Published 08th April 2013
The LNER ‘A4’ Class locomotive No. 4468 Mallard, achieved 126m.p.h. on July 3 1938 descending Stoke Bank near Grantham on the East Coast Main Line, thus capturing the world steam locomotive speed record. In breaking the 124mph record set in Germany in 1936, at a time when Hitler’s Third Reich was in the ascendancy, it was a matter of national pride that a British locomotive should capture the world speed crown.
The record run was billed as a braking trial rather than as a record attempt 75 years ago, but the engine for the record attempt was carefully selected by the authorities. This landmark event will be celebrated, to the day, on July 3 2013 when the six surviving locomotives of its type will gather in company at York’s National Railway Museum (NRM).
No. 4468 Mallard is part of the national collection and normally on display in the NRM at York. The 100th Gresley designed ’Pacific’, No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley, is owned by The Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Preservation Trust Ltd and operated by the A4 Locomotive Society Ltd (a subsidiary company of the trust). This is the post-war world steam speed record holder and is based at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, periodically working main line charter trains.
No. 60009 Union of South Africa and No. 60019 Bittern are owned by private individuals, both normally to be seen working main line tours around the country.
No. 60008 Dwight D Eisenhower hails from the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin while No. 60010 Dominion of Canada is similarly resident at Exporail, the Canadian National Railway Museum in Montreal. In preparation for the A4 Great Gathering in York to celebrate their Doncaster-built sister’s record breaking anniversary, the pair were repatriated last autumn to spend a two year loan in Britain before returning to their respective North American homes.
In advance of the historic reunion, both have been receiving cosmetic makeovers, No. 60008 in York and No. 60010 at Locomotion, the NRM out-station at Shildon where a garter blue livery is being applied to match Mallard.
On completion of its repaint in York, No. 60008 Dwight D Eisenhower was moved into the NRM’s Great Hall on February 6 for display alongside No. 4468 Mallard. No. 60010 Dominion of Canada presently remains in the conservation workshop at Locomotion.
“We hope the British public enjoy the chance to see Dwight D Eisenhower, which although built in Doncaster, now occupies a special place in the hearts of the American people due to it being renamed after one of our presidents.” Jacqueline D Frank, Executive Director at the National Railroad Museum.
“Dominion of Canada has been an important part of our collection at Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, since the late sixties and we are thrilled to be loaning her to the National Railway Museum to help them mark 75 years since Mallard broke the world speed record.“ Marie-Claude Reid, Executive Director General of Exporail the Canadian Railway Museum
“On the third of July 1938 Mallard became the world’s fastest steam locomotive and it marked a pinnacle in British engineering that became a significant marker in global history. In 2008 we marked 70 years by reuniting Mallard with its operational UK-based sisters and now for the 75th anniversary we’ve organised an historic homecoming to UK soil for the transatlantic travellers.
We are hoping that visitors will come and see Mallard and its sisters and help us celebrate 75 years since the garter blue legend made it into the record books.” Anthony Coulls, Senior Curator of Railway Vehicles at the National Railway Museum.
Entry to the NRM for the much-anticipated gathering of all six, a sight never previously seen, around the turntable in the museum’s Great Hall on July 3 will be free. The three operational A4s, Nos. 60007, 60009 and 4464, will remain with the three static A4s at the NRM until July 17.
The event, and Mallard’s record-breaking achievement, have secured the Royal seal of approval with HRH The Prince of Wales becoming patron of the NRM’s ‘Mallard 75’ series of events and activities in 2013/2014.
“We’re so excited about showcasing all six survivors of the A4 class with the Great Gathering and Royal Patronage for our year of Mallard-themed events is the icing on the cake. Celebrating Mallard’s world record-breaking run is definitely a reason to get excited in July and we hope people will join us to mark this milestone in railway history,” commented the NRM’s Anthony Coulls.
After the July display the trio of operational A4s leave for various commitments but will reunite again at the NRM for ‘The Autumn Great Gathering’ between October 26 and November 8. On selected dates (to be announced) within this time frame there will be evening ‘Locos in a Different Light’ openings when the A4s will be specially lit by students as part of the ‘Illuminate York’ festival.
The final gathering of the six A4s will be for ‘The Great Goodbye’ between February 15-23 2014, this time at Locomotion in Shildon.
No. 60008 Dwight D Eisenhower and No. 60010 Dominion of Canada return across the Atlantic for their respective American and Canadian homes in late spring/early summer 2014.
Tickets are now available for a series of ancillary NRM-organised ‘Mallard 75’ events including gala dinners, photography events and free curator talks.
Written by Cliff Thomas