The Mallard and The Flying Scotsman were the two train stories that tugged at my heart strings. The Duchess of Hamilton epitomised my idea of a beautiful art deco train. Our day at the museum was quite captivating.
Mallard is the holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives at 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). The record was achieved on 3 July 1938 on the slight downward grade of Stoke Bank south of Grantham on the East Coast Main Line, and the highest speed was recorded at milepost 90¼, between Little Bytham and Essendine. It broke the German (DRG Class 05) 002’s 1936 record of 124.5 mph (200.4 km/h). The record attempt was carried out during the trials of a new quick acting brake (the Westinghouse “QSA” brake).
Mallard was a very good vehicle for such an endeavour. The A4 class was designed for sustained 100+ mph (160+ km/h) running and Mallard was one of a few of the class that were built with a double chimney and double Kylchap blastpipe, which made for improved draughting and better exhaust flow at speed (The remainder of the class were retro-fitted in the late 1950s). The A4’s three-cylinder design made for stability at speed, and the large 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) driving wheels meant that the maximum revolutions per minute was within the capabilities of the technology of the day. Mallard was four months old, meaning that it was sufficiently broken-in to run freely, but not overly worn. Selected to crew the locomotive on its record attempt were driver Joseph Duddington (a man renowned within the LNER for taking calculated risks) and fireman Thomas Bray.
In the words of Rob Gwynne, Assistant Curator of Rail Vehicles at the National Railway Museum:
Duddington, then aged 61, climbed into the cab, turned his cap around (as had George Formby in the contemporary film No Limit), and drove Mallard into the history books. He had 27 years on the footplate, and had once driven the Scarborough Flyer for 144 miles at over 74mph (average speed), considered at the time to be the highest speed ever maintained by steam in the UK.
The locomotive had previously had problems with the big end bearing for the middle cylinder, so the big end was fitted with a “stink bomb” of aniseed oil which would be released if the bearing overheated. Shortly after attaining the record speed, the middle big end did overheat and Mallard had to limp onwards to Peterborough. It then travelled to Doncaster for repair. This had been foreseen by the publicity department, who had many pictures taken for the press, in case Mallard did not make it back to Kings Cross. The (Edwardian period) Ivatt Atlantic that replaced Mallard at Peterborough was only just in sight when the head of publicity started handing out the pictures.
Stoke Bank has a gradient of between 1:178 and 1:200. Mallard, pulling a dynamometer car and six coaches, topped Stoke Summit at 75 mph (121 km/h) and accelerated downhill. The speeds at the end of each mile (1.6 km) from the summit were recorded as: 87½, 96½, 104, 107, 111½, 116 and 119 mph (141, 155, 167, 172, 179, 187 and 192 km/h); half-mile (800 m) readings after that gave 120¾, 122½, 123, 124¼ and finally 125 mph (194, 197, 198, 200 and 201 km/h). The speed recorded by instruments in the dynamometer car reached a momentary maximum of 126 mph (203 km/h).
On arrival at King’s Cross (just after the run) driver Joe Duddington and Inspector Sid Jenkins were quoted as saying that they thought a speed of 130 mph would have been possible if the train had not had to slow for the junctions at Essendine. In addition at the time of the run there was a permanent way restriction to 15 mph just north of Grantham which slowed the train as they sought to build up maximum speed before reaching the high speed downhill section just beyond Stoke tunnel.
The LNER Class A3 “Pacific” steam locomotive was built in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) at Doncaster Works to a design by Nigel Gresley. It was at that time given the number 4472 and used to haul long-distance trains notably the 10.00am London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Flying Scotsman express after which it was named.
It received much public attention when selected to appear at the British Empire Exhibition in London in 1924 and went on to feature in several publicity films made for the LNER. Improvements to its original design in 1928 resulted in a new tender for carrying coal, which had a corridor allowing a new crew to take over without stopping the train. This allowed it to haul the first ever non-stop London to Edinburgh service on 1st May, reducing the journey time to eight hours. In 1934 it became the first steam locomotive to reach a fully authenticated 100 miles per hour making a new steam speed record.
Throughout its 40 year life on Britain’s railways, the locomotive clocked up over 2 million miles and had several changes to its designated number and its livery, appearing in LNER Apple Green, Wartime Black, Powder Blue and BR Brunswick Green at the time it was retired from mainline duties in 1963.
Following its purchase from BR by the late Alan Pegler in 1963, ‘Scotsman’ has had several owners including Sir William McAlpine, Pete Waterman, Tony Marchington and now the National Railway Museum. In the early 1970s the locomotive toured North America and Canada, some 15 years later it was a show-stopper in Australia where it recorded the longest ever non-stop run by a steam locomotive, travelling 422 miles.
In 2004 the locomotive was again up for sale and was purchased for the nation, following a successful campaign which included £415,000 raised by the public, £365,000 donated by Sir Richard Branson, plus a £1.8m grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.