60019 Bittern (LNER 4464, LNER 603, LNER 19 & BR 60019)

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Built for the LNER and completed in December 1937 at Doncaster Works it was originally numbered 4464.

It was renumbered 19 in August 1946 under the LNER renumbering scheme and after nationalisation in 1948, was renumbered 60019 by British Railways.

Motive power depot allocations.

Date ArrivedDepot
December 1937Heaton (Newcastle)
March 1943Gateshead
October 1963St Margarets (Glasgow)
November 1963Aberdeen Ferryhill

Initially Bittern was based at Heaton in Newcastle and hauled the famous Flying Scotsman train on the section between London King’s Cross and Newcastle. Early in its career, Bittern suffered some collision damage, necessitating a general overhaul at Doncaster Works in January 1938.

With the end of the war and nationalisation came better maintenance and the A4 class saw a return to the high-speed expresses of the pre-war years. Now in BR green Bittern hauled the Talisman from Kings Cross to Edinburgh.

When Bittern was transferred to St Margarets in October 1963 it was soon put into storage as the steam-pulled services were replaced by diesel-hauled services. After a short time Bittern was moved to Ferryhill, Aberdeen and ran to Edinburgh and Glasgow. This service only lasted three years. Bittern has the dubious honour of heading the last A4 Glasgow to Aberdeen and thus bring the curtain down on 30 years of service.

Bittern was withdrawn from service by BR in September 1966.

When the locomotive was bought for preservation, it had several major problems, such as the frames being cracked quite badly. These problems were known to BR, but were only lightly repaired, since with the end of steam it would have been uneconomic to completely repair the engine. This in turn affected its life in preservation and it was many years before the important repairs were done so that it was capable of mainline running again.

Bittern was sold to Geoff Drury in September 1966. It initially operated from York depot (site of the National Railway Museum today) on various steam charters, but the cracked frames and other symptoms of its long career soon spelled an end to its mainline working. In consequence Drury bought LNER Peppercorn Class A2 60532 Blue Peter from British Rail in 1968.

60019 was then stored at Neville Hill depot at Leeds and Walton Colliery before it and 60532 were moved to the Dinting Railway Centre, near Glossop. Neither locomotive did much running, and in late 1987 the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group (NELPG) took charge of both locomotives on long-term loan from the Drury family. While 60532 was moved to the Imperial Chemical Industries works at Wilton on Teesside, and restored to mainline running from December 1991; Bittern with its greater repair need was cosmetically restored to represent pioneer and long-gone classmate 2509 Silver Link. It was initially displayed at the Stephenson Railway Museum in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in this livery.

Silver Link was displayed at the National Railway Museum, York and in July 1988 was displayed outside with 4468 Mallard and 4498 Sir Nigel Gresley. Mallard had just worked a charter train up from Doncaster, and Sir Nigel Gresley was discreetly used to make steam appear to come from Silver Link to give the impression it was in steam. 60009 Union of South Africa was unable to attend due to an overhaul.

In 1995, Silver Link was moved to the Great Central Railway in Loughborough to undergo restoration to working order, but this reached only a partial stage of dismantling. In 1997, Bittern was bought by Tony Marchington, and based at the Southall Railway Centre alongside his other locomotive which was also being overhauled at the time, LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman. In 2000, after the over budgeted £1million restoration of Flying Scotsman was complete, Marchington sold Bittern to Jeremy Hosking, who moved it to the Mid-Hants Railway in Hampshire in January 2001, for full restoration.

In May 2007, Bittern was steamed for the first time since the 1970s. In authentic British Railways lined green livery and carrying its British Railways number, 60019, it hauled its first service train since the 1970s in July 2007 after six years of restoration, numerous tests and modifications.

Bittern was then sent to Southall depot in London, where it was configured to run with its water tender and support coach, both having originally been used with Flying Scotsman. After that, it completed brake and speed tests on a run to Bristol and soon after made its official return to mainline working in December 2007 on a charter from London King’s Cross to York, and since then has hauled several more railtours around Britain.

In July 2009, Bittern made a 188-mile run from King’s Cross to York non-stop using a second tender to avoid the need to stop en route to take on water and change crews. With the first tender having a water capacity of 5,000 gallons and coal, and the second tender only used for carrying an extra 9,000 gallons of water, it was thought that this would give Bittern a range of about 250 miles; occasional stops are desirable in any case, for things such as mechanical checks and coal redistribution in the tender and firebox. A non-stop run on the East Coast Main Line had not been achieved since the 1968 Kings Cross to Edinburgh hauled by 4472 Flying Scotsman, also with a second tender.

