Bob Gwynne, our Associate Curator of Rail Vehicles, blogs:
In among the track stars and record breakers from Britain’s railways that we’re bringing to Railfest 2012, we’re well aware that one locomotive shines: LNER A4 Mallard.
It’s the fastest steam locomotive in the world, and so iconic that it even featured on an album cover by Britpop band Blur, where it is pictured roaring along beneath the caption ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’. Not sure I agree with the sentiment, but the opportunity to get the pre-war steam speed record holder together with the post-war speed record holder seemed too good to miss.
Thankfully the team that look after A4 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley have agreed to come to Railfest 2012. The festival aims to bring together as many track stars and record breakers as possible, and the agreement with the Gresley team means that plans for a steam ‘speed stars’ line-up are falling into place – given that we already have City of Truro and Flying Scotsman appearing at the show, the first ‘unofficial’100mph UK locomotive and the first ‘official’ 100mph UK locomotive respectively.
Mallard’s dash down Stoke bank in July 1938 is often mentioned, but Gresley’s run of 23 May 1959 is less well known. The Stephenson Locomotive Society’s ‘Golden Jubilee’ railtour, held in 1959, was to be one of steam’s last hurrahs in the UK. Driver and noted ‘speed merchant’ Bill Hoole, ably assisted by fireman Alf Hancox, took the eight-coach train to 112 mph before being told to ease off by Alan Pegler (no less). Pegler was there as the ‘Industry Representative’ of BR (Eastern Region) and would go on to buy Flying Scotsman four years later.
Gresley’s run is the ‘official’ post-war speed record for steam, never since surpassed. For the 400 people on board, it must have been a thrilling trip as the train actually achieved 100 mph three times on its run, and peeled off about 25 miles at 100 mph.
It’s 53 years since that record day. Won’t it be nice to see these two record breakers together?
Also, it would be great to gather anyone who was actually on that 1959 railtour for one more celebration of steam’s speed machine – the Gresley-designed A4. If you were there, let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.