Sir Nigel Gresley
A Chronology

1876

Born in Dublin Street, Edinburgh, 19 June; fourth and youngest son and youngest of five children of the Revd Nigel Gresley, Rector of Netherseale in Derbyshire, and his wife Joanna Beatrice.  His grandfather was Sir William Nigel Gresley, ninth baronet.  Christened Herbert Nigel.

1890-3

Educated at Marlborough College.

1893

Apprenticed as premium pupil of Francis Webb at the Crewe Works of the London & North Western Railway.

1897

After completing his formal apprenticeship, remained at Crewe for a further year working as a fitter, to gain practical experience.

1898

Moved to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway at Horwich to gain experience in the drawing office.

1899

Materials test room assistant at Horwich.

1900

Running shed foreman at Blackpool.

1901

Assistant manager at Newton Heath carriage works.
Married Ethel Frances Fullagar.

1902

Works manager at Newton Heath.

1904

Assistant Carriage & Wagon Superintendent, L & Y Railway.

1905

Appointed Carriage & Wagon Superintendent, Great Northern Railway.

1907

Elected Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Conceived vehicle articulation, for which patent 4512 was taken out on 2 January 1908.

1911

Succeeded H.A. Ivatt as Locomotive Engineer, Great Northern Railway, 1 October.

1912

His first 2-cylinder 2-6-0 built.

1913

His first 2-cylinder 2-8-0 built.

1914-18

On outbreak of World War I he reorganised Doncaster Works for production of armaments. He modified locomotives for military use. Later in the war he served on the Engineering Committee of the Ministry of Food.

1915

Prepared a design for a Pacific locomotive with a parallel boiler and four cylinders. It was not built, due to wartime restrictions.  The design was much developed into a three-cylinder machine before it was built.

1918

His first 3-cylinder 2-8-0 was built; it incorporated his first use of conjugated gear.
Elected Member of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers in March. As first Chairman of the Leeds branch of the ILE, made his inaugural address, 11 May.

1920

Appointed C.B.E. for his services during World War I.
Emergence of his first 3-cylinder Mogul, notable for its large boiler and for the improvement by simplification of the conjugated valve gear, achieved in collaboration with Holcroft.

1922

First Gresley Pacific (class A1) entered traffic.

1923

Appointed first Chief Mechanical & Electrical Engineer of the newly-formed London & North Eastern Railway, February.  With his office now at Kings Cross, he moved house from Doncaster to Hadley Wood near Barnet.

1924

A1 Pacific 4472 was displayed at the British Empire Exhibition. Also exhibited is a Great Western Railway Castle class locomotive; this prompted comparison of the two classes, of which there were to be interchange trials.

1925

Presented a paper to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on 3-cylinder locomotive design. In the debate which follows, Holcroft’s contribution to the design of the conjugated valve gear was treated perhaps somewhat dismissively by Gresley.
Interchange trials with GWR Castle class took place. Study of the comparatively poor performance of the A1s was to lead to significant improvements to the design.
Two 2-8-2 locomotives (class P1) built for heavy freight.
Designed the LNER’s only Beyer Garratt, a 2-8-0 + 0-8-2.

1926

Elected President, Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers.

1927

Elected President, Institution of Locomotive Engineers.  In his Presidential Address he supported the proposal to build a British locomotive testing plant.
He also said "We are the Institution of Locomotive Engineers, not the Institution of Steam Locomotive Engineers. All kinds of locomotives, steam, oil and electric are our concern."
Acted as consultant to the Ministry of Transport enquiry following the Sevenoaks derailment, and tested the riding qualities of the locomotive class involved.
New intermediate express passenger locomotive class introduced: 4-4-0 (D49).
An A1 Pacific rebuilt experimentally with higher-pressure boiler.

1928

Production began of the ‘Super Pacifics’ with high-pressure boilers (class A3).

1929

Mrs Gresley died of cancer in August.
Gresley travelled in Canada, accompanied by his daughter Violet, to try to recover from his loss.  Although on holiday, he took the opportunity to experience Canadian railway practice. The revolutionary water-tube boiler compound 4-6-4 no. 10000 was completed in December.

1930

As a member of the permanent commission of the International Railway Congress Association, he gave a comprehensive report on improvements in steam locomotive design to the Madrid Congress.

1932

Following the retirement of Sir Henry Fowler, the LMS tried to secure Gresley’s services as its next CME. Gresley chose to remain with the LNER.

1934

President, Institution of Locomotive Engineers.
His first express passenger 2-8-2 (class P2) completed.
He investigated the performance of the German high-speed train Der Fliegende Hamburger.
Carried out high-speed tests in November using A1 Pacific Flying Scotsman between King’s Cross and Leeds.  During the return to King’s Cross the locomotive achieved the first fully-authenticated 100mph by steam traction.

1935

Carried out further high-speed tests on 25 March using A3 Papyrus.  108 mph reached, probably a record for a non-streamline locomotive.
First A4 Pacific.
The Silver Jubilee entered service with a spectacular high speed press run; the revolutionary appearance of the locomotive and train caused a sensation.  It was Great Britain’s first high speed train.

1936

Design started for Manchester-Sheffield-Wath electrification.
2-6-2 Green Arrow (class V2) fast mixed traffic class  introduced.
President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, 21 February - 19 February 1937.
Created Knight Bachelor.
Awarded honorary D.Sc by Manchester University.

1937

No. 10000 was rebuilt as a three-cylinder simple engine of more conventional form.
Appointed to the General Council of the British Standards Institution.
100th Pacific named Sir Nigel Gresley on 26 November.
The Coronation and West Riding streamline expresses entered service.

1938

A4 Pacific Mallard set a world speed record for steam of 126 mph on Sunday 3 July. This record has never been beaten.
Stirling ‘Single’ No.1 refurbished for main line running.
Gresley’s health began to give cause for concern.

1940

He was warned by his doctor of heart problems in November.

1941

Last two locomotives, 2-6-2 Bantam Cock and the first electric locomotive for the Manchester-Sheffield-Wath, line unveiled to the press in York, in February.
Sir Nigel Gresley died of a heart attack on 5 April at Watton House, two months before he was due to retire.
A memorial service was held on 9 April in the Old Parish Church, Chelsea.