The Silver that faded to grey...


Teignmouth, United Kingdom

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There were once happier days for Gresley A4 Pacifics such as 60016 ‘Silver King’, once adorned in the lavish silver paintwork of the London & North Eastern Railway’s premier Silver Link services, now left in the dull green of British Rail, barely cleaned towards the end of its career.

Entering service in November 1935, 60016, or as originally numbered 2511, ‘Silver King’ was one of 4 locomotives to be named and numbered in this short lived order, the others being class premier 2509 ‘Silver Link’, 2510 ‘Quicksilver’ and 2512 ‘Silver Fox’. Following the construction of the four startup locomotives, A4 Pacifics built following 1936 were numbered 44xx and named after a variety of birds, seeing as Sir Nigel Gresley himself was a birdwatcher. These original four locomotives also once the striking silver livery that became the hallmark of the LNER’s premier service on the East Coast Mainline, but later locomotives were painted into LNER Garter Blue and Green.

However, World War II did away with these magnificent liveries, and their days on magnificent top-line express trains was curtailed to Wartime Black. Maintenance was kept to a minimum to help the war effort and thus the locomotives suffered cosmetically, never truly taking the shine they had once experienced in the grand era of the LNER. After World War II, these engines found themselves under the rule of British Rail, and following nationalisation in 1948, the black gave way to Express blue as these locomotives continued to work on their top express services out of Kings Cross, although the glamour had noticeably faded.

Eventually the locomotives found their way into BR Green, as demonstrated here, and soon afterwards modernisation crept down the railway in the form of the Type 5 Deltic’s and Class 47’s. The A4’s were quick to be removed from their express trains, demoted to freight and semi-fast workings, whilst others such as this found themselves on mail traffic about Scotland, where the A4’s were finally relegated to once the few remaining class members were assigned to Aberdeen shed.

Here, Gresley A4 60016 ‘Silver King’ is seen working an Aberdeen to Glasgow mail train near Perth during it’s final year of operation in late 1964. This locomotive was the last of the original batch of four built, with 2509 being withdrawn in 1962, 2510 and 2512 in 1963, and finally this locomotive in March 1965, leaving only 11 members still in operation to be eventually withdrawn in September 1966, with the removal of 60024 ‘Kingsfisher’.

Today, six members of the class continue to live in various forms of preservation, but 60016 was not so lucky, being disposed of during 1966, a sad and unceremonious end to a locomotive that had witnessed the true glamour that had once been the golden age of the railway.

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