway Magazine, August 2009 issue, 1 July 2009
  6. ^ a b "Dominion of New Zealand: it's here!", Heritage Railway 14 April 2011
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 4492 Dominion of New Zealand Archived 7 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Jones, Robin (24 April 2013). "Bittern heads three 90mph Main Line trips". Heritage Railway. Mortons Media Group. Archived from the original on 24 May 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Mallard anniversary: Steam locomotive Bittern marks record run". BBC News England. 29 June 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Bittern".
  12. ^ "Bringing back Britannia". 16 January 2018.
  13. ^ "BR A4 Bittern - Double Tender Special Edition - R3103". Hornby.
  14. ^ "Hornby 'The Great Goodbye' Collection - Limited Edition - R3251Z". Hornby.
  15. ^ "Hornby R3771 LNER A4 class 4-6-2 'Bittern'". Hornby.

External links[edit]