We are pleased to announce that we have formed a new subsidiary, The V4 Steam Locomotive Company Limited, to carry out the building of our third new steam locomotive – the yet-to-be-named new Gresley class V4 No. 3403 – as part of its preparations for the formal launch of the project. We can also confirm that we have acquired over 500 original class V4 drawings from Malcolm Barlow, a Doncaster scrap dealer who launched the now defunct Gresley V4 Society in 1994 to build a new example of the class.
The London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) class V4 was a class of 2-6-2 steam locomotive designed by Sir Nigel Gresley – who also designed world-famous No. 4472 Flying Scotsman and world speed record holder No. 4468 Mallard – for mixed-traffic use. It was Gresley’s last design for the LNER before he died in 1941. The class V4s had similarities in their appearance and mechanical layout to the class V2s of which pioneer No. 4771 Green Arrow is preserved as a part of the National Collection. The class V2s, introduced in 1936, had limited route availability and the class V4 was a lightweight alternative, suitable for use over the whole of the LNER network.
Two locomotives were built at the LNER’s Doncaster Works in 1941. The first locomotive, No. 3401 Bantam Cock, had a scaled-down version of the Gresley Pacific boiler with a grate area of 27½ sq ft. Its tractive effort of 27,000 lbs was produced by boiler pressure of 250 psi and three cylinders of 15in diameter. The second locomotive, No. 3402, incorporated a fully welded steel firebox and a single thermic syphon for water circulation. It was not named, but was known unofficially as Bantam Hen. The class was tried on the Great Eastern section of the LNER, and was well received, with more power than the existing Gresley class B17 4-6-0s and better riding qualities. It was anticipated that many more would be produced, but after the sudden death of Gresley in April 1941 and his succession by Edward Thompson, no more were built. Instead, the simpler two-cylinder Thompson class B1 4-6-0 was adopted as the LNER’s standard mixed-traffic locomotive and 410 were built between 1942 and 1952. The two locomotives were sent to Scotland for use on the West Highland Line, although their wheel arrangement was not particularly suitable for the line’s steep gradients. The two class V4s were renumbered Nos. 1700/1 in 1946 and later became British Railways Nos. 61700/1. Both locomotives were scrapped in 1957 when their boilers became due for renewal.
At its Silver Jubilee Convention in October 2015, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust announced that it would follow its Peppercorn class A1 4-6-2 No. 60163 Tornado and Gresley class P2 2-8-2 No. 2007 Prince of Wales with the construction of further extinct LNER steam locomotives – a Gresley class V4 2-6-2, a Gresley class V3 2-6-2T and a Gresley class K3 2-6-0. At its Annual Convention in September 2017, the Trust confirmed that it has started work identifying and scanning the original drawings for the Gresley class V4 at the National Railway Museum in York in order that the design book for new locomotive could be created within 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD).
In January 2018, the Trust revealed that it had acquired and taken delivery of a complete set of fully-certified tyres for the new Gresley class V4’s pony, Cartazzi and 5ft 8in driving wheels. They were purchased from David Buck, owner of Thompson class B1 4-6-0 No. 61306 Mayflower, along with a chimney, two BR class 08 shunter speedometer drive generators and two two-stage single spindle air pumps of Finnish origin including lubricator pumps and check valves for use on No. 2007. The tyres were originally manufactured in South Africa in the late 1990s for Malcolm Barlow, a Doncaster scrap dealer who launched the Gresley V4 Society in 1994 to build a new example of the class. David Buck acquired the parts six months ago in a job lot of items that Malcolm Barlow had salvaged from Doncaster Works on its closure – including a number of class B1 components.
Mark Allatt, Trustee, The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, commented, “We are now in the pre-launch phase of the project to build our third new main line steam locomotive, with the formation of The V4 Steam Locomotive Company to actually build No. 3403, the opening of both the company and charitable bank accounts and the detailed review of over 500 acquired drawings.
“We want to be ready to start assembling our new Gresley class V4 as soon as our new class P2 is completed. If we’re in our new and much larger base at Whessoe Road by then – and there’s a good chance we will be – we could even start work on No. 3403 before No. 2007 Prince of Wales steams in 2021. We anticipate the project costing around £3m and taking around five years subject to the pace of fundraising. Our new Gresley class V4 is an ideal locomotive for regional main line tours, repeat main line itineraries and the longer, main line connected heritage railways.
“Unlike the class P2, where we have had to do a considerable amount of development work to complete the job that Sir Nigel Gresley started in 1934, there will be very little redesign work needed as there were no known problems with the Gresley class V4s.
“Although there is no specific appeal open for No. 3403 yet, any donations made towards it will be ring-fenced for the project. The next steps will be to launch a website for the project and The Founder’s Club to fund the early stages of the project. More announcements will be made during 2018 as the project builds up steam.”