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Gresley's Master Engineer, Bert Spencer (Hardback)

A Career in Railway Engineering and Design

Colour Books P&S History > British History Photographic Books Transport

By Tim Hillier-Graves
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 36 colour illustrations, 410 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399045070
Published: 12th September 2023



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The great and the good rarely, if ever, accomplish all they wish to achieve without the able assistance of many skilled men and women. To have a very capable person beside you acting as guide, confidant and adviser is essential. Even better when it is someone with a depth of knowledge equal to, or even better than your own. If all these skills can be combined in one trusted, assistant so much the better. To a leader such a person may be valued ‘beyond rubies’, because they have the ability to take ideas, add something and help make them a reality.

For Herbert Nigel Gresley, CME of the LNER, Bert Spencer was just such a man. As Gresley triumphed his faithful, introverted and highly talented assistant remained resolutely in the background playing an unsung yet key role in the development of Gresley’s outstanding Pacifics and his many other memorable locomotives. For sixteen vibrant years Spencer sat beside his greatly admired leader witnessing and participating in all that happened adding much to an emerging legend that still resounds with us today.

Here, for the first time, is Spencer’s fascinating story, much of it in his own words. This was made possible by the thoughts and memories he recorded in letters to friends, papers he wrote for the Institution of Locomotive Engineers, official documents and much more. All this has been edited together to produce a unique and important personal narrative of his life and work.

"In summary, this is an extremely valuable account about someone happy to be a 'backroom man' while having far more impact on locomotive development than many much better-know names...It should be essential reading for anyone interested in locomotive development on the LNER and is warmly recommended."

National Railway Museum Review – The Journal of the Friends of the National Railway Museum – No187, Spring 2024

"This is a worthy addition to the author's previous biographies of LNER CMEs and their locomotives, and reflects a huge amount of original research. Altogether, a scholarly and absorbing read."

The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society, The Railway Observer - December 2023, Volume 93

"With so much new material at hand, this is a thoroughly insightful read."

Steam World - January 2024

..."the enjoyment and understanding of this fascinating look behind the scenes of LNER locomotive policy, which will be a valuable addition to the library of anyone with an interest in the subject."

The LNER Society Newsletter - Winter 2023

"There are many pictures, railways and beyond, engineering workings, back of a notepad calculations and more. What results is a fascinating tale that proves that just when you thought there was nothing more to be told regarding the great railway engineers, there is always something new to discover."

Engineering in Miniature - November 2023

"...an excellent publication and gives an insight into the workings of the design team of the LNER and shows just how much Gresley relied on Spencer to put his ideas into practice. Highly recommended."

LNER Society

About Tim Hillier-Graves

TIM HILLIER-GRAVES was born in North London during 1951. On leaving university he served as an officer with the Royal Navy, seeing wide service on land and sea. For much of this time he specialised in weapon development projects, specifically missiles and heavyweight torpedoes, and worked alongside BAe, Marconi Space and Defence Systems and McDonnell Douglas in the process. In support of this work, he undertook prolonged periods of study and research at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham. Late in his career he changed specialisms to become Head of Investigations for the MoD’s Estates Organisation. From this he moved on to become Head of Finance and Planning and then into Human Resource Management where he specialised in outsourcing to industry. Then as an Assistant Director he took on responsibility of housing for military personnel. He retired in 2011 to focus more fully on writing biographies and books related to military, aviation and engineering matters.

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