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Probably the most iconic Pacific Express design of locomotive in Great Britain, the LNER Gresley A4, with its streamlined casing, was a classic symbol of the attitude towards speed and design in the 1930s.
The 1930s saw increased competition to the railways from road and air travel and the LNER Board knew that they had to make travel between the major cities faster, more comfortable and more reliable. High speed diesel services were starting to make an impact abroad, in May 1933, the German State Railways diesel-electric Fliegende Hamburger entered service, running for extended periods at 85mph and by 1934, in the USA, Burlington Zephyr had reached 112.5mph during a longer 1,015 mile journey.
In total, thirty five A4s were built in four batches, 2509-2512, 4462-4469, 4482-4500 and 4900-4903, between 1935 and 1938. They mainly spent their working lives hauling express passenger services from King’s Cross to Edinburgh, via York and Newcastle and although the Deltics proved worthy successors of the A4s on East Coast Mainline express services in the late 1950s, other diesel classes were unreliable. The A4s were kept in service until the mid-1960s, the last service under British Rail being the Aberdeen-Glasgow service on September 14, 1966.
4493 Woodcock entered traffic on July 26, 1937, allocated to Gateshead, where for six months the locomotive was used on mundane duties, unless an engine failed on one of the LNER 'glamour' trains. A brief allocation to Doncaster in January 1938 was followed by a move to Kings Cross on February 25th, from where Woodcock was to operate until June 1963 when it moved to New England; being withdrawn from there in October.
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