A Chronology of Sir Nigel Gresley



Born in Dublin Street, Edinburgh, 19th 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.


Educated at Marlborough College.


Apprenticed in June as premium pupil of Francis Webb at the Crewe locomotive works of the London & North Western Railway.


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


Moves to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway to gain experience in the drawing office.


Materials test room assistant at Horwich, L & Y Railway.


Running shed foreman at Blackpool. Becomes engaged to Ethel Frances Fullagar.


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


Works manager at Newton Heath.


Assistant Carriage & Wagon Superintendent, L & Y Railway.


Appointed Carriage & Wagon Superintendent, Great Northern Railway.


Elected Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Designs his first articulated carriages.


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


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


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


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


Prepares a design for a Pacific (4-6-2) locomotive with a parallel boiler and four cylinders. It is not built, due to wartime restrictions; by the time building can begin the design will have changed out of recognition.


His first 3-cylinder 2-8-0 is built; it incorporates 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, makes his inaugural address, 11th May.


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.


First Gresley Pacific (classified A1) enters traffic.


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


A1 Pacific 4472 is displayed at the British Empire Exhibition. Also exhibited is a Great Western Railway ‘Castle’ class locomotive; this prompts comparison of the two classes; there will later be interchange trials between them.


Presents 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 is treated perhaps somewhat dismissively by Gresley.)

Interchange trials with GWR ‘Castles’ take place. Study of the comparatively poor performance of the A1s will lead to significant improvements to the design.

Two 2-8-2 ‘Mikados’ (class P1) built for heavy freight.

Designs the LNER’s only 2-8-8-2 'Garratt'.


Elected President, Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers.


President, Association of Railway Locomotive Engineers.

Elected President, Institution of Locomotive Engineers; in his Presidential Address he supports the proposal to build a British locomotive testing plant. He also says "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."

Acts as consultant to the Ministry of Transport enquiry following the Sevenoaks derailment, testing the riding qualities of the locomotive class involved.

New intermediate express passenger locomotive class introduced: 4-4-0 ‘Shires’ (D49).

An A1 Pacific rebuilt experimentally with higher-pressure boiler.


Production begins of the ‘Super Pacifics’ (class A3).


Mrs Gresley dies of cancer in August; Gresley is distraught. He travels in Canada, accompanied by his daughter Violet, to try to recover. Although on holiday, he takes the opportunity to experience Canadian railway practice.

The revolutionary water-tube boilered compound 4-6-4 no. 10000 (the ‘Hush Hush’) is completed in December.


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


Following the retirement of Sir Henry Fowler, the LMS tries to ‘headhunt’ Gresley as its next CME. Gresley chooses to remain with the LNER. (Stanier is subsequently appointed CME of the LMS.)


President, Institution of Locomotive Engineers.

His first express passenger 2-8-2 (class P2) is completed.

He investigates the German high-speed train the ‘Flying Hamburger’.

Carries out high-speed tests in November using A1 Pacific ‘Flying Scotsman’; during the return to King’s Cross the locomotive achieves the first fully-authenticated 100mph by steam traction.


Carries out further high-speed tests on 25 March using the A3 Pacific ‘Papyrus’.

First A4 Pacific ‘Silver Jubilee' enters service with a spectacular trial run; her revolutionary appearance causes a sensation.


Begins designs for trans-Pennine electrification.

2-6-2 ‘Green Arrow’ (class V2) fast mixed traffic class is introduced.

President, Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Created Knight Bachelor.

Awarded honorary D.Sc by Manchester University.


No. 10000 is rebuilt as a 3 cylinder simple engine of more conventional shape.

Appointed to the General Council of the British Standards Institution.

100th Pacific named ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’ on 26th November.


A4 Pacific ‘Mallard’ sets a world steam speed record of 126mph on 3rd July. This record has never yet been superseded.

He refurbishes the Stirling ‘Single’ No.1 for main line running.

His health is beginning to cause concern.


Warned in November by his doctor of heart problems.


Dies of a heart attack on 5th April at Watton House. He had been due to retire two months later.

A memorial service is held on 9th April in the Old Parish Church, Chelsea.

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