First recorded in Doncaster Works erecting shop on 31st August 1948, works No. 2034 with boiler No. 9663, was the fourth of Arthur Peppercorn’s A1s. No. 60117 entered service on 22nd October, as one of four class members allocated to Grantham (GRA). Its original appearance featured a plain chimney, apple-green LNER-style livery with black and white lining plus ‘BRITISH RAILWAYS’ in white on the tender. Its first recorded sightings in operation were on 8th November as light engine at Doncaster and twelve days later when it hauled a train through Grantham. Its first named train was on 25th June 1949 when, after bringing in a train from Newcastle into King’s Cross at 15:35hrs, it departed several hours later with the down ‘Aberdonian’. Observations in its first two years include the GN and NE sections of the main line like Grantham on 27th March 1949 and its shed on 14th May, Ferryhill on 29th August, Heaton Junction on 5th December and York on 18th March 1950. The first note of No. 60117 on non-passenger trains was when it took an up goods past Welwyn Garden City on 3rd March 1950.
No. 60117 Bois Roussel with No. 60033 Seagull and No. 60108 Gay Crusader in 1959 – Peter Townend
Transfer to Copley Hill shed at Leeds took place on 4th June 1950 though it had entered Doncaster Works for general repairs on 16th May which were completed on 6th July. There No. 60117 was named Bois Roussel after the 1938 Derby winner (in the fine tradition of the LNER naming its express locomotives after racehorses) one of 13 A1s to be so named. Bois Roussel was a champion racehorse named after its breeding farm Hares du Bois-Roussel in Normandy, France. The Derby was only its second race; the jockey then was Charlie Elliott. With nine class members already named, No. 60117 was one of seven more to be named that July. In the same month its express status was demonstrated by repainting in BR blue and enhancing Bois Roussel’s appearance was a change to a lipped chimney. In common with other A1s, the Flaman speed recorder was removed. Naturally, most workings were between West Yorkshire and the capital as on 5th August when it hauled a train between Retford and Leeds Central or 27th June 1951 when it worked a Bradford to King’s Cross train. Pullmans featured too with five sightings of Bois Roussel on the up ‘Yorkshire Pullman’ between August 1950 and October 1951, ‘The Harrogate Sunday Pullman’ on 9th September 1951 and the 12:00hrs down ‘Queen of Scots’ from King’s Cross 20 days later. However, it could still work to the North East, being seen in Newcastle on 27th March 1951. Repainting of A1s into lined BR green was well under way and following a ‘Heavy Intermediate’ at Doncaster at the end of October No. 60117 was one of three painted, eight other A1s having been so treated in the previous three months.
During an unclassified repair at Doncaster in February 1952 the locomotive had Automatic Train Control (ATC) apparatus fitted. Bois Roussel reverted to Grantham’s allocation on 18th May 1952. A week later it was seen on the down ‘Flying Scotsman’ past York; after seven months No. 60117 returned to Copley Hill on 15th February 1953. The first recorded working after this was an additional King’s Cross to Leeds on 3rd April; its first recorded parcels train was the early morning up parcels into King’s Cross on 23rd May following a general overhaul at Doncaster (7th April to 6th May) which saw boiler No. 29839 fitted. The mid-fifties brought the transposition of smokebox numberplate and handrail pioneered by No. 60116 to assist in fitting train headboards. Indeed Bois Roussel hauled a number of named expresses, the ‘Harrogate Sunday Pullman’ on 31st May 1953 which was diverted via Spalding, the up ‘West Riding’ on 30th July, the ‘Queen of Scots’ recorded many times in 1953/55-57, especially the up train hauled daily from 17th to the 12th February 1955, the down train of that Pullman from Leeds to Newcastle on 28th April 1955 returning with the up ‘North Briton’ and the up ‘Bradford Flyer’ in 1954 and 1956. The locomotive spent Christmas 1954 in Doncaster Works having a having a general overhaul which included fitting boiler No. 29847 fitted. As well as ordinary trains between King’s Cross such as the 11:43hrs, 13:18hrs, 14:34hrs, 15:40hrs and 18:15hrs down trains between September 1956 and January 1957, No. 60117 powered other trains. It helped with trans-Pennine trains like the 09:00hrs ex-Liverpool taken forward from Leeds to Newcastle on 24th April 1955. When it took the 09:00hrs ex-Liverpool train forward from Leeds to Newcastle it returned two days later with the 16:15hrs Newcastle to Liverpool train via the Durham coast piloted by ‘Hunt’ Class D49 No. 62752 The Atherstone from Ripon. On the 29th it worked the 08:55hrs Newcastle to Liverpool train taking on Class D20 (ex NER Class ‘R’) 4-4-0 No. 62395 as pilot from Ripon.
