June 1934: Cock o’the North

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Our report on the most powerful steam locomotive ever built in Britain, currently being recreated by enthusiasts, was refreshingly free of hype and superlatives

Readers of our current issue will have noticed our feature on the rebuilding of the LNER P2 locomotive, the most powerful steam loco ever built to handle passenger services in the UK. Back in 1934, our reporters marked the building of the original P2, Cock o’the North, when it was truly a state-of-the-art innovation rather than a nostalgic exercise in reconstruction.

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Amid the photography of the magnificent semi-streamlined locomotive and The Engineer’s usual meticulous line-drawings, our report  (which you can read here) takes care to note where LNER’s chief engineer, Sir Nigel Gresley, had taken on board technological insights from elsewhere. It notes that Gresley discarded the original cylinders cast for the locomotive and redesigned them to take the lead from designs of French locomotives, to use double-beat poppet valves rather than piston valves. Another French innovation is the blast-pipe section of the exhaust system, originally developed for the Paris-Orleans railway.

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The article also calls attention to the steam drier system, which reduced the risk of wet steam accumulating in tunnels, and notes that the very large fire-box of the locomotive is ‘a magnificent piece of copper-work.’

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