Published 28th June 2013
The world steam speed record was created on July 3, 1938, 75 years ago by Mallard, a London and North Eastern Railway, (LNER) ‘A4’ class locomotive, and this event is being celebrated at the National Railway Museum (NRM) York.
The six surviving LNER ‘A4’ streamlined engines from a fleet of 35 have been brought together for a unique gathering, two of them brought from Canada and the USA where they have been on display for nearly 50 years.
Sir Nigel Gresley designed these, and other famous LNER locomotives including ‘A3’ Class Flying Scotsman but he died over 70 years ago so there are not many people around now who knew him. The A4s were built and maintained at Doncaster Locomotive and Carriage Works until withdrawn around 50 years ago.
His ‘A4’ fleet was designed to travel faster than most other trains, routinely at up to 100mph and pulled the ‘Silver Jubilee’, the UK’s first streamlined train in September 1935 which linked London and Newcastle. At this time the race for the fastest and most luxurious UK train was being run between the ‘Big Four’ railway companies and any excuse to grab the headlines was taken!
For example, the record breaking run in July 1938 was deemed to be a brake test while running down Stoke Bank between Grantham and Peterborough.
The pair of repatriated A4s have undergone cosmetic overhauls for the anniversary and ‘The Great Gathering’ takes several formats between now and February 2014 at two locations.
The ‘Great Gathering’ of the six A4s starts on July 3 and runs to July 17 in the Great Hall of the NRM at York and is free. Model makers Hornby have sponsored the Mallard 75 series while HRH, The Prince of Wales is Patron of Mallard 75, the title of the museum’s celebratory season of activities marking the anniversary.
The launch event starts on July 3 when Mallard and its five surviving classmate A4 locomotives will be gathered together around the Great Hall turntable at York. Three of these are operational, No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley in BR blue livery, No. 60009, Union of South Africa in BR Green livery and No. 60019 Bittern which has been restored into 1930s style appearance and livery. The other three are No. 60008 Dwight D Eisenhower, No. 60010 Dominion of Canada and No. 60022 Mallard.
After July, there will be several further opportunities to see the six streamlined engines. These will be as follows and all are free admission.
26 October–8 November 2013.
A second chance to see Mallard and its sisters around the turntable at York. Selected evenings are part of the annual Illuminating York festival.
30 October-2 November 2013. As part of the NRM annual competition, students will illuminate the six A4s in spectacular lighting offering interesting photographic opportunities.
15-23 February 2014, Shildon. This is the very last chance to see all six A4 locomotives together before the repatriated locomotives return to their home museums in by summer next year.
7 – 8 September 2013.
Mallard will return to Grantham after a half century absence and be exhibited in sidings by the station along with a Deltic locomotive, the class that replaced the A4s.
The famous locomotive will be joined by other historic exhibits as part of a free east coast ‘Festival of Speed’. Also on display will be streamlined racing cars of the 1930s inspired by the Mallard design and examples of Grantham’s engineering heritage.
The NRM at York is less than a 10 minute walk from York station while Shildon is 10 minute walk from Shildon station on the Darlington to Bishop Auckland line.
Several companies will be running special trains to these events, keep a look out on rail.co.uk charter train listings
Written by Phil Marsh