Following a further visit to ‘The Plant’ in October 1956 for a ‘General’ which included equipping the locomotive with boiler No. 29879, the second half of the 1950s and into 1960/1 continued much as before with general Leeds to King’s Cross runs. In both directions it now hauled ‘The White Rose’ as well as ‘The West Riding’, ‘Yorkshire Pullman’ and ‘Harrogate Sunday Pullman’. Frequent appearances continued to be made at the head of the ‘Queen of Scots’. During these years of good, steady work Bois Roussel’s appearance changed with the application of the later BR crest in April 1958 during overhaul at Doncaster Works and it may have been during this visit that it had its Stones generator and electric lighting removed, one of a number of A1s so treated. Special trains were hauled too, one from Hull to King’s Cross arriving at 16:16hrs on 7th April 1958 and an up special seen going through New Southgate on 6th July. A sign of the times was No. 60117 taking a return school special at 19:45hrs from King’s Cross to Grantham. A visit to new territory was when the 08:25hrs Leeds to King’s Cross on 22nd October 1958 was diverted via Ely, with No. 60117 rounding off the year with another ‘General’ at Doncaster, acquiring boiler No. 10597 at the same time. More ECML diversions into 1960 brought No. 60117 to Lincoln twice and on 28th May 1960 even to Cambridge.
An undated image of Bois Roussel near Hatfield with ‘The Yorkshire Pullman’ – Jim Meads
Having had its final general overhaul and boiler change (for No. 29849) at Doncaster at the end of 1958, more variety of work was recorded in the early 1960s. 29th July 1961 found a one-off working of the down ‘Tees Thames Pullman’. A shorter turn was the 08:35hrs Peterborough to King’s Cross a year earlier on 30th July. The overnight sleeper was hauled into the capital on 28th November 1962. Goods trains noted were through Newcastle on 6th January 1962 and York on 2nd February 1963. The early evening King’s Cross to York parcels was pulled by No. 60117 a number of times during 1963, usually after coming up to the capital on a passenger turn from Leeds. Other passenger work in 1963 included the 2G85 Berwick – Newcastle stopping train of 22nd February and the 1A08 down Anglo-Scottish Car Carrier from the capital to Newcastle on 30th May. Working the down ‘Queen of Scots’ into Newcastle on 13th July was further north than usual for No. 60117 and this train; in fact it is our last record of a train this Pacific hauled more than any other. A less common destination was the 09:58hrs to Great Yarmouth from Leeds on 23rd July.
Bois Roussel is seen at Doncaster Works on 19th May 1963 accompanied by Mallard which had been withdrawn the previous month. Of interest is that No. 60117 is apparently coupled to a GNR pattern coal-railed tender – Gavin Morrison
Fewer records remain of the latter part of No. 60117’s life. There is a mixture of passenger work from Leeds, specials, an up extra seen at Newark on 14th March 1964 and named trains like the ‘Yorkshire Pullman’ from Leeds on 24th April. A transfer to Ardesley shed came on 6th September 1964, followed by a move to Gateshead on 6th December with a return to Ardesley on the following 3rd January. While at Gateshead it had travelled around to new destinations for the A1s. 16th December saw it on the 1V45 Newcastle to Bristol as far as Derby and next morning it returned on the 02:40hrs Sheffield to York parcels after which it went on York shed then on the 18th it took the Newcastle to Bristol train from York to Derby. On the 21st it took a down parcels at 15:07hrs from Newcastle and on Christmas Eve it was there at 11:31hrs on an up Class 6 (express) goods. Bois Roussel’s last recorded working, from Ardesley, was the 18:03hrs Leeds to King’s Cross on 5th January 1965. Withdrawal from traffic was on 21st June 1965. Six days later it was seen lying at Ardesley shed. A final journey to Tyneside was necessary as No. 60117 had been sold in August to Clayton & Davie of Dunston for scrap.
During its life No. 60117 carried six Diagram 118 boilers. It was one of the ten longest-lasting A1s. After pounding the English section of the ECML and the spur to west Yorkshire (with a particular leaning towards the latter) for nearly 16 years there would doubtless have been a lot more life left in Bois Roussel had dieselisation not been rushed through so quickly. A racehorse by name and, with its named expresses, a racehorse by nature!
This history was compiled by Phil Champion based on a database compiled by Tommy Knox and with reference to the RCTS book “Locomotives of the LNER Part 2A” as background. Revised and updated by Graham Langer, May 2020.