If you are unfamiliar with his name, you might ask the question “Why a statue of Sir Nigel Gresley?”. In fact the Vice Chair of The Gresley Society, Andrew Dow, answers this most eloquently. “There can be no question that, among the nation’s engineers, he fully deserves it, and indeed in a country not well known for revering its engineers, it is long overdue”. In his piece below, Dow speaks of Sir Nigel Gresley’s eminence as an engineer, the beauty of his designs and how his legacy lives on in our trains of today. Help us to honour Sir Nigel Gresley at King’s Cross – for how you can help, see http://gresley.org/
Is Sir Nigel Gresley worthy of a statue?
by Andrew Dow, Vice Chairman, The Gresley Society
Sir Nigel Gresley (1876-1941) was foremost among many eminent railway engineers in this country, and his influence in other countries was such that we can only regard him as world-famous. He was highly imaginative and inventive. His first patent, taken out on 2 January 1908, was for the articulation of railway vehicles, and this is still highly relevant today. Articulation is used by railway and tramway vehicles of all kinds, and this makes Sir Nigel unique among his contemporaries. It is reason enough to regard him as a great engineer.
More than that, he was inventive in many aspects of locomotive design. All of his locomotives and carriages were blessed with a cleanliness and elegance of line: even his largest goods locomotive was impeccably handsome. The smaller suburban locomotives, and those built for branch lines, all had the characteristic purity of Gresley line.
The elegance of Gresley’s locomotives was seized upon by the advertising department of the LNER at King’s Cross. In particular they appeared on posters, in booklets, timetables, luggage labels – anywhere that the LNER could take advantage of their modern looks. The speed of some of the passenger types attracted much attention from writers on locomotive performance, and thanks to the LNER’s enlightened policy of issuing lineside permits to trusted photographers, Gresley locomotives were well represented in magazines and books.
Some of his trains may rightly be regarded as amongst the most beautiful ever built, and had features that made them stand out as works of great design. The LNER streamline trains introduced the idea of the fixed-formation express train: this is still with us today, as is at-seat dining, with no need for a separate dining car.
It is for all of these reasons that Sir Nigel Gresley should be commemorated by a statue: few enough are the memorials to truly great railway pioneers such as the Stephensons, Joseph Locke, and others. Now, in the statue of Gresley at King’s Cross we are to celebrate a twentieth century engineer of the highest standing. There can be no question that, among the nation’s engineers, he fully deserves it, and indeed in a country not well known for revering its engineers, it is long overdue.