Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs at Science Museum Group, writes:
Final preparations are being made by a small army of people for the biggest celebration of all things rail on the planet: Railfest 2012.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit between 2 and 10 June to see our unique collection of vehicles of all ages, shapes, types and sizes that have gathered here over the past few weeks.
The celebrations will take place on a site the size of 11 football pitches, and in the airspace overhead. Steve Davies, Director of the Museum, says:
Heritage and industry have worked together to produce a quite spectacular event.
In recognition of the Olympics, and to help mark the City of York’s 800th birthday, around 30 of the assembled throng of steam, diesel and electric vehicles are record breakers, including the fastest, the most powerful and the smallest.
And one, an East Coast locomotive, is to be named ‘Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’ by TV personality and mathematics wizard Carol Vorderman, in a spectacular ceremony on Saturday. 91110 achieved a UK national speed record for electric trains of 162 mph at Stoke Bank, north of Peterborough, on 17 September 1989 – a record which stands to this day.
The locomotive will carry a specially-designed livery featuring the planes and insignia of the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Iconic wartime aircraft – the Spitfire, Hurricane, Lancaster and Dakota DC3 – will fly overhead as Carol Vorderman unveils the train in front of thousands of visitors. Vorderman, a long time supporter of the memorial flight, says it is a “deeply moving honour.”
As the final installation of marquees, floors and stalls were under way this week, dumper trucks were hard at work moving around coal to fuel the great behemoths of the steam age that had gathered for the celebrations.
Sir Nigel Gresley, an icon of 1930s style, reached the museum on Thursday.
The first steam locomotive to reach 100mph, Flying Scotsman, is also scheduled to arrive today at the event, which is backed by leading rail magazines RAIL, Steam Railway and Model Rail and, as a result, is expected to draw railway fans from across the world.
There’s also the holder of the record for the word’s fastest steam locomotive at 126mph, Mallard; the newest mainline steam locomotive in operation, Tornado; and the most powerful industrial tank engine built for use in the UK, the aptly-named Mardy Monster.
Among the more unusual vehicles are the Simplex, a World War 1 vehicle that moved supplies and munitions around the trenches, a snow plough that can clear 3000 tons an hour and the UK’s only sail powered railway vehicle, Spooner’s Boat, used by the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales.
The last such festival held eight years ago saw around 60,000 people come along to gaze at both steam and modern locomotives, climb aboard and ride behind them, as well as hear the stories from people who have worked on the railways. Then as now, there were a wide range of family events.
Nigel Harris, Managing Editor of RAIL Magazine, says we’re the “world’s best railway museum.”
You can buy tickets online at nrm.org.uk/railfest2012