Arthur Henry Peppercorn, OH, OBE (1889-1951)
08/10/2018
Arthur Peppercorn was one of the foremost English railway engineers of the steam age. He was the last Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern railway, before becoming CME of the Eastern and North Eastern regions for two years following nationalisation.

His most significant mark on railway history was his design of the LNER Peppercorn A2 and A1 Pacific classes, two of the most reliable steam locomotives that were ever built. Although unpopular with those who had to fire them – a consequence of the large boiler incorporating a 50 square foot grate – they were masterpieces of durability and low service cost, the A1s being capable of at least 90,000 miles between overhauls, some 10,000 miles more than any other express passenger steam locomotive.

The last of the Peppercorn class A1 locomotives were scrapped in 1966, having been displaced by diesel engines, but one indication of their speed is provided by the April 2017 Thirsk-York test run of the Tornado – a new A1 finished in 2008 to Peppercorn’s original design – which reached speeds in excess of 100mph.

Arthur Peppercorn was the fifth son of the Revd Alfred Thomas Peppercorn, Rector of Stoke Prior, Leominster, in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. All five boys were educated at HCS as boarders, Arthur leaving when he was 16 in 1905 after three years at the school. He never reached beyond the third Form, although his ‘all-round usefulness’ as a cricketer was recorded in the 1905 1st XI report. He left to take up a premium apprenticeship in the railway engineering works at Doncaster, where he came under the guidance of the renowned railway engineer HN Gresley (later Sir Nigel), the key influence in Peppercorn’s distinguished career.

Howard Tomlinson
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