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In a country renowned for its railway engineers, Sir Nigel Gresley (1876-1941) is undoubtedly the foremost in the minds of many. 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of Sir Nigel’s passing and Hornby are marking the occasion with the release of four special edition locomotives. The Edinburgh to Aberdeen mainline, noted for its steep gradients and tight curves was problematic for the LNER. Double-headed Pacific class locomotives were prohibited from the line, so the heaviest traffic was usually handled by double-heading two smaller engines. Sir Nigel Gresley’s answer to this was a Mikado (2-8-2) design, with four driving axles for greater adhesion compared to that of an A3 Pacific.

Initial plans were drawn up in 1932 and with the design still being finalised, the construction of two engines was authorised in February 1933, but by the end of March, this was reduced to one. The firebox was lengthened, and a Kylchap chimney/blastpipe arrangement was chosen, along with an ACFI feed water heater, and integrated smoke deflectors, similar to those of the W1 locomotive. After experiments, Associated Locomotive Equipment Ltd were asked to design a set of Lentz valve gear, powered by two camshafts above the cylinders and synchronised to the rotation of the driving wheels. The smoke deflector plates were moved forward so that they extended far ahead of the smokebox, wind tunnel tests leading to the deflectors being made vertical. A V-shaped cab front was also added and during these changes, five more P2 locomotives were ordered, but with a choice of valve gear left open.

In December 1934, seven months after completion, No. 2001, accompanied by O.V.S. Bulleid, travelled to the locomotive testing station at Vitry-sur-Seine in France for two months of testing. The ambitious programme had mixed success, due to problems maintaining boiler pressure and overheating axleboxes and bearings, but following further testing back in England, Cock o' the North entered service on the Scottish routes. The second locomotive, No. 2002 Earl Marischal was completed in October 1934, being identical to Cock o' the North, but with piston valves, Walschaerts/Gresley valve gear and removal of the troublesome ACFI feed water heater. The remaining four locomotives were completed in 1936, also with piston valves and Walschaerts/Gresley valve gear, but with streamlined fronts similar to those of the A4 Pacifics. Although the A4 Pacifics has only been introduced the year before, their shape was superior to the P2’s deflectors for lifting the smoke above the cab.

After Gresley’s death in 1941, Edward Thompson took over as CME and began his standardisation plans. Due to their small numbers and perceived mixed success, it was almost inevitable that the P2s would be rebuilt and between January 1943 and December 1944, all six were rebuilt as A2/2 Pacifics. No. 2001 Cock o' the North had its streamlining fitted in April 1938 and was rebuilt as an A2/2 shortly after, in June 1944. Withdrawn from 50A North York shed on February 8, 1960, Cock o' the North was cut up at Doncaster at the end of the month.