Great 4 A4 Pacifics

Great Gathering York National Railway Musuem

So what is the Great Gathering, its to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Mallards speed record which was accomplished by running down stoke bank and hitting 126MPH. Only 6 of the original 35 Gresley A4’s are still in exsistance, and three of those are running.
The NRM has managed to get all of them bac together which is some major feat as 2 of them have been state side since the 60’s.

Yes we have seen the 4 UK’s A4’s together back in 2008.

Great 4 A4 Pacifics

Union of South Africa, Sir Nigel Gresley, Bittern and Mallard

But with the Great Gathering all remaining A4’s are coming together. For what i imagine could be the last time as the sheer cost of getting 4496 Dwight D Eisenhower & 4489 Dominion of Canada to the UK, both where shipped from Halifax in Canada traveling  2,527 miles.


 4464 (BR 60019) Bittern

So Bittern  has had bit of a strange history too say the least she was withdrawn from service by British Rail on 5th September 1966 and was then bought by Geoff Drury on 12th September 1966. I’ve had a look around on the net for a sale figure but i can’t find anything.

Bittern was sadly sold with several major defects and due to its future withdrawal from service coming up, British Rail only fixed the cracked frames as a short term issue.

Bittern as SilverfoxBittern was now operating out of the York Depot running specials, but this was short lived due to the faults that she carried. Bittern then moved to Dinting Railway Centre, near Glossop, with little running done during this period. Late 1987 NELPG took a long term loan of Bittern, needing major repairs and cosmical work as well  Bittern was now to change into its sister 2509 Silver Link and made a static display at  Stephenson Railway Museum in Newcastle and then moved on to NRM.

In 1988 3 of the 6 A4’s where on show outside NRM  4468 Mallard and 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley both of these where in steam at the time.  60009 Union of South Africa was been overhauled so couldn’t make the appearance, 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley was carefeully placed next to the static Silver Fox to make it appear it was in steam.
Mallard Silverfox-Bittern & Gresley

As the years went on 1995 is the next major year as Silver Fox AkA Bittern was taken to Great Central Railway in Loughborough, to under go restoration to full working order (Only Cosmetic work was done around 1987). Due to varying financial issues and other sales of the A4 this restoration was not completed till after 2001 when she was moved to Mid-Hants Railway in Hampshire.

On 19 May 2007 Bittern was returned to its former glory and steamed for the first time since the 70’s and ran with her British Railways lined green livery and carrying her British Railways number, 60019.

The story doesn’t end there

During the winter of 2010/2011 Bittern was receiving maintenance which also included a new identity 4492 Dominion of New Zealand (BR number 60013). It ran in LNER Garter Blue it also had some original side valances re fitted, yes it was de valanced as Bittern but when it was the static “Silver Fox” it had full valences fitted, the loco ran this for 3 years.

Bittern still runs in LNER Garter Blue but carries its own numbers and name. To celebrate 75th anniversary of Mallards speed run the loco has been allowed to run on the main line at speeds of up to 90mph, currently all steam locos are limited to 75mph. This will only happened after some very strict testing, timers on the footplate of bitter are claimed to have hit 92.5MPH.

On a slight side note there’s quite a few videos on youtube but from what i can see the speed runs seem to have 10 coaches but other videos can show 12

4489 (BR60010) Dominion of Canada

For the Dominion of Canada I’m going a bit backwards as this is a sad case of neglect.

After been left abandoned at Darlington for many years Dominion of Canada needed a cosmetic makeover before going anywhere. In 1966 she donated to the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA) by British Rail. She was basically left to rust in Canada with vary pieces going missing from her, its rumored that a cosmetic overhaul was due to happen in 2010 but this never happened.

Heres a picture taken when she arrived at Shildon.

A4 4489 (BR60010) Dominion of Canada

Thank you to Doc Brown for letting me use his picture to show the appalling condition of part of our heritage.

Exactly what part of this magnificent A4 is PRESERVED, in short its just a mess and this is the reason why it should NOT be shipped back to the Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA). If Dominion of Canada was in the UK Static or not there is no way that this would of happened.

So 2011 rolls round and NRM say that they are planing to bring 4496 Dwight D Eisenhower & Dominion of Canada back to the UK in 2012.
I strongly believe that Canadian Railroad Historical Association (CRHA) had no intention of a cosmetic overhaul for her, knowing that NRM would want her back for the 75th anniversary.

Anyway heres a picture of the above in her new livery.
BR 60010 dominion of canada

Should she be shipped back ????

4496 (BR60008)Dwight D Eisenhower

4496 was withdrawn from service and moved to Doncaster sheds on 19 July 1963 for a cosmetic overhaul before been shipped over to the states.

Other than an early name change from Golden Shuttle, Dwight D Eisenhower has led a relatively normal life within working time and then straight to static display.

Noticed how the nameplate has been restored with the black background and all linkages are stripped to metal, not an awful silver colour. Something else to bear in mind is that she now wears the correct Green livery.
Heres the restored loco now Situated at York NRM, thank you to Doc Brown for letting me use his picture (Again)

6008 Dwight D Eisenhower

I’ve got the below info from someone who works on a well known preservative Railway

A loco with a long boiler certificate (they have to be certified every 10 years to be safe to steam, and it’s expensive to refurbish them) is worth, as a rule of thumb, about £600K. So it would depend what premium someone might pay to acquire a loco with lots of historical significance. Mallard (which has no certificate, and is therefore a static exhibit only) has significance in spades. World’s fastest loco etc. Could be worth £3 million (the NRM paid £2.3M to acquire the Flying Scotsman loco – an A3 class – almost 10 years ago).

The 3 UK based ones that are runners could be worth up to £1M apiece (the £600K above plus a bit), if they had a long boiler certificate. As it runs down, the value will go down with it, maybe to £200-300K as the certificate expires. The two brought back from North America weren’t in great condition, especially the Canadian one. Poss £100K?

All guesswork, and unless one went up for sale you’d never really know.

So say that the Dominion of Canada is worth around £100,000 would some UK benefactor stump up the cost to keep the loco over here.

The second question is how much would it cost to get it back to a running loco.
Surely theirs more value having another running A4 even for it to sit beside Sir Nigel Gresley up on the North Yorkshire Moors would truly be a sight to behold.

So what was it like seeing them all in one place amazing. Ive been lucky to get up close to Sir Nigel Gresley running at speed on the moors and since then A4s have appealed to me even more.

2 thoughts on “Great Gathering York National Railway Musuem”

  1. I last saw all the a pacific locos together when the rail museum York opened it made me feel real proud to see dominion of Canada repainted and brought up to date . All I can say is well done the folk at YORK.

  2. Hi

    Yes it was a great sight to see them all reunited, something that will probably never happen again

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