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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. A modification of Sir Nigel Gresley’s original A1 design, the LNER’s A3 locomotives were the stalwarts of the East Coast Main Line Express services from the mid-1920s, right up until 1961, when they were replaced by English Electric Deltics.

Gresley’s first designs for a large express passenger locomotive were put into practice in 1915 and although the First World War delayed development, in April 1922, 1470 Great Northern became the first A1 to enter service. Following exchange trials with the Great Western Railway, a range of modifications were brought to the A1 Class, eventually resulting in all of the A1s being rebuilt as Class A3 locomotives, with the exception of Great Northern, which was rebuilt by Thompson in 1945 as a Class A1/1. Smoke lifting experiments during 1932-33 using No. 2751 Humorist were unsuccessful, leading to the fitting of the Kylchap double blastpipe arrangement with a lipped double chimney, but with no smoke deflectors. The softer blast of the Kylchap arrangement meant that smoke deflectors were necessary to lift the exhaust and so small wing deflectors, on either side of the chimney, were fitted in January 1938, eventually being replaced in 1947 by larger Peppercorn style deflectors.

Development of the class continued after Nationalisation in 1948, the remaining right hand drive A3s being converted to left hand drive between 1952 and 1954, whilst from 1954, A4 boilers were fitted to roughly half of the A3s because A3 spares were in short supply. Between 1958 and 1959, those remaining A3s without the modified Kylchap arrangement and double chimney were modified, this time using German style smoke deflectors.

The first A3 was withdrawn from service in 1959, the last, No. 60052 Prince Palatine, was withdrawn in January 1966 and all were scrapped except for No. 4472 Flying Scotsman, which was withdrawn in January 1963 and sold into preservation.No. 2503 Firdaussi was built at Doncaster and entered service on August 11, 1934, being allocated initially to Gateshead shed. During her career, which continued to November 18, 1963, Firdaussi moved between sheds, being variously allocated between Gateshead, Heaton, Darlington, Holbeck and Neville Hill. On withdrawal, the locomotive was moved to Darlington Works for disposal, being cut up at the end of December 1963.

The second locomotive, No. 2002 Earl Marischal was completed in October 1934, with the remaining four locomotives from the order being completed in 1936, although these featured streamlined fronts similar to those of the A4 Pacifics. 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.