The Flying Scotsman Print, London and North Eastern Railway 4-6-2 Locomotive No 4472 Flying Scotsman, about 1924 in the livery it carried at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924.

The Flying Scotsman: London and North Eastern Railway 4-6-2 Locomotive No 4472, about 1924 in the livery it carried at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924.

Herbert Nigel Gresley

1876 – 1951

Herbert Nigel Gresley

locomotive engineer who designed "The Flying Scotsman" the first steam locomotive to exceed 100 mph.

Engineering Achievements

Sir Nigel Gresley, born in Edinburgh as a result of his pregnant mother consulting a gynaecologist - his first, unintended but undeniable, connection to Scotland - was to become the UK's best known and most successful steam locomotive designer. As Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) he was the designer of the LNER Class A1 Pacific engines, one of which, The Flying Scotsman, cemented a strong cultural connection to his country of birth. The Flying Scotsman was built in 1923 and in 1934 became the first locomotive to officially travel at over 100 miles per hour in passenger service. It was retired from regular service in 1963 with the introduction of diesel trains into Britain, but toured the United States and Canada between 1963 and 1973 and Australia between 1988 and 89 and is still touring the UK as a popular icon of engineering locomotive design.

Gresley also designed The LNER Class A4 Pacific engines, one of which, Mallard, still holds the world speed record for steam locomotives of 126 miles per hour.

His Life

  1. 1876 born in 32 Dublin Street, Edinburgh on 19 June to Revd Nigel Gresley and Joanne Wilson, during his mother's visit there to see a gynaecologist
  2. 1890-93 Age: 14-17 educated at Marlborough College
  3. 1893 Age: 17 engineering apprenticeship under Francis Webb at Crewe Locomotive works of the London & North Western Railway
  4. 1901 Age: 25 assistant manager at Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway carriage workshops at Newton Heath, Manchester
  5. 1901 Age: 25 married Ethel Fullager
  6. 1902 Age: 26 works manager at Newton Heath workshops
  7. 1904 Age: 28 assistant carriage and wagon superintendent, Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway
  8. 1905 Age: 29 carriage and wagon superintendent, Great Northern Railway
  9. 1911 Age: 35 locomotive engineer, Great Northern Railway
  10. 1920 Age: 44 CBE for direction of war material production at Doncaster works
  11. 1922 Age: 46 prototype Pacific (4-6-2) engine for long distance passenger trains
  12. 1923 Age: 47 chief mechanical engineer, London and North Eastern Railway (LNER)
  13. 1934 Age: 58 On 30 November, The Pacific class A1 'Flying Scotsman' became first steam locmotive to reach an authenticated speed of 100 mph
  14. 1935 Age: 59 Silver Jubilee train into service, averaging 71 mph between London & Darlington
  15. 1936 Age: 60 designed electric locomotives for Sheffield-Manchester route
  16. 1936 Age: 60 President of Institution of Mechanical Engineers
  17. 1936 Age: 60 Knighted
  18. 1937 Age: 61 work began on national locomotive testing station, Rugby
  19. 1938 Age: 62 Pacific Class A4 'Mallard' attained a speed of 126 mph, a world record for steam traction
  20. 1941 Age: 64 died on 5 April at his home Watton House, Watton-at-Stone, Hertford, England and buried at Netherseal, Burton-on-Trent, Derbyshire

Legacy and Honours

The Flying Scotsman has been touring the UK in 2023, its centenary year. The Flying Scotsman and Mallard are owned by the National Railway Museum in York. 

He was knighted in 1936.  

Honorary DSc, Manchester University, 1936

President Of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers 1936-37.

A memorial plaque to his achievements was unveiled at Edinburgh Waverley railway station in 2001.

The locomotive Sir Nigel Gresley is named after its designer and is preserved at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway..

A statue of Sir Nigel was unveiled at King's Cross in London on 5 April 2016, the 75th anniversary of his death.

The formation of the Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust Co is a registered charity dedicated to the preservation and operation of the locomotive The Nigel Gresley.

More Information

Geoffrey Hughes, Sir Nigel Gresley : The Engineer and his Family. Oakwood Library of Railway History, 2001

E Bannister, Trained by Sir Nigel Gresley. 1984

J Bellwood and D Jenkinson, Gresley and Stanier, 2nd ed (1986)

B Sharpe, Flying Scotsman: The World's Most Famous Steam Locomotive. Mortons Media Group, 2019

T Hillier-Graves, Gresley and his Locomotives: L&NER Design History (Locomotive Portfolio). 2019

T Hillier-Graves, Gresley's Silver Link: The Evolution of the A4 Pacifics 1911-1941 (Locomotive Portfolio). 2022

T Hillier-Graves, Flying Scotsman, and the Story of Gresley's First Pacific Locomotives (Locomotive Portfolios), 2023

George W Carpenter Sir (Herbert) Nigel Gresley Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (free to UK library subscribers)

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