by Phil Marsh

The Great Gathering – Farewell events and award winning volunteers

Published: 23rd January 2014

The Great Gathering – Farewell events and award winning volunteers

The National Railway Museum’s visionary event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the world steam speed record being taken by a London North Eastern Railway ‘A4’ steam locomotive No. 4468 Mallard in July 1938 comes to an end in February.

The previous two events took place at the National Railway Museum (NRM) at York with the six engines positioned around the turntable in The Great Hall.

These events attracted 10,000 visitors a day and in total brought half a million people to the museum. The attraction was that the two A4s gifted to America and Canada 50 years ago were repatriated last year and are expected to be returning home after the February events.

The former NRM Director Steve Davies must take much of the credit for repatriating the engines and has since moved on to new pastures.

The East Coast Giants

The prelude to the main farewell event is ‘The East Coast Giants’ event on February 8 and 9 at the Barrow Hill Roundhouse near Chesterfield. The pair of repatriated A4s, Nos. 60008 Dominion of Canada and 60010 Dwight D Eisenhower will be exhibited in an unchanged original roundhouse offering visitors the chance to see the engines in a genuine working engine shed environment.

The nearest railway station to Barrow Hill is Chesterfield on the Midland Main Line served by trains from St Pancras and many other stations. UK Railtours is running a special train to the event, ‘Mallard 75 – Nearly the end!’ on Friday February 7 from St Pancras for a special preview of the repatriated engines which means that passengers will not be part of a huge crowd and be able to get some decent photos! The train departs St. Pancras at 0940 and calls at Luton Airport Parkway and Bedford on route to the private Barrow Hill platform.

Over the whole event, there are other ongoing projects to visit such as the ‘Brighton Belle’ Pullman and ‘Baby Deltic’ restoration and recreation schemes.

Mallard 75 talks

The NRM at Shildon is putting on a number of free to attend lectures on subjects related to the speed record. All talks take place in the Hackworth Room (Collection Building) and will last approximately 45 minutes, with an additional 15 minutes for questions.

These start at 1130am on February 15 with ‘The Story of the A4 Pacifics’ by Chris Nettleton. This is followed on the same day with Bob Gwynne from The NRM from 230pm with this subject: Rocket to TGV - two centuries of railway speed records.

On February 17 from 230pm, Andrew Goodman of Moveright International will be talking about bringing the engines back from North America in a talk called ‘Bringing them Home - Moving the transatlantic A4s to the UK’.

This is followed on February 19 at 230pm with a talk about how the two repatriated engines were restored given by Richard Pearson & Chris Beet called: ‘The restoration of Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada’

The NRM’s Anthony Coulls will be looking back at the anniversary event with a talk entitled ‘The Great Gathering - a retrospective’ on February 21 at 230pm.

The men that drove and fired the A4s from Kings Cross engine shed ‘Trop Shed’ is the subject of a talk on February 22 at 230pm. Helen Ashby brings the curtain down on February 23 with her ‘Mallard in steam’ which recounts tales from the footplate and support coach.

The actual ‘Final Farewell’ at Shildon

All six A4s will be on display at the NRM’s Shildon under the billing of; ‘The Great Goodbye’, between February 17 and 23. This will bring the last chance to meet the Sir Nigel Gresley artist, Stuart Black, who will be signing his prints on the ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’ sales including his ‘World Speed Record’ print, on February 17.

LNER ‘A4’ No. 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley holds the post-war world speed record is in its final year of its boiler ticket and is normally based at Grosmont but will be making its way south after the event to the North Norfolk Railway at Sheringham and then on to London for some main line charter trains.

Steam Dreams is running a diesel charter to the Shildon event on February 23 from Kings Cross along the East Coast Main Line.

Displays and rides

The week-long event is free to enter and runs between 930am and 5pm each day with Sir Nigel Gresley, Bittern and Union of South Africa in light steam, with one of these stabled on the platform on the left of the collections building enabling cab access.

The display order of the six A4s will vary daily and the Platform Schedule is as follows:

Saturday 15 - Sir Nigel Gresley (in steam)

Sunday 16 - Bittern (in steam)

Monday 17 - Bittern (platform access to footplate)

Tuesday 18 - Dominion of Canada (platform access to footplate)

Wednesday 19 - Dwight D Eisenhower (platform access to footplate)

Thursday 20 - Mallard (platform access to footplate)

Friday 21 - Union of South Africa (platform access to footplate)

Saturday 22 - Union of South Africa (in steam)

Sunday 23 - Sir Nigel Gresley (in steam)

At weekends a short ride behind the three operational A4s will be available for a small charge.

Gala Dinner

There is also a Gala Dinner event on February 21 between 7pm and 11pm with the £70 tickets must be booked in calling 01904 621261

• Travelling to Shildon by rail is easy and Northern Rail operates trains there from Darlington on the ECML.

NRM Volunteers’ achievements recognised

One of the stalwarts of the RM volunteer force has been recognised in the New Years Honour’s List being awarded the British Empire Medal. Rob Tibbits was given recognition of his decades of volunteering with the ‘Gong’ and is often to be seen at the York museum. When he is not there, he is train manager or a steward on many steam charter trains across the UK.

His colleague and friend Adrian Scales was honoured a couple of years ago with Volunteer of the year award recognising his similar efforts for the preserved railway movement. They would both be the first (if it were possible!) to say others were more deserving!

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