18 March 1953, in a paper read at the Institution of Locomotive Engineers based on figures gathered through 1952, Mr R C Bond, BR Chief Locomotive Construction & Maintenance Officer, listed the average mileages run between general overhauls of pre-nationalisation classes.
The Stanier Black Fives with manganese steel axlebox liners topped the list at 97,291 miles. Next came the LNER A1 class with roller bearings on all axles at 93,363 miles. Then came four Great Western Railway classes – Halls, Counties, Castles and 28XX – all at around 87,000 miles.
The Journal of the Institution of Locomotive Engineers volume 51 published in 1961 reported in No 281 J F Harrison’s Presidential Address:
Includes an appreciation of the Gresley Pacifics: Harrison had been born in Settle, and following a very brief appreciation of Midland Railway locomotives he noted that A3 Pacifics had taken over working the major express trains over the Settle & Carlisle Line with photographs of them at Ais Gill, and on the Thames Clyde Express.
He noted that the Peppercorn A1 Pacifics “were intended to give a better performance than any previous Pacific, to be cheaper to maintain, and to run increased mileages per annum and between general repairs.
These five locomotives, Nos. 60153/60154/60155/60156/60157, have now been in service for exactly twelve years, during which they have run 4.8 million miles, one in fact having just completed 1,000,000 miles, or 228 miles for every calendar day since leaving Doncaster as a new engine.
The average miles between shopping of these engines is 120,000, and these figures compare with figures given by Mr. R.C. Bond in his Paper to this Institution in 1953 showing the best London & North Eastern mileages in those days as 93,363 with average annual mileages of 80,000.
The total miles run by the fifty engines, including the five roller bearing engines, since new, is approximately 48,000,000, an average of 202 miles per calendar day-figures which I know cannot be approached by any steam locomotive class in this country. I will refer to this figure later in my Address.
When one realises that these locomotives are better than the A4 Class, examples of which took part in the interchange trials in 1948, and which attained the best coal and water consumption figures per drawbar horsepower/hour, one realises that these latter locomotives were, and in fact still are, perhaps the finest steam locomotives in the world.
For some 105 years the Great Northern and London & North Eastern Railway had only four Locomotive Engineers, all of whom have a position in history, but I suggest none more so than Gresley who was honoured by a knighthood in 1936.
Surely there is a lesson to be learned from this continuance of a single policy for periods of up to twenty-five years each. This has been noticeable also on the Great Western Railway.
It is, therefore, with great pleasure that I pay this modest and brief tribute to the late Sir Herbert Nigel Gresley, who cannot be by-passed as the greatest Locomotive Engineer in this country in the 20th century if one judges these matters on the performance of the designer’s products over such a lengthy period of time.
It is surprising, however, to see that the British Transport Commission have only thought fit to preserve amongst their historic locomotives two examples of this great Engineer’s work, and then neither of the first two Pacifics he ever built.”