During the winter of 2010/2011 the locomotive received maintenance which included the cosmetic renaming and renumbering of the locomotive as scrapped classmate 4492 Dominion of New Zealand (BR number 60013). This conversion also included repainting the locomotive in LNER garter blue, the fitting of Gresley’s original side valances (most of the valancing is from when the locomotive was masquerading as 2509 Silver Link) and the painting of its wheels in their original Coronation red colouring. As the original 4492 had a New Zealand Government Railways five-chime whistle fitted shortly after its introduction to service in 1937, a suitable whistle was borrowed from the Glenbrook Vintage Railway in New Zealand.

The locomotive was due to remain in this livery for three years, however when 4464 emerged from its winter maintenance in 2012, The locomotive had reverted to its LNER identity as 4464 Bittern in gold leaf lettering.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of sister locomotive Mallard completing its record breaking 126 mph run, Bittern ran three special charter runs along the East Coast Main Line, during which it became the first locomotive in preservation to be allowed to break the 75 mph speed limit that steam locomotives have on the UK mainline. Network Rail allowed 4464 to run up to 90 mph, as long as it passed some rigorous tests beforehand. All of these charters involved Bittern operating to and from York so it could still be displayed along with the five other preserved A4s (including Mallard) at the National Railway Museum.

In June 2013, Bittern set a new speed record for a British preserved steam locomotive, and according to official timers on the footplate, it achieved a maximum speed of 92.8 miles per hour near Arlesey, Bedfordshire on the first of its planned high speed runs.

The remaining two runs were originally scheduled for July, but the heatwave during the summer, as well as further weather issues later in the year, caused the services, the York-Newcastle “Tyne Tees Streak” and the York-London King’s Cross “Capital Streak” to be rescheduled for 5 December and 7 December 2013 respectively.

During a run in December 2013 Bittern is reputed to have broken its own speed record set just a few months prior by reaching a maximum speed of 93 mph.

In 2014, Bittern was fitted with two commemorative plaques, similar to those worn by sister locomotives Mallard and Sir Nigel Gresley, in honour of its 90 mph runs. Just prior to the expiry of its mainline certificate in January 2015, the locomotive was moved again to the Mid-Hants Railway, where it ran during 2015 prior to being withdrawn from service for a major overhaul at LNWR, Crewe.

In June 2018 the locomotive was moved to Jeremy Hosking’s Locomotive Storage Ltd facility in Margate. It will remain there until its turn to be overhauled at Crewe comes.

Home BaseCurrent StatusOwner
CreweStored awaiting overhaulLocomotive Sevices Ltd
60019 Bittern prepares to leave Edinburgh Waverley with an evening train – July 1963
60019 passing through Stirling with an express from Aberdeen to Glasgow Buchanan Street – April 1965
60019 Bittern leaves Perth on the Aberdeen to Glasgow service – July 1965
60019 Bittern on the same service a few days later at Stirling – July 1965
60019 Bittern in York shed which is now the National Railway Museum – 1966
60019 Bittern takes on water at Perth whilst hauling a Glasgow Buchanan Street to Aberdeen train. The other locomotive is a class B1 61133 – June 1966
60009 Union of South Africa and 60019 Bittern inside the shed at Ferryhill shed at Aberdeen - August 1966
60009 Union of South Africa and 60019 Bittern inside the shed at Ferryhill shed at Aberdeen – August 1966
60019 Bittern between standard 9F 92206 and V2 60831 in York Roundhouse which is now part of the National Railway Museum at York – October 1966
60019 Bittern in York shed (now the museum) after being withdrawn from service a year earlier following working a special train from Scotland - October 1967.jpg
60019 Bittern in York shed (now the museum) after being withdrawn from service a year earlier following working a special train from Scotland – October 1967
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60019 Bitter in York roundhouse which is now part of the Railway Museum – 1969
60019 Bittern in store at Walton Colliery - September 1975.jpg
60019 Bittern in store at Walton Colliery – September 1975
60019 Bitternin store at Walton Colliery near Wakefield – February 1976
60019 Bittern at Dinting Railway Centre undergoing external restoration after being stored outside at Walton Colliery – September 1982
60009 Union of South Africa, 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley and 60019 Bittern on Grosmont shed on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway – April 2008
60019 Bittern passing through Goostrey – March 2010
60019 Bittern running as 4492 Dominion of New Zealand at Southampton – 2011
60019 Bittern arrives at Bewdley having travelled there from Southall for the Steam Gala on the Severn Valley Railway – March 2012. The other engine is 47406
60019 Bittern at Bewdley on the Severn Valley Railway – March 2012
60019 Bittern at Highley on the Severn Valley Railway – March 2012
60019 Bittern at Highley on the Severn Valley Railway – March 2012
60019 Bittern passing Peterborough whilst moving from Southall to York – April 2013
60019 Bittern as 2509 Silver Link at Loughborough on the Great Central Railway – October 2014
60019 Bittern on the Mid Hants Railway – February 2015